Real Photo Post Cards,  Vitals

Real Photo of Man in Fallen Tree, Per Promise

Real Photo Postcards (RPPC) are pains and joys in collecting early postcards, at least from my perspective. On the good side: they show “real” people and scenes as their name indicates. Many are posed (hence the use of quotes above) but they’re also often intended to be shared between families, friends, and acquaintances, particularly RPPC of people. Those may represent intricate networks of connections.

Frustratingly, such cards also frequently lack sufficient information to tease out the networks. My collection contains more RPPC than I like with nothing written on the front or back. Whomever gathered the cards and placed them in albums knew the subject and/or meaning and didn’t need to note it down. At far remove, the odds of ever piecing back together that information? Pretty much zippo. Sometimes these cards may contain a sliver of info, enough to give hope only to lead nowhere.

Today’s card actually offers a little more information. Not enough–at least not yet. It is quite possible it has contains more than I know. It comes from an album I haven’t processed–other than removing cards from disintegrating album pages, while documenting location and placement in the album. Therefore I may be able to revisit this someday down the road.

Meet W.M.P.

A young white man in shirt, tie, pangs, and shoes, sitting in the branches of a tree.
W.M.P. in a tree

One young white man, sitting in a tree. Specifically: a fallen tree, whether brought down by nature or human hands. He’s several feet off the ground, but not nearly as high as if he’d climbed the tree while it still stood. It’s a fairly casual shot–he’s not wearing a coat or jacket and has rolled up his sleeves.

He dropped the card in the mail. As a result, we have even more information–if not so much as I’d like. The stamp appears in fine shape. The postmark, not so much. Research might aid in identifying the likely post office where the mark originated. My guess is Fort Wayne, since not only does “Ft.W.” appear but the recipient is also in Indiana. The year is unclear, too, although it appears to have been sent in a summer month, perhaps July.

The recipient, Miss Bertha Hazelton, lived in Mooreland, Indiana. This is directly south of Fort Wayne, as a crow flies–though it would take at least a couple of hours travel to pass between them. Bertha kept an album which I acquired. It’s almost complete (often someone has gone through and removed many of the cards either for sentimental purposes or because they’re better for resale) and contains 160 cards of which this is one. There are enough others one might contain W.M.P.’s name. (She didn’t marry him, however, so don’t go building any romantic hopes, as the other cards document she married someone else.)

On the other hand, W.M.P. did include a brief inscription. He’s fulfilling a promise made some time earlier: “a few years.” Getting one’s photo taken and sending it to other people was quite popular among some segments of the population, not least the type of people who collected and/or kept postcard albums. Nowadays, of course, many people can whip out a phone and take a photo on a whim. Not so a century ago, when having a photograph taken was a much more complicated endeavor. This did not require going to a studio (another photo in this album was taken by the pictured man’s sister in the out-of-doors), but did require access to a camera or a photographer and the means to purchase either the resultant image or materials to develop the negative and print the photo. (And that’s about the limits of my current knowledge on early 20th century photography; I expect I’ll learn more as I expand my research).

People took RPPC of all manner of scenes and things. The next post will give an example very different from this–and there will be more down the road as we dig into the album in 2021.

“Real Photo of Man in Tree, Per Promise,” copyright 2021, A.R. Henle.

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