Berlin, a Terrace, and Mental Telegraphy
Katheryn McMahon Newton Album, cards 27-29
First a card not from Fred but with a message. One “Billy” (last name unknown) is in Berlin (Germany) and moved to send a postcard to Katheryn–whom he (or she) addresses as “Kitty”–and ask forgiveness for not writing before.
This dates to 1907, i.e. before most of the cards from Fred. Without more information about the individual, there’s fairly little to say as regards sender.
Or is there?
This does provide an inscription to compare with Fred’s. First off, it’s shorter–or rather, Fred’s are longer. I’ve acquired enough postcards, and particularly enough batches of postcards sent by one person, to say that Fred is not unique. There definitely existed a category of people who treated postcards as miniature letters, and as places to expound on various matters. Fred’s at the lengthy end of that group, as some of the postcards shared in this and previous blog entries demonstrate (and we’ll see more as we move forward), but he’s not alone. Billy actually comes off reasonably well with this particular postcard with respect to length.
Content-wise, Billy’s rather more pedestrian. S/he makes a likely obligatory inquiry as to how Kitty’s doing, includes a generic “having a lovely time,” provides part of his/her itinerary, and ends with the plea for forgiveness. All fairly standard stuff–assuming there is a standard (this is something I’m pondering as I process the various batches in my possession). Fred, of course, is much more varied in terms of the topics he writes on, though we also have a lot more examples from him to examine. At any rate, enough about Billy for now, although s/he may make a return appearance at some other date. Fortunately, their handwriting is fairly distinctive.
On to two cards from Fred, both on the longer side and sent not too-far away from each other chronologically. First up, Fred’s in Tacoma.
If you look close, the smudge at top center could include an x with a circle around it. This matters because Fred added such a mark to identify the conservatory (in case Katheryn couldn’t do so on her own). This is one of several examples so far of Fred interacting with the images on the cards he sends. Yet the examples vary, and I’m inclined to divide them into at least two distinct categories (so far): using the image to send specific messages (the girl reading, the sled dogs) versus responding to and/or taking inspiration from the image (the cards with the woman in the hammock and this card).
Flipping the card over, essentially every line of the inscription connects to the hotel portrayed on the front. Fred
- explains how he reached it (by boat),
- notes where he is (the terrace),
- identifies the conservatory and its importance (“gorgeous view”),
- compares it to a hotel she’s familiar with
- hints at the possibility that the two of them will visit it in the future
Here’s the inscription, for those interested, so you don’t have to crane your head around:
“Sund. 3.45 O.M. Tacoma June 7-08 S___t H___t: Just got off the boat + am writing to you on the terrace at the Tacoma Hotel The little conservatory I have marked with a cross [an x with a circle around it] commands a gorgeous view of the “Sound” + river. It reminds me of our Highland Park Hotel only it is 3 times the size + you can see Mount Washington on the right. Will we stop here well wait + see yours Fred.”Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 8 June 1908
Some senders don’t necessarily care what card they use, they choose whatever is at hand. I have enough examples of holiday-themed cards put to non-holiday uses to affirm that. Other senders (or the same senders under other circumstances) choose something that speaks to them in some way or that they consider will speak to the recipient, or be appropriate. And then there are cards such as this where the inscription is thoroughly connected to the card.
The same is not true of the next card in the album. Here, the image is incidental to the message. And what a message it is, too! I confess I hadn’t heard of “mental telegraphy” before. This likely reflects that I’m a historian rather than a literary scholar, as Mark Twain evidently wrote about mental telegraphy (here’s a blog post that discusses this, found in a quick search).
This is by no means Fred’s longest (in addition to the longer one(s) already shared there are several contenders yet to come based on a quick scan); nevertheless, Fred crams a lot of sentiment in.
“10.40 P.M. Seattle May 30-08 Dearie: I just this minute got in from taking in a vaudeville show it being a Holiday + Sat night besides + my thoughts during the show + as I was on my home were of you, always of you, wishing you were by my side + with me as we were one happy night a year ago tonight I am a beleiver more[?] or less of mental telegraphy and if ever I have thought of you it has been today. All the shows we have [unclear] together + places we have been Have been constantly in my mind all day. With Love F.N.”Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 30 May 1908
Understandably, the ever-changing vaudeville offered Fred entertainment, albeit thoughts of Katheryn accompanied him. This is a bit of a theme and–spoiler alert–it will continue through many of the other postcards.
“Berlin, a Terrace, and Mental Telegraphy,” copyright 2021, A.R. Henle.