“Because they couldn’t text”: Kids Explain Postcards

By Amanda Leach

Greetings! At the beginning of our Digital Projects in the Archives class, postcards are laid out on the table for any of us to send if we feel inspired to.  I started to send my children cards with random messages about my day.  Soon, my other classmates began to join me.  The kids really loved this and decided to start sending postcards back.  The following is their perspectives on this experience.

Dylan, Age 12:

I think that post cards are great because they are innovative and they show that people care about each other. There are two times that you would normally receive a post card and that is when a person who cares about you is on vacation or if they have recently moved away. Either way, it means that they care about you. I think the ones I get from my parents school are a great idea because make me think. I think that post cards are a way of showing someone that you care. It makes me feel special that we get customized post cards from my mom and her friends. I like talking to them too!

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Maverick, Age 10: 

I like postcards because they’re easy to send and they can be about anything. I got a postcard with random numbers on it but it turned out to be a code. It was a lot of fun to decode it and I am better than my brothers at it. Also, they can cheer you up if you are having a bad day. It makes me happy when people share cards with me. I like to write postcards because it helps me share my adventures with others in a neat way. They are good souvenirs to get because they can help you remember fun places you have been. And since they are under a dollar, my parents never say no!

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Giovanni, Age 7:

Postcards are useful in the past because they couldn’t text.  It is cool that you could send a postcard to your friend in your city and get a response the same day.  In the past, a mailperson rides a horse gives the postcard you made and gives it to the person you sent the postcard to.  I was really surprised when I got a postcard from my mom.  It was a little weird because she lives with me.  So then her friends wrote to me and told me cool facts. I like sending postcards so much now that my mom let me buy glow in the dark cards off Amazon.  Now I can write people all the time.

 

The David P. Campbell Postcard Collection, searchable at postcard.uakron.edu, is a key collection of the CCHP’s Institute for Human Science and Culture. This blog series chronicles student efforts to make a select group of these postcards more accessible through an Unclass offered through the EXL Center and the English Department at the University of Akron.

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Office Romance and Married Love: Postcards and Cultural Change

By Randall Slonaker

In 2010, historian Lynn Dumenil published, The Modern Temper: American Culture and Society in the 1920s, wherein she posits that the growth of corporations, including the growth of consumerism, contributed to a sense of alienation amongst Americans living in the early twentieth century. Ironically, these same Americans used consumer products, including mass media and entertainment products in an attempt to alleviate stress and alienation, and to foster and maintain a sense of identity. The postcards in the binder entitled “Lovers Portraits Volume 1” seem to take part in this process of coping with cultural change.

Historian Jackson Lears posited similar theories in his 2009 work, Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920. In fact, his book includes an image of a postcard from 1909 that illustrates the changing nature of gender roles and work in the early twentieth century. He mentions that increasing numbers of women began to work as secretaries and typists — jobs that had until recently been the domain of young men. The postcard shows a man with a smiling woman facing him while sitting on his lap, with a caption reading, “I love my wife, but OH! You kid.” Lears uses this postcard as an example of how the trope of the flirtatious, pretty young office worker who tempted married men became very common in the early twentieth century.

Although Lears’ work does not mention this fact, the phrase, “I love my wife, but Oh! You Kid!” is the title of a groundbreaking, hit song from 1909, about a man who undertakes a sexual rendezvous with another woman when his wife leaves town. On June 6, 2014, National Public Radio aired a story about the now, mostly forgotten song that outraged the nation’s self-appointed guardians of morality at the time of its release.  https://www.npr.org/2014/06/06/319539860/nobody-panic-its-only-a-pop-song-about-sex

A Google image search for postcards featuring this phrase leads to dozens of images, including a montage of nine postcards, linked to an article on slate.com about the controversial, 1909 pop music hit. http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2014/06/sex_and_pop_the_forgotten_1909_hit_that_introduced_adultery_to_american.html

While the Lovers Portrait collection does not feature any cards with the phrase, “I love my wife, but Oh! You Kid!”, card # 245 in the LoversPortraitsV1 binder does feature an image of a smiling woman grabbing a man, her right hand on his shoulder, her left hand grabbing the tail of his suit coat, with the caption reading, “I got you, kid.” One wonders if this was yet another take on the phraseology contained in the hit song?

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Card #094 in this same binder features a woman sitting on a man’s lap, but instead of perpetuating the trope of the flirtatious “office girl”, the caption is one that reinforces marital commitment and domesticity, reading, “We’re mortgaged to each other.”

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Images like the above show that postcards could celebrate seemingly conventional married relationships as well as office romances. Mentioning the mortgage, however, makes clear that financial worries were never far off, despite the card’s levity.

The David P. Campbell Postcard Collection, searchable at postcard.uakron.edu, is a key collection of the CCHP’s Institute for Human Science and Culture. This blog series chronicles student efforts to make a select group of these postcards more accessible through an Unclass offered through the EXL Center and the English Department at the University of Akron.

