The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Postcards in the (Home) Archive: Folger Postcards, 1934

A guest post by Stephen Grant

As I set out with “Folger Postcards 1934” to share my personal collection of Folger postcards in a systematic way with all you Collators, I have to pause. Why am I doing this? Yes, due to a) the building renovation, and b) COVID-19, I cannot access the Folger archives. But why has not someone else (until now) taken stock of all the picture postcards produced by or related to Folger—exterior, interior, artifacts—and the wealth of information one can gain from them? Deltiology is that far down the list of useful or appealing endeavors?  

 You realize that one has had to wait the almost-proverbial “four score and seven years” for these blog posts; I am subtracting 1934 from 2021. (For the moment) I possess only THREE Folger postcards mailed in 1934. It is not inconceivable that someday fate will send a “Folger Postcard 1933” my way. In this post, we will adopt a standard order (in bold) of presentation for each card. 

Fig. 1. Window. Seven Ages of Man. Folger Shakespeare Library, 1934
Author’s Collection, photo by Stephen Grant

Printed on picture side: Window, Seven Ages of Man. Folger Shakespeare Library  

Printed on address side: PHOTO BY RIDEOUT, 607 – 15TH ST., N. W. WASHINGTON, D.C. POST CARD  CORRESPONDENCE ADDRESS 

Written message: “The cherry blossoms are beautiful. We are busy every moment trying to see all the interesting places. Grace Vedder” 

Additional message: See As You Like It, Act II, sc 7, line 145, speech beginning “All the world’s a stage.”  

Postage stamp: 1c green commemorative 1833–1933 Chicago Century of Progress SeriesRestoration of Fort Dearborn Scott #A231, issued in 1933. 

Postmarked: WASHINGTON, D.C. 4  APR 16, 1934 

Destination: Fultonville, New York.

Color type: Sepia 

Commentary: In this photo, we are in the Folger reading room looking west. For the west wall the Folgers requested a large stained-glass window with stone tracery reproducing the apsidal window of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, which had been presented by American admirers of Shakespeare. Cret hired Italianborn Nicola d’Ascenzo to create the window, depicting the “Seven Ages of Man” from Jaques’s speech in As You Like It. The artist was known for using rich primary colors framed within strong lead lines modeled after the work of medieval craftsmen. D’Ascenzo also designed other windows in the room, some with red and blue armorials.  

What line does the quote, “All the world’s a stage,” come from? The Folger postcard claims it is line 145. Gee, that’s funny! My Riverside Edition has it as line 139.1

Good to know the address of the photographic studio of Henry H. Rideout, 607 15th St. NW in Washington, DC. This is the only Folger postcard I possess with an additional message on it. Whose hand might be responsible, a Folger staffer? The addressee, Miss Hurley? I find it curious that the three lines are written upside down on the card. We are glad to learn Grace witnessed cherry-blossom season and is making the most of her stay. We wish she would share some impressions of the Folger.  

Fig. 2. Folger Shakespeare Library. Washington, DC, 1934
Author’s Collection, photo by Stephen Grant

Printed on picture side: FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY, WASHINGTON, D. C.  

Printed on address side: PUB. BY THE WASHINGTON NEWS CO., WASHINGTON, D.C. FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY. East Capitol and 2nd Streets. This important addition to the cultural wealth of the nation was the gift of the late Henry C. Folger. The collection includes more than 70,000 volumes, as well as pictures and other relics of the great poet’s life and work. The library has a $10,000,000 endowment fund, administered by the trustees of Amherst College. William A. Slade, librarian, and Prof. Joseph Q. Adams director of research. 135507 COLORCHROME WNC, WASHINGTON, D.C. POST CARD 

Written message: “Having a fine time down here. Emily & Kathryn Ruch. 

Postage stamp: Missing (soaked off). The gummed area displays three perforated sides and a straight edge at the top. Best guess is that the stamp was the 1c green commemorative El Capitan Yosemite Scott A239National Parks Year Issue, 1934. 

Postmarked: WASHINGTON, D.C. 7 SEP 1, 1934 

Slogan cancel: ADDR– YOUR STREE NUM 

Destination: Sunbury, Penna. 

