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.

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Love, War and Postcards

By Randall Slonaker

This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War. To commemorate some of the significant dates from this year, I will be sharing information about important developments in the war, accompanied by postcard images from the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection.  These cards are found in the binder, “Lovers Portraits, Volume 1”.

As a graduate student of history, specializing in modern America, I realized that these cards could serve as important primary source documents for study. The images depicted on these cards confirm and reinforce many of the ideas I have recently been introduced to during my seminar readings, and have challenged me to consider and contextualize how these ideas and the primary source postcards fit together.

One of the most interesting aspects of analyzing these cards is looking at how David Campbell and Marsha Juozaitas decided to categorize and group them. With 268 cards in this binder, and roughly the same amount in binder Volume 2, it is obvious that in the early twentieth century, postcards of loving couples were quite popular. In addition, I have noticed that a few dozen cards within this collection feature couples where the man is wearing a military uniform, as these cards were produced around the same time as America’s entry into the First World War.

In David W. Blight’s Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, Jackson Lears’ Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920, and Steven Trout’s On the Battlefield of Memory: The First World War and American Remembrance, 1919-1941, these historians comment on the evolving nature of gender roles. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, many pundits lamented the fact that (in their estimation) young American men had become “soft,” or effeminate, in body, mind, spirit and character. These same voices insisted that a “good war,” like the United States Civil War, would provide young men with the opportunity to achieve valor and honor, thus improving their physical and mental strength, as well as character. This would in turn allow them to not only achieve personal success, but to fulfill their roles as dominant, white, Protestant, Christian men, who would lead their homes, American industry, and society, and influence, if not control the rest of the world. These men also feared that American Christianity had largely become a female dominated sphere, and thus espoused a form of “muscular Christianity” that not only appealed to young men by utilizing sports and athletic training, but would also strengthen young men and training them for war.

Postcards featuring military men speak to the intersectionality of so many of the aforementioned historical issues.

The two cards above (#37 and #193 in our collection) feature the same caption, “None but the brave deserve the fair,” with each featuring a different image of a brave young man in military uniform, with a young woman (or two!) gazing at him with a look of admiration. The men in both of these cards appear to be in the United States military. This caption appears in other postcards in our binder as well, suggesting that an appeal to masculinity was routinely invoked to glorify the era’s soldiers, and to in turn encourage men and women alike to valorize military service.

March 26-British and French commanders meet at the Hotel De Ville in Doullens, France to formulate a joint response to the German onslaught of the spring of 1918. In an effort toward increased cooperation and efficiency, the allies are prompted to appoint a single ‘commander-in-chief’ for the first time, and decide to award the job to French General Ferdinand Foch.

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.

The Wild World of the “Suffragette Series”

By Anthony Pankuch and Jessica Wilson

Some of the postcards in the David P. Campbell Collection offer up rather bizarre and singular imagery, while others were quite literally made to be collected. Contained within the Feminists Leap Year Vol. 2 binder are several postcards from the collectable “Suffragette Series” of cards. Like a large portion of the cards contained within our binder, these satirical postcards seem to reveal more about the anti-suffrage movement than the suffragettes themselves! The images depict suffragettes as cartoonish parodies displaying a complete reversal of early 20th century gender norms.

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Take, for example, “Suffragette Series No. 9,” featured above. The “Queen of the Poll” depicted on this card flaunts her status as a “District Leaderess” while openly smoking—an activity at that time considered to be traditionally masculine. Signs behind her promote the election of women candidates for public office, such as “Susie Peach for Alderwoman” and the wife of “Dr. McMoney” for treasurer. In this world of parody, the only office left open for a man is that of zookeeper!

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Cartoons and illustrations such at these were commonly used by opponents of women’s suffrage to undermine the movement for voting rights. Anti-suffrage activists sought to push the notion that granting women the right to vote would turn the world into something wildly resembling the “Suffragette Series.” In the upside-down world depicted in these cards, the suffragettes even managed to strip Uncle Sam of his traditional masculinity.

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Though it is hard to gauge the impact of these cards on public opinion, they nonetheless provide us with a reminder of how radical the notion of women’s suffragette seemed to some at the time. Expanding voting rights to women threatened to redefine established gender roles and drastically alter the electorate of the nation. For some men, this was a positively shocking idea.

 

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.

Peek-a-boo!

By Amanda Leach with Richard Marko and Zoe Orcutt

The creepy baby- this card has become infamous in our class. You may remember this postcard from our first blog post:

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This is one of our hold to light cards, which is contains a secret image that is only revealed when you hold it to light. In this card, when the light passes through, it appears that the baby has opened it eyes. The eyes are completely black, and give the card an ominous feel.  Oddly enough, this image was used to sell baby food!  An advertisement for Mellin’s Food for Infants and Invalids appears on the back side of the card.

But this isn’t the card’s only unique feature. The caption on the front of the card reads “Peek-a-boo, Peek-a-boo” with musical score above it.  This ‘peeked’ my curiosity-why were these notes here? Did this childhood game have its origins in a song? A quick search on Google confirmed my hypothesis.  I found the original sheet music on the Library of Congress’s website found here:

https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.100008801/

“Peek-a-boo!” or also known as the Peek-a-boo Waltz was composed and written in 1884 by William J. Scanlan. Scanlan was an Irish-American actor and composer.  He spent much of his life composing and acting for Dickson’s Opera House, which was in Kenton, Ohio.  When he wrote Peek-a-Boo, he was observing children playing at the park and reflecting on the joys of fatherhood.  However, no children were mentioned in his obituary so he may have never experienced fatherhood first hand.  Scanlan had a mental breakdown only a few years after publishing this song.  He was reported to not recognize anyone, including his wife.  He would often break into fits of rage.  His family had him committed to Bloomingdale Asylum, where he stayed until his death in 1898.