Snapshots from History: The Home for Friendless Children, Reading, PA

By Veronica Bagley and Justin Veda

What exactly is a home for friendless children? We chose to focus on this postcard because of its name; we were curious to see what classified a child as “friendless,” or if the name of this institution may have changed over time.

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Postcard from Dr. Campbell’s Postcard Collection.

This home began in 1884 as a day nursery for women and was previously located on the city’s Franklin Street, but it later served as both a day nursery and a home for children whose parents could not provide care. The Home outgrew its original Franklin Street facility, and reopened in its new location at 1010 Centre Avenue under the name “Home for Friendless Children” in 1888.

The purpose of the home changed to meet the needs of the community over time, as it was in operation during both world wars and during the influenza epidemic. Its main purpose, however, was to provide temporary shelter and instruction to orphaned children. In 1947 the name of the facility changed to “The Children’s Home of Reading” to better describe its new focus on treatment, education, and counseling. It is still in operation today with a focus on offering treatment rather than custodial care for over 650 children and families each year.

Homes for Friendless Children were common during the late 1800s and early 1900s. For example, another Home for Friendless Children was established in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 1862 to care for children who were left fatherless after the Civil War. This institution, too, underwent a name change. In 1929 it became the “Children’s Home” because trustees did not feel that the children there were “friendless.” Today the institution is no longer serving as an orphanage, but as a non-profit for support of the Children Service Center of Wyoming Valley, Inc., which is a mental health center for children and adolescents.

image2A quick Google Search shows results for many other institutions with similar names, such as “The Home for Friendless Children of the Eastern Shore of Maryland” (opened in 1871 and now operates as “The Children’s Home Foundation”), or the “Camden Home for Friendless Children” in NJ (opened in 1865, and changed to “Camden Home for Children” in 1946).

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Photo of the Inside of The Home for Friendless Children of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, from https://www.childrenshomefoundation.org/our-history/.

So why call it a home for “friendless” children? From researching other institutions with similar names, it is unclear as to why they were called “homes for friendless children,” but they all underwent name changes that removed the word “friendless.” They generally served as homes for children without parents who could provide care, but in the example of the Home for Friendless Children in Wilkes-Barre, PA the name was changed because “because the trustees felt that these children were not ‘friendless’ but in fact had a great number of friends.”1

 

  1. http://citizensvoice.com/news/home-for-friendless-children-still-assisting-kids-1.1146877

Sources:

https://www.childrenshomefoundation.org/our-history/

http://www.dvrbs.com/camden/CamdenNJ-Home-Friendless-Children.htm

http://citizensvoice.com/news/home-for-friendless-children-still-assisting-kids-1.1146877

http://www.childrenshomeofrdg.org/about/whoAreWe.html

http://collections.uakron.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15960coll19/id/81/rec/1 

 

The David P. Campbell Postcard Collection, searchable at postcard.uakron.edu, is a key collection of the CCHP’s Institute for Human Science and Culture. This blog series chronicles student efforts to make a select group of these postcards more accessible through an Unclass offered through the EXL Center and the English Department at the University of Akron.

Why so many German postcards?

By Richard Marko with Amanda Leach and Zoe Orcutt

While digitizing our hold-to-light postcards we began to notice a trend in what companies printed them and where. It seems that a majority of our cards were printed between the years 1900 and 1913, by German companies. This is interesting because many of our cards depict scenes and cities within the United States. Naturally, the question that comes to mind is; why were these postcards not printed in the United States if they showcase places in the United States?

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The first part of the answer comes from the fact that German is the birth place of the European printing press. In addition to Gutenberg’s introduction of the printing press in 1439, Alois Senefelder introduced the printing technique of lithography in the 1790s which allowed for even cheaper, faster and easier printing. Therefore, it is no surprise that print companies became well established within the German states. This allowed for them to become the world leaders and innovators of the print industry. Many companies throughout the world recognized the craftsmanship and quality of German prints and postcards. This included publishers in the United States.

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German women working in a print shop http://www.environmentalhistory.org/revcomm/features/life-in-a-print-shop/

It was not only the quality of the postcards but the prices as well. Programs such as Social Security kept German workers wages low allowing for high quality, low cost postcards. This was great for the German print industry for the 1890s the postcard boom allowed for their companies to grow and become the largest in the world.

In addition to the pervious factors, the United States stunted it own print industry growth with the 1885 Alien Contract Labor Law, also known as the Foran Act. This law prevented importation and migration of foreigners and aliens under contract or agreement to perform labor in the United States. This pushed American publishers to go to German printing companies assisting in German domination of the industry. Approximately seventy-five percent of postcards in the United States prior to 1914 were printed in Germany. It was the outbreak of World War One that stopped the production and trade of postcard between the two countries. With all these factors it can be seen why American publishers preferred German printing companies over any others.

For additional information on specific German print companies visit:

http://www.tpa-project.info/body_index.html

Sources:

The Post Card Album

http://www.tpa-project.info/body_index.html

University of Alberta Libraries

http://peel.library.ualberta.ca/postcardhistory.html

MetroPostcard

http://www.metropostcard.com/metropcguides.html

 

The David P. Campbell Postcard Collection, searchable at postcard.uakron.edu, is a key collection of the CCHP’s Institute for Human Science and Culture. This blog series chronicles student efforts to make a select group of these postcards more accessible through an Unclass offered through the EXL Center and the English Department at the University of Akron.

