Collecting,  Katheryn McMahon Newton Album,  Travel

Numerical proof of love?

Katheryn McMahon Newton album, an initial chronological and numerical assessment

For about five months, I’ve been posting about the cards contained in the album and referring to an eventual chronological assessment. This is–and isn’t–it. It is, because it’s what I’m providing; but it also isn’t, because I don’t promise it addresses all the issues I mentioned in earlier posts. There’s only so much I can do now. I expect this particular album and assortment of cards to play a strong role as I analyze and write about early post cards in bulk and in specific, but at this point I’m still processing cards and getting ideas (and sometimes having those ideas go smash).

At any rate, here are some numbers and observations.

133 cards in the album when it reached me (plus 2 letters & 3 cards not otherwise included here)

99 of the cards were addressed to Kit / Kittie / Kitty / Katherine / Katheryn; there were an additional two to “Miss McMahon” at her home address (Shields Ave.) which might have been sent to her versus another Miss McMahon — that makes this the kind of album I’m most interested in and glad to have, i.e. where most of the cards were sent to one person and/or members of a family. I have quite a few of these, but doesn’t hurt to have more (within reason).

89 came from Fred Newton. This is what currently makes the album so unusual–the number of cards sent to the same person from the same person. It’s not unique (I have at least one other such in my possession, in that case documenting in no small part a trip the sender took in reverse of Fred’s, i.e. West to East), but it’s still quite a stand-out. The cards, by the way, date between 8 June 1906 and 28 June 1908.

16 Fred sent from Chicago or Wisconsin; 73 he sent between 7 February and 28 June 1908.

Thanks to these cards, we can document his trip to a degree:

  • Chicago to Colorado Springs (presumably going through Denver on the way). The first card documentably from his trip dates to Colorado Springs. (3 cards from Colorado Springs, 7-8 February)
  • Colorado Springs to Pueblo. (1 card from Pueblo, 10 February)
  • Pueblo to Denver. (7 cards from Denver, 11-12 February)
  • Denver to Colorado Springs. (4 cards from Colorado Springs, 13-14 February)
  • Colorado Springs to Pueblo. (2-3 cards from Pueblo, 15-16 February)
  • Pueblo to Salt Lake City via Glenwood Springs. (5 cards from Salt Lake, 18-19 February)
  • Salt Lake City to Pocatello, Idaho. (2 cards from Pocatello, 20 February)
  • Pocatello to Portland. (5 cards from Portland, 21-27 February)
  • Portland to Seattle. (lots of cards from Seattle, 28 February-28 June)

As mentioned previously, there may have been additional cards from various places that were abstracted from the album before it reached me. Or not. Consider the card Fred wrote on 24 May (postmarked 25) where he stated that sending multiple cards in the same day was a sign of affection. He specified there the number three. I have three cards with the postmark date of 25 May. In that case, they all made it through.

There were, by the way, at least 5 days on which Fred sent Katheryn three or four postcards (three: 12 & 18 February, 25 May; 4: 11 & 14 February).

I’m not sure what I would have done differently if I’d processed the cards chronologically. It will be interesting to see how the next set of posts differs, because those I will present here chronologically. I processed them a while back, and they came to me in a very different kind of album in the first place.

Fred seems fairly typical of young, middle class/upper middle class and upwardly mobile men of the time. He had an eye on the main-chance, and a care for presentation (for instance in encouraging Kit to become Katheryn). There are a lot of unanswered questions about him that further research (U.S. Census, checking Illinois and Washington public records) may help flesh out.

Sadly, more questions will always remain about Kit/Katheryn. She was the collector, the preserver, a stereotypical female role, and alas this means the album held nothing of her writing. She sent Fred fewer cards than he her, but did he keep any of them? Were they ever placed alongside the cards he’d written in this or another album?

This is part of the reason I’ve decided to post about some cards I processed a while back (one purpose behind the blog is to ensure I keep forward momentum on processing cards!). The next set were sent by a woman to a man who evidently kept them in some fashion. It’s an incomplete switcheroo–but it’s something of a counter-balance.

So join me next week as we work through the cards Madge (alas, I don’t know her last name) sent to Thomas Haile.

“Numerical proof of love?” copyright 2021, A.R. Henle.

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