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Old Haunts and Burros Revisited

Katheryn McMahon Newton album, cards 35-39

On the 26th of February 1908, Fred sent Katheryn another card where the image was the inspiration for the communication. In this case, he even specified where he got the card: in a drug store in Portland, Oregon. Drug stores were a mainstay of the postcard market–and this particular card presented a local view, and was one of the United States images produced by the publisher, W.G. MacFarlane.

Wooden bridge near a waterfall. Text "Scene in City Park, Portland, Ore."
Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 26 February 1908, front

Once again, Fred inscribed suggestive initials on the image, but in this case he did so not to invite Katheryn to imagine herself in Portland so much as to encourage her to think back to a scene in Paw Paw, Michigan the year before.

“Dearie: Just before lunch I noticed this card in drug store window Do you remember that never to be forgotten summer + the little lovers lane bridge at Paw Paw, well the minute my eyes rested on this it reminded me of that dear spot and how sweet you looked that night in your pretty cool white dress Can you see me to dear—Fred”

Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 26 February 1908
Stamp. Postmark Portland, Ore. 26 February 1908. Addressed to Miss Katherine McMahon #2621 Shields Ave. Chicago Ill. See blog entry for message text.
Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 26 February 1908, reverse

Fred included several references intended to encourage Katheryn to reminisce: “never to be forgotten summer,” “little lovers lane bridge,” “dear spot,” “how sweet you looked . . . your pretty cool white dress”–and then asked if she remembers him too. After all, they’ve evidently been parted for several weeks at this point. While we don’t know exactly when he left Chicago (yet), he’s been sending postcards from the route since early February. Had he ever been as far away from her for as long before, at least since they began courting? Finding information to identify his birth date, age, and other information would help provide potential contexts for his regular postcards and active solicitation of similar communiques from her.

The next two cards went to Anna or A. McMahon of State Street, one from West Baden, Indiana, (#36), and the other Niagara Falls (#37); both images of churches/cathedrals. I’m skipping sharing the backs, as they held no messages save the initials inscribed on the front of the Niagara Falls one (which match initials on an earlier card sent to her without a message).

And then we have not one but two cards from Colorado Springs, drafted at roughly the same time and connected with a trip up Cheyenne Canon to Seven Falls. Both cards bear local, related images, produced by Frank Thayer. Fred wrote the card with less white space around the image first, and included admiration for the scenery and air quality there.

The messages on the reverse, however, prompt reconsideration of a card discussed here last month.

“Dearie: Am waiting for car to take me back to Colo Springs + while doing so want to drop you a line + tell you what a beautiful trip this is. Rode about 7 Miles in this Canon + had my picture taken on a “Burro.” Will send you one this P.M.-With Love Fred” and “Dearie Car is coming + I want to mail both of these cards to you Am going with a crowd this P.M. to this place “Seven Falls” Wish you were here Will tell you about it later From Fred”

Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 8 February 1908

Fred had his photo taken on a burro. He sent a card, postmarked about 5 days later, of four people on burros–a real photo postcard taken in Cheyenne Canon. Odds are this is the photo he meant.

If so, the picture offers some degree of insight into tourist operations at Cheyenne Canon in 1908. There was a local photographer and someone from whom to rent burros. Its not clear from Fred’s messages whether he went up alone or in part of a group–but it’s notable that the image is of four people on burros. Perhaps Fred went with companions and they decided to have their picture taken together (on burros). Alternatively, he went alone or with companions who declined the photographic opportunity; if so, the photographer managed nevertheless to get four people in one image, with the potential for four paychecks for less labor.

Regardless, we may well have an image of Fred (who asked Katheryn what she thought of his pose). Which do you think is Fred, the man on the left (alas, the postmark partially obscures him) or on the right? (And who are the others with him?)

Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 13 February 1908, front

“Old Haunts and Burros Revisited,” copyright 2021, A.R. Henle.

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