Women of the Wild West: Cowgirls and Gunslingers

By Jessica Wilson and Anthony Pankuch

Far from the only legends of the American West, Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley are joined by many women in the imagery of western life. Guns, hats, spurs, holsters, and fringe clothing adorn the women of the Wild West depicted on postcards from the early twentieth century. David P. Campbell’s Feminists Leap Year Vol. 2 binder contains several postcards depicting women of the American frontier in scenes which challenge the image of the helpless woman and her cowboy savior.

The postcards of women of the West vary from feminine cowgirl to aggressive gambler, highlighting a view of Western women that includes traditionally masculine acts and imagery, such as guns, gambling, and cattle drives.

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The acceptance of women as protectors of morality and a bulwark against vice is directly challenged by the postcard above, “A Draw in Texas.” The image breaks traditional views of women by placing the woman in a place of vice, a saloon, and by allowing her to participate in the vice of gambling. Additionally, the woman is challenging gender norms by striking an aggressive pose, wearing western-style pants, carrying a handgun, and playing cards with a man. This woman of the Wild West breaks domestic boundaries and asserts her place in the restricted realm of men.

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Guns also challenged traditional feminine imagery. Women of the Wild West frequently appear with a gun at their side or comfortably in their hands. “Daughter of the West” shows a woman sitting in a more masculine pose, leaning against a table while comfortably holding a rifle.

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Romantic notions of life in the West permeated culture in the eastern United States. For example, the postcard above was sent from New York, NY from a woman to her younger sister in Central Falls, Rhode Island. The image of a young woman joyfully riding a horse across a pasture reflects the sentimental message that states, “How is this for a cowboy girl. Don’t you think she is fine. Would you like to be with her out riding.” The acknowledgement of an interest in cowgirls by the little sister, Lillian, could explain the choice of a postcard with the imagery of a romanticized and feminized woman of the West.

From a gun toting gambler to a cowgirl in a pink western hat, these postcards epitomize the legacy of the independent and free spirit of the women of the Wild West.

The David P. Campbell Postcard Collection, searchable at postcard.uakron.edu, is a key collection of the CCHP’s Institute for Human Science and Culture. This blog series chronicles student efforts to make a select group of these postcards more accessible through an Unclass offered through the EXL Center and the English Department at the University of Akron.

We’ve Got Mail! Postcard Writers Address Our Class

By Rosemary Herbert

One of the pleasures of being a member of The Postcard Unclass is to arrive in class and find that we have received mail — in the form of postcards, of course. The missives come from near and far. Three written by the children of one class member were hand-delivered. The others arrived through the mail from Cleveland, Ohio; Boston, Mass.; Portland, Maine; and even as far away as Wellington, New Zealand. Quirkiness and good wishes are hallmarks of several. Exemplifying this, one card features a reproduction of a vintage Nancy Drew book cover and bears a hand-illustrated message spelled out in a circle “Wishing the Postcard Unclass much success in its epistolary sleuthing.”

 

The signature on the card is, fittingly, “Nancy Drew.”

Another postcard delivers a lesson in local weather lingo. “Greetings from Portland, Maine,” the writer begins, “ 7-10 inches of snow today. That’s a wicked Pissah! We like to drop our ‘er’ sound and say ‘ah’ — like you’re at the doctor.”

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Another card bears the image of Madame G. Van Muyden, as portrayed by the painter Amedeo Modigliani. The sender, who signs the card Madame G. Van Muyden, speculates on “what sort of metadata” the class will apply to her. A writer called Elaine from Boston notes that her card depicting Jane Austen’s grave in Winchester Cathedral in England had likely  “lain neglected & unsent for decades. Perhaps I was saving it… or perhaps it was simply waiting for the perfect recipients!” Another Boston writer sends the Unclass wishes for “Good luck” on a postcard depicting bicyclists in snow and on a Florida beach. An unsigned card depicting Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, simply says, “Here’s a note for you.” The sender has drawn a music note following those words.

Finally, our most far-traveling postcard is sent by class member Rosemary Herbert’s penpal of more than 50 years.  Labeled “Post card 1,” it’s mate has yet to arrive. The sender has chosen an illustration of New Zealand, with key destinations highlighted, as a “snapshot” of her island country for our class. We eagerly await her “Post card 2”!

We invite postcard communications from far and wide. Write to us at:

The Postcard Unclass

Cummings Center for the History of Psychology

University of Akron

25 S. College Street

Akron, OH 44325-4302

The David P. Campbell Postcard Collection, searchable at postcard.uakron.edu, is a key collection of the CCHP’s Institute for Human Science and Culture. This blog series chronicles student efforts to make a select group of these postcards more accessible through an Unclass offered through the EXL Center and the English Department at the University of Akron.