The peek-a-boo waltz was William Scanlan’s most well-known work.  What began as a poem, evolved into a song that was performed in Opera houses for more than 20 years! In the 1920’s the song was became a popular jazz tune, but it was normally played without the lyrics.  However, the refrain still remained popular as a children’s lullaby.  It goes: “Peek-a-boo! Peek-a-boo!  Come from behind the chair. Peek-a-boo! Peek-a-boo! I see you hiding there. Oh! You rascal there.”  But this fell out of popularity by the 1950’s.  The waltz still remains a popular piece to play.  If you wish to hear it for yourself, please check out this version by Vi Wickham on the violin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nm1quhEdAaY

This is one of the many reasons postcards are so fascinating.  There are so many layers of interesting pieces of history packed into this little 3.5 x 5.5 inch piece of paper! Have you ever heard of the Peek-a-boo Waltz? Or were you sung the refrain as a child? Please comment and let us know!

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: Odd Fellows’ Home, Liberty, Missouri

By Veronica Bagley and Justin Veda

The institution our blog will focus on this week is the Odd Fellows’ Home in Liberty, Missouri. We were interested in this postcard because it is the only one we have come across so far called an “Odd Fellows’ Home,” and were curious as to how that fit in a binder of Institutions and Asylums. Many of the buildings featured on the postcards have been either torn down or are no longer standing, and this one was a unique example in that it is now not only a historic site, but has also been repurposed as a winery.

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The Liberty Odd Fellows building opened in 1900 and was founded by The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), a fraternal organization in the United States. It was a statewide home that provided care and education for orphans and elderly members of the organization. Their purpose was to give aid, assistance, and comfort to its members. Their school provided basic education and instrumental music classes. Children also performed music and literary recitals for the elderly. The Odd Fellows’ Society also provided burial plots and headstones in their on-site cemetery.

The IOOF is a secret society, with a system of rites and passwords. Today, as a National Historic Site, the Odd Fellow’s home displays various artifacts left behind by the IOOF. Amongst these artifacts is a full skeleton named “George,” belonging to an Odd Fellows member who died in the 1880s and donated his body to science. When it was no longer needed for teaching, it was returned to the IOOF for use in their initiation rituals. Other items left behind included masks, books, and swords.

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Skeleton, “George,” from the Display at the Odd Fellows’ Home. Image from https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/odd-fellows-home

There are three remaining historic buildings today: The Administration Building, the Old Folks Building, and the Old Hospital. Though they were designed by different architects over twenty-three years, their designs are cohesive. The complex is an example of Jacobethan Revival architecture.

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Current view of the abandoned buildings on the property. From https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/odd-fellows-home.

On August 3, 1987, The Odd Fellows’ Home became a State Historic Site. They also offer public events such as paranormal investigations and murder mystery dinners.

Sources:

http://www.belvoirwinery.com/

National Register of Historic Places Inventory- Nomination Form. United States Department of the Interior, National Parks Service. 1987.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/odd-fellows-home

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.

Deciphering Codes in the M. Story Bates Postcards

By Stacy Young with Emma Grosjean

A portion of our project is digitizing these postcards, but the other half is research. While we were looking for information on the people who wrote our cards,  we found a blog entitled “100 Years of Stories; For The Love of Little Pieces of The Past; The Secret Code of Ralph and Minnie.” The posting has no author’s name attached, but it’s given us a lot of information not just about our materials, labelled “M. Story Bates Cards,” but about the code the Ralph Duckworth and Minnie Bates used in their correspondence.

The author stated that she was initially attracted to the cards by the beautiful photographs of actresses and then the mysterious codes on the cards’ backs, which is exactly what happened to Emma and me. The author describes how they found that in the United Kingdom communication was easy and in some areas they residence would receive 6 mail deliveries a day. This would not only make a conversation throughout th day easy by mail, but also make collecting postcards extremely attainable. Collecting postcards became extremely popular during this time and people like Ralph and Minnie were delighted to collect postcards with many different images on them.

The author discusses why they believe that the cards’ messages were encoded and came to the same conclusion that our class did:  postcard messages were open to the public and people would have to be creative in order to leave their messages private. The author decided to decode a 1905 postcard with a popular actress Marie Studholme. With the assistance of a friend the author came to the conclusion that the numbers with a apostrophes were vowels: 1’=A, 2’=E, 3’=I, 4’=O, 5’=U. Emma and I have built on that key, deducing that 0=G, 5=L, 2=D, 1=B, 4=F, 3=T, 9=N, 8=K, 7=F, and 6=S. The author found that their postcards message was:

I hope you may be able to get another hundred of Marie. Are you playing golf today? I’m glad I saw you last night, if it was only for a minute I can always do my work better when I have seen you. I forgot to ask you last night if you were invited to the Woodcocks?

The blog author continues to say they found several kind, gentle, and loving messages encrypted on the Marie Studholme postcards.

In our experience, that statement couldn’t have been truer. However, with this key Emma and I have been decrypting our postcards and there have been jokes amongst other genuinely kind and loving messages. The one we posted last week states when decrypted:

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The author of the blog has also stated that they went back to the market and found another handful of postcards that date from 1905-1906 that include the letter codes. There was a hint to decrypt these are “a simple shift of the letters of the alphabet”.

Emma and I are now on a journey to decrypt these and are excited to see what these postcards now say. The author ended the post stating that with more research they were able to find out that Ralph and Minnie were married in 1913, which Emma and I were delighted to find out and can’t wait to do more research on. You can check out the blog here: https://100yearsofstories.wordpress.com/2015/09/25/the-secret-code-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.