Health,  Katheryn McMahon Newton Album,  Logistics,  Social,  Travel

Beautiful burgs, leaky pens, and grief

Katheryn McMahon Newton album, cards 113-115

Three very different cards for today! Two from Fred, one short and one messy, and one from a different person entirely. All, as is mostly the case, to Katheryn.

First up: the short end.

South Union Ave. Pueblo, Col.
Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 15 February 1908

This is a contradictory combination, in a way. Fred sent a card showing an image of Pueblo while in Pueblo (the postmark is faint, but clear enough)–to praise Colorado Springs. He had just taken the train from Colorado Springs to Pueblo, but already he considered himself able to speak to his opinion of that town versus others.

Hon: I realize what a beautiful little town Colo Springs is when I get into other places that burg for me every time you know Fred”

Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 15 February 1908

It’s possible that Fred indulged in a bit of hyperbole in writing this, since he had only arrived at one other place since leaving Colorado Springs. Alternatively, this was not his first visit to Colorado Springs. After all, our only documentation of him at this time is the cards he sent to Katheryn between 1907 and 1908. It’s quite possible this was his second or later visit to Colorado Springs as he was a traveling salesman!

This card from Tacoma caught my eye for the clarity of the signage. It’s likely due to a combination of factors, first and foremost the angle of the image combined with the number, placement, and font size of the signs. It’s interesting to compare it with the scene of Pueblo. To my eye, the Tacoma image is much crisper, perhaps because it’s black-and-white versus colored. It may also have been produced using a different process (I’m not sufficiently versed in these to tell). And yet, despite that (perceived) crispness the Pueblo scene features notable trolley and telephone/telegraph lines while the Tacoma vista, despite evident telephone poles, does not. Perhaps someone with greater familiarity with printing processes may read this and comment.

Scene on Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, Wash. see post text for inscription
Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 25 May/2 June 1908

Fred’s leaky pen provided ample blotches. Only two are visible on this side, but the reverse has even more.

Stamp. Postmark Seattle Wash, 2 June 1908 11am. Addressed to Miss Katheryn McMahon #2621 Shields Ave. Chicago Ill. see post for message
Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 25 May/2 June 1908

This was a case where the card went astray in Fred’s belongings and he wound up sending it about a week later. The messages on the front he dated 25 May, but the postmark reads 2 June. And his explanation, on the backside, specified where he thought the card went astray:

Dearie In some unaccountable manner I did not have a stamp + I must have placed card back in my pocket + forgot to mail it to you + just discovered it in my pocket Fred

Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 25 May/2 June 1908

His earlier message focused largely on travel logistics, albeit with a usual invocation of sentiment and missing her. The last line, obscure and inscrutable from the vantage point of a century further along, likely reflected a personal joke between them.

Dearest: Just arrived in town w[illeg] (dearie pen is leaking) I wrote you letter on N.P. Coast Limited did you get it I just got off at depot. [flip] up the street where you see big Clock am going back on 4.30 boat, first ride would enjoy it thoroughly if you were along Well what did you say you just bet you will you know yours Fred

Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 25 May/2 June 1908

Last but far from least, we have a very different card. This originated from a Mrs. Knight. It’s of Lead, S.D., and postmarked there. Since I mentioned image quality above, this colored card likely was produced the same way as the Pueblo one–and to my eye also lacks the crispness of the Tacoma image.

Main Street, Looking East, Showing Tramway, Trolly and C.& N. W. Tracks, Lead, S.D.
Mrs. Knight to Katheryn McMahon, 18 May 1908

Dear Kitty, Was so sorry to hear you were not well. And disappointed I did not get to bid you good bye. Would love to hear how you are. I am well, but almost insane from grief. I shall never be the same again. I feel worse every day. Wish I could see you. With Love. Mrs. Knight

Mrs. Knight to Katheryn McMahon, 18 May 1908

The card offers ample material for analysis. I’m going to highlight three items here.

First: the combination of postmark and reference to seeing good-bye speaks to how mobile portions of the population were at this time. Mrs. Knight likely made a visit to Chicago or perhaps had lived there and moved to South Dakota. In either case, she stopped by Katheryn’s residence but Katheryn wasn’t well (we know from other cards that Fred has concerns about Katheryn’s health).

Second: consider how Mrs. Knight addressed the card to Kitty. As noted in an earlier post, Fred initially also addressed Katheryn as Kitty and likely shifted to Katheryn after their engagement. Some earlier references suggest he may have been encouraging her to take on a name he, at least, considered more in keeping with their changing circumstances. (I am trying very hard here not to comment from my early 21st century perspective.) One of the things I’m going to keep an eye out for when I do a chronological sort and analysis of these is if he even played around with spellings before settling on Katheryn–after all some of the first cards in the album featured Katherine or other variants.

Also, it’s worth noting this card contains an open admission of grief. Mrs. Knight evidently had no qualms about expressing her deep wounds of loss on a postcard that anyone else could read. It reminds me of a similar card that I shared in the third post starting up this blog. In that case, the sender discussed the loss of his wife. Mrs. Knight didn’t specify who she lost, assuming she did. Katheryn would of course have known some of the circumstances. I don’t want to speculate on this; there are too many possibilities. Nevertheless, this card in combination with that other card suggest the extent to which grief and loss were topics considered, at least by those two senders, as appropriate material for open communication media.

“Beautiful burgs, leaky pens, and grief,” copyright 2021, A.R. Henle.

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