Fallen Angels?

By the Postcard UnClass

As we were finishing up working with scanning and entering metadata on our postcard binders, we took time to compare images that showed up under multiple subjects. There are, of course, lots of echoes among the binders, given that a large number of cards come from the early twentieth century and reflect the culture of the time. We’ve noticed, for example, that most buildings are depicted from the same angle, there’s plenty of engrained sexism and racism, and lots of the cartoons are inscrutible.

But some similarities are less predictable and bring up intriguing questions. Namely, we’ve been puzzling over angels, after considering this image from the Hold-to-Light binder:

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Why is this angel wearing a coat, we wondered? Do angels feel cold? And why is she standing on the ground? Wouldn’t that make her a fallen angel?

So we looked for other images of winged people in other binders, and we ran across this one from the Lovers Portraits collection.

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So the angel is evidently not alone. In fact, both cards reflect German origins — the first is printed in Germany, and the second has a German-language message on its back. But we still have no real ideas of how to explain her. Does anyone else?

 

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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The Retiring of the Binders

By the Postcard UnClass

It’s the last day of class, which means that, for many of our groups, the work of scanning and metadata creation has come to a close. We marked the end of the term with what we’ve determined needs to become a tradition: a postcard cake and accompanying potluck:

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A more solemn tradition, though, was established by The Hold-to-Light and Feminists Leap Year Vol. 2 groups, who officially reshelved their postcards to mark their project’s completion. The Binder Retirement Ceremony may not be elaborate, but it was meaningful nonetheless.

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Final projects, though, are still to come, and we’ll be reporting on them throughout the summer. Stay tuned to hear more about what the class has come up with, and what potential new areas of research they have uncovered.

 

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.

Reviving the Code: The M. Story Bates Cipher in Action

By Emma Grosjean and Stacy Young

As we were working through the M. Story Bates binder, we were glad to find that scanning was a fast and simple process.  The creation of metadata, on the other hand, has taken some time. We have about 35 more cards to create metadata for and we will have to go back and fix spelling mistakes, inconsistencies, any typos, and add decoded messages. This should all be completed by next week.

We have also been in contact with the original code breaker, Caroline, who has recently written a fantastic two-part blog about Ralph and Minnie on Instagram. The information that she has provided us has been incredible. She has been coming back to the story of Ralph and Minne for years now and has also been in contact with Ralph’s descendants in New Zealand. She is helping us to create a not only a valuable contribution, but also deeply personal and interesting addition to our projects. It helps to know how much research at an archives can unexpectedly become personal.

There are many things that are enchanting about these cards, but a major one is the codes written on the backs of some of them. Some are in a number code and some are in word code, but they are always beautifully written. We assumed these codes were keeping the correspondence, between two lovers, hidden from the prying eyes of the mailman or any other individual that may come across the card. However, come to find out, the correspondences weren’t scandalous or salacious, but rather riddles and short sweet messages from two individuals in a budding romance that eventually lead to marriage.

So, why write in code? We would argue for entertainment. It is very fun to write out a message in code, and Emma wrote out three messages to our classmate Amanda’s children Dylen, Gio, and Maverick who wrote a blog about postcards. It was a challenging process. Emma wrote out what she wanted to say first then went back and transcribed my note into code one letter at a time. It was surprisingly relaxing to do and it didn’t take long to do at all. She is so looking forward to hearing back from the boys and decoding their responses. Doing this exercise really drove home what we believe the point of the code writing is, to have fun!

Touching upon future Minnie and Ralph projects we plan on creating a detailed description of the collection that will be included in the front of the binder. It will include a description of the cards, information of the coded cards, which will include a key, information from Caroline, ancestry.com research, current photographs from locations on the cards, and a map that outlines the correspondence of Ralph and Minnie.

 

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.

“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.

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.