Collecting,  Katheryn McMahon Newton Album,  Social,  Travel

Where the Birds are Better Than Alarm Clocks

Katheryn McMahon Newton Album, cards 10-12

The next card in line lacks any inscription whatsoever. Whichever postal station marked the card managed to add wavy lines canceling the stamp without including anything to indicate when or where it was posted. The where probably Portland, Oregon, given that the front bears glittery letters offering “Greetings” from there As for the rest? My guess: Fred Newton at some point in 1907. Fred, because it’s his handwriting (or a very close approximation) and he passed through Portland at various points. 1907 given the address specified for Katheryn McMahon: the Atlas [School] Supply Co. on Wabash Ave in Chicago. A cursory review of the cards suggests earlier cards were directed to Wabash Ave and later to Shields Ave, though I won’t be able to support that until I’ve finished processing the album (or enough of the cards).

As for the card itself, it’s possible the glittery “Greetings” was pre-applied–or that Fred did it himself. I’ve seen enough glitter phrases that were very customized to consider this an open possibility. Elsewise, the card is in the older style, from when only the address, stamp, and postmark were supposed to be placed on the back. The front was for the image and any message. One had to be quite creative, sometimes, to squeeze much in. (Fred wasn’t creative in this case, but keep reading this post!)

As for this card, it’s a bit of a mystery. The bulk of the cards are addressed to Katheryn McMahon at either Wabash or Shields Ave.–there are a small grouping addressed to one or more other McMahons, on State St. Some specify Anna McMahon, others such as this are just directed to “Miss.” The postmark dates overlap with those sent to Katheryn at Wabash or Shields. My initial guess: the McMahons at State St. were related to Katheryn or otherwise sufficiently connected to know she collected postcards, and at some point opted to give here these. We’ll see if any information in later cards offers more illumination, or if we’re left in the dark.

This particular card is by a very famous postcard firm: Raphael Tuck & Sons (page down to Tu). They produced an incredible number of postcard series over the course of a century. This is a sample of their popular “Oilette” series. The sender referred to the image in adding a brief inscription likely suggesting the two punders were the recipient and “Dr. Finn.”

Stamp. Postmark Seattle, Wash., 1.30 P.M. 8 June 1908. Addressed to Miss Katheryn McMahon #2621 Shields Ave. Chicago Ill.
Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 8 June 1908, reverse

And now, the piece de resistance for this particular post. Fred writing to Katheryn, of course. In a switch, we’ll start with the reverse. There’s no information as to the maker of the card. As with the Portland postcard above, the producer of this card specified that only the address should be placed on the back. Fred cooperated, directing it to Katheryn (at State St.) from Seattle in June of 1908.

He managed to squeeze in quite a lot all the same!

A white man in suit and hat riding two burrows, one foot on the back of each. Caption: "I'm having too much fun to leave." See post for manuscript message.
Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 8 June 1908, front

Give Fred credit for working the caption on the card into his message. I’ll spare you twisting and turning the screen to read it. Here’s my transcription:

“Seattle June 8th Mond AM Dearie:- “I’m having too much fun to leave.” but am anticipating so much more when I return that I am anxious to make the start How did you like my postals from Tacoma I came very near missing my boat I jumped aboard her as she was leaving pier Am waiting in drug-store for an egg-chocklate [?] while the “thirst dispencer” has gone across the street to a grocery store to purchase some hare[?] fruit for my drink. Gee but I wish you were with me this morn The birds sing so much in the A.M. that they are better than an alarm clock to get you up. Fred.”

Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 8 June 1908

He may have picked up the postcard in Seattle at the drug store, selecting it while waiting for the “thirst dispencer,” if he didn’t bring it with him. Perhaps by “egg-chocklate” Fred referred to a drink currently called egg-cream which evidently involves chocolate syrup, milk, and club soda. Although, in that case I’m not sure what the server ran across to the grocery store for and why whatever it was resembles “hare fruit” in Fred’s handwriting.

At any rate, here Fred offers a slice of life in the Pacific Northwest for an active young white man early in the twentieth-century. He’ll pack as much or more details into some of the other cards he wrote. Thank fortune he has legible handwriting!

[As for the title of this piece, evidently Seattle used to be a place where birds beat alarm clocks. I haven’t been there for over a decade, but when I did visit I stayed at a downtown hotel and sadly the city no longer warranted that reputation.]

“Where the Birds are Better than Alarm Clocks,” copyright 2021, A.R. Henle.

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