Collecting,  General Info,  Katheryn McMahon Newton Album

Dearie: Introducing the Katheryn McMahon Newton Album

With the start of the new year (2021), each blog post will focus on one or more postcards from the Katheryn McMahon Newton album. This post will introduce you to the main “characters” we’ll meet in the postcards going forward, offer an overview of the cards and album, and set forth rules about my posting.

Lets start with the album, actually. I consider this one of the best deals I’ve made. I’m not going to specify the exact amount I paid, but it was one of the lowest amounts even before taking into account the number of cards the album contained. Of equal or more importance, at a guess (i.e. I did a preliminary count, but don’t consider it reliable until it’s verified) well over half of the cards were sent by the same person to the same person. The album also contained a few pieces of other kinds of ephemera (two letters, some cards).

The Album

The album itself, as you see pictured below, has an attractive cover. It was expressly chosen for Katheryn McMahon (as she was then) as “the best + prettiest I could get + impressed me as a decidedly handsome affair,” and contains an inscription to her dated to Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1908. It was, by the way, evidently a Valentine’s gift. The pages, alas, have turned brittle over the years. I removed the cards and ephemera and have placed the cards, at least, in archival sleeves. I documented the order in which they appeared in the book. There were a number of runs of empty slots and pages–suggesting a previous owner had extracted cards, perhaps for sentimental reasons but more likely because the cards were considered to have greater collectible value sold separately.

Cover of a postcard album, showing cherries and leaves against a background of wood stakes. The cherries and leaves are raised from the surface of the album.
Katheryn McMahon Newton album, cover

Katheryn McMahon and Fred Newton

The vast majority of the cards were sent to Miss Katheryn (sometimes addressed as “Kittie”) McMahon of Chicago, Illinois. To match her with the 1900 US Census would require additional information, as there were a lot of Katherine/Catherine/Katie McMahons in Chicago. There are also a number of cards sent to a Miss Anna McMahon (same issue with names), and some directed to simple “Miss McMahon.”

As noted above, a sizable number of the cards came from one person–the same individual who gave Katheryn the album: Fred Newton. Sadly, locating him in the US Census will also be a problem until and unless I have strong information as to where he and Katheryn lived in 1910. I know where they lived in 1908, but a cursory search of the US Census did not uncover any Fred Newtons who sufficiently match up.

I did a general review of the cards before writing this post, but I will be processing them afterward (possibly in one lot, more likely in batches) and so at various points over the year I may be able to update with additional information.

This is the Kathryn McMahon Newton Album because it belonged to her and most of the cards were sent to her. We will likely learn more about Fred Newton–and his image of her–than her, because as far as I can tell none of the cards came from her. (I do have some albums that belonged to men and contain primarily cards sent to them, including by women. If this blog lasts long enough, I’ll introduce you to those senders and recipients.)

Front of gift card showing flowers and printed text "With Love and Devotion" plus manuscript additions "To Katheryn From Fred" and "Feb 14th 1908"
Gift card, Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 14 February 1908, front

The Cards

Most of the postcards have stamps and postmarks. The marks date from 1906-1908, therefore these cards come from the height of the collecting period. Perhaps there were once other albums alongside these–or not. For the vast majority of the cards sent to Katheryn came from Fred–and were either part of his courtship or, more likely, sent to her as his fiance. They were married by early September 1908.

The cards sent to Katheryn went primarily to one of two addresses in Chicago: 2621 Shields Ave. or 315 Wabash Ave care of the Atlas School Supply Co. She did take at least one trip over to Michigan, as a few cards were addressed to her at one or another hotel there.

Fred, however, traveled a lot throughout the western United States. A cursory scan of the postmarks noted many from Seattle, but others from Colorado and Utah. He also wrote lengthy inscriptions on many (not all) of his cards. It may be interesting to do some network analysis on his postmarks and dates at some point. We will be learning a lot more about him than Kathryn, because he’s the one writing. (I do have other collections that contain women writing to men and women writing to women; this happens to be the one I’m starting with due to considerations too long to go into here.)

Anna’s cards included a number from outside the United States, although her correspondent(s) seem to have written much less.

NOTE: We’ll be working with what remains of the contents of Kathryn’s album. It once contained many more cards than I have. One or more people went through and removed cards–at a guess, they took out most of the birthday, holiday, and other non-place cards. What remains are primarily black-and-white and colorized photos of places, plus some non-photo cards likely overlooked due to less salable condition. Those of you who prefer the other cards will have to wait until I start processing a different album. (Many of my albums contains what remains after having been picked-over, but I do have some that were full.)

Reverse of gift card. Manuscript inscription: "Feb 14th 08 Sweetheart I hope this "Postal Album"will please you It is the best + prettiest I could get + impressed me as a decidedly handsome affair I send you a good big hug + kisses lost of them with Love Fred"
Gift card, Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 14 February 1908, reverse

The Rules

  • This is a “warts and all” blog documenting research in process. I will not return to correct any blog entry with information that later proves wrong. (I may edit entries to add referrals to other posts should I discover I’ve been wrong but this will be at my discretion.)
  • I will generally post two times a week–but reserve the right to change this at any time.
  • I will start at the beginning of the album and work my way through.
  • Cards will be shared in any order they appear in the album–hence not chronological order.
  • Cards may be skipped. Those skipped are most likely to be without any inscriptions whatsoever, but I may opt to omit for other reasons. I will (probably) note the reasons. Generally, the likeliest reason a card is skipped is that it’s blank and has no inscription.
  • Blog entries will focus on any number of cards at my discretion.
  • I will include full transcriptions of card inscriptions where legible. These will reflect my best guess at the time. I reserve the right to amend my understanding of transcriptions.
  • I may refer to other postcards and albums in my possession without providing images or full transcriptions thereof.
  • Comments are allowed only so long as they are useful and any commenters are respectful. I reserve the right to add moderation and/or delete this option at any time.

“See” you in 2021!

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