Katheryn McMahon Newton album, cards 80-81
Today’s cards offer a very interesting comparison–except in images.
Fred sent Katheryn the same card twice–within the span of three days. The one on the left is dated May 24th and postmarked the 25th; the one on the right the 27th and 28th respectively.
The mood of the cards, now, that differs dramatically. But first a note on postmarks.
I haven’t discussed postmarks much here, and I’m not going to. That said, these are particularly clear impressions (they’re not always, even when dealing with someone who isn’t as avid as Fred about using available space). From the same city, three days apart. But we know a little bit more about where the first one was mailed–because there’s a specific station identification: Broadway. Someone familiar with postmark and postal history might be able to tell a lot more about the development of more specialized postal stamps. At the moment, I don’t see this becoming particularly germane to my interests, but one never knows.
Now back to the texts. In each, Fred uses quite a bit of space especially on the back. The first of the two he sent around the height of the White Fleet being in the city. I had trouble with some of the words under the postmark. Nevertheless, most comes through clearly enough.
Dearest: It is Sund after dinner + while waiting for one of the boys to meet me + go to Madison Park for a boat-ride or go down town + board one of the warships, havent decided which yet for the crowds intown indicate that the ships will be crowded am thinking about you + writing to you again [reverse] I just cant help thinking about you + with your love of nature how you would appreciate + enjoy this beautiful city + glorious weather we are now having. It is impossible for me to enjoy it at all as I could, if you were with me dear + only free to make such joy a possibility + a fact. I’m afraid Im so deeply in love with this great, big, glorious West that I will never be content to live elsewhere. One gets up in the A.M. feeling so fine + refreshed + you never close a window oh honey you may think Chgo is fine in summer but it does[nt?] hold a chandle to this beautiful country out here so blessed with [all?] that nature possesses[?] has it bestowed on [unclear] You will know you + me[?] live[?] [unclear] here + wonder too [unclear] could have ever had ground out an existence before + so long in Chgo, Dearie my arms are aching but not from the lawn-mower For who Oguess? Good By dear will write now everything tonight with love FredFred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 24 May 1908
There’s a lot to unpack here. It will be interesting to put this in chronological perspective with all the other cards he’s sent enthusing about the West in general and, once he gets there, Seattle in particular. In this card, he made explicit what the others danced around: “I’m afraid Im so deeply in love with this great, big, glorious West that I will never be content to live elsewhere.” In short, if Katheryn expected him to come back to Chicago and live there with her, her luck had probably run out. Indeed, he described such a fate in unpleasant terms: “ground out an existence.” He did connect his love of the West with reasons for her to love. Nevertheless, even with the sentiments at the end, he made a strong statement in this card.
Exactly how long it took that card to travel to Chicago will never be known. No matter how fast, however, Fred could not have anticipated receiving a reply before he sent the second copy. In this, he struck a very different tone. Consider the simple line scrawled across the front where the other had four or five times as many words:
Regards to Kate if she is still single?Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 27 May 1908
It is possible that Fred and Katheryn have a mutual friend Kate to whom he referred. Yet Kate is a common nickname for Katheryn–so it is as (or more) likely that he’s making a reference to her. The inscription on the reverse only strengthens my inclination toward the latter explanation. Even though she could hardly have received his declaration of wanting to live in the West, he’s worried about her . . . and/or the strength of her feelings for him.
Dearie: Mailed you two pictures same as the two sent you last week. I had these more appropriately mounted especially for my little girl as the other mounting has started to warp. Hon I am commencing to get very uneasy + anxious about you, you have not even sent me a postal card since last week + you are so terribly far away from me just at present but you know [unclear that?] if the reward which Ill have to offer isnt worth the while waiting for Who said Colorado Springs Yes I’m sure you’d love a week there. Yours LovinglyFred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 27 May 1908
The inscriptions began fairly routinely, with a second and better-mounted set of pictures–probably of himself–for her. Yet immediately following Fred transitioned to concern. She’s far away and she’s not sending him anywhere near as many cards as he is to her. The last line is not clear, but he may have offered to meet her for a week in Colorado Springs, which would be roughly mid-way between Seattle and Chicago (albeit requiring a slight detour because the transcontinental route did not go through Colorado Springs).
The reverse thus offers a deeper cast to the line scrawled across the front–where he may have both joked and expressed a deep fear that she’d decide to marry someone else.
“Love for the west and worries over love,” copyright 2021, A.R. Henle.