Color type: Hand-tinted color 

Commentary: Fig. 1. postcard was produced by a private photographic studiothis one by a news company. In the early Folger years, the role of the Amherst College trustees was pronounced. Henry Clay Folger graduated in the class of 1879 at Amherst; his 1927 will designated his alma mater to administer the Shakespeare Library. “135507” is the serial number for this unique postcard assigned by the news company. So far I’ve found four other cards in the series. Let’s hope the two travelers, Emily and Kathryn, will share the details when they reach home. Finally, I must deplore another casualty due to the stamp thief. Not only the stamp is missing, but one half of what is called the “slogan cancel.” Where one reads ADDR YOUR STREE NUM, one should have been able to read “ADDRESS YOUR MAIL TO STREET AND NUMBER.” 

Folks, with Fig. 2, it’s time to examine the garden on the north and west of the Folger as it appears in the early 1930s. The Folger contracted with the firm J. H. Small & Sons in 1931 to produce a blueprint of the landscaping design indicating locations of the plantings. English-born John Henry Small started his horticultural career in the Frogmore Gardens at Windsor Castle before immigrating to Washington, D.C. in 1849. His grandson, J. H. Small, III joined the family firm after earning an M.L.A. from Cornell in 1913. The Folger gardens on east, north, and west fronts show clear influence from English gardens: English yews, English ivy, English boxwood on parterre edges, and the occasional magnoliaIn contrast, the streetscape on East Capitol is American Elm. I have received help in Folger garden history from the Folger’s archivist, Sara Butterfass Schliep, and Arlington’s principal at Phyto Studio, Thomas Rainer. 

Fig. 3. Stage of Theatre, Folger Shakespeare Library, 1934
Author’s Collection, photo by Stephen Grant

Printed on picture side: STAGE OF THEATRE FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY. 

Printed on address side: POST CARD   CORRESPONDENCE   ADDRESS 

Written message: «Вторникъ Милая мама!

Пишу тебе несколько слов, чтобы сообщить, что Симуся поправляется. Это, повидимому была гастрическая лихорадка. У насъ дома все еще сумбуры, т.к. я успел покрасить только потолки в спальне, а теперь надеюсь красить по вечерам по одной стене, а пока мы спим в кабинете на полу. В следующее воскресенье я дежурю и буду свободен 12, 13 и 14 октября. Через 10 дней мы увидимся. Здорова ли ты? Крепко целую. Была ли ты у Зариных? Если была, то видела днем? Хотя это и хорошая открытка, но все же она не дает представления об этом театре; онъ замечательный, онъ той эпохи и вида, как театр на родине Шекспира. Woodwork и занавески очень интересны. OJ »

                                                                      

Translated message: Tuesday. My sweet Mama! 

Am writing you a few words to update that Simusya is getting better. In all evidence, this must have been gastric fever. Things are still quite chaotic at home; so far, I have managed to successfully paint only the bedroom ceiling. Now am hoping to do some painting in the evenings, one wall at a time. We sleep on the floor in the office. Next Sunday I’m on-call, yet will be off on 12, 13, and 14 October. We will see each other in ten days. Are you well? Big kisses. Did you visit the Zarins? If you did, did you see them during the day? Although this is a nice postcard, it does not really give justice to the theater; it is amazing; it is from the time and with the look of the theater from Shakespeare’s homeland. Woodwork and stage curtains are very interesting. OJ 

Postage stamp: 1c green Franklin Scott #A155Regular Issue, 1920. 

Postmarked: WASHINGTON, D.C.  12 OCT 2, 1934. 

Slogan cancel: NOTIFY YOUR CORRESPONDENT OF CHANGE OF ADDRESS.  

Destination: Stamford, Conn. 

Color type: Sepia. 

Dealer price: $0.50 

Commentary:  I prevailed upon professional translator, Julia Istomina Oden, to provide both Russian and English versions of the message. She preserved the author’s spelling, grammar, and somewhat archaic writing style. Note the single English word “woodwork” in the original Russian. The translator hypothesizes that the correspondent is an emigré who has adopted the shorter and more precise English term “woodwork.” The translator identifies the only one place where the author’s gender is disclosed: The sentence that contains the words ‘I’ve managed to paint’ (‘я успел покрасить’) is our only clue, as the verb is in masculine form.” I have seen many postcards where the writer has crammed in as much as possible for the low cost of communication via postcard. I have never before, however, seen a tri-directional text on a postcard. Whimsey perhaps? The correspondent updates his mother on a family health issue and asks about her own health. He shares details about an on-going home improvement project. Displaying an appreciation for detail and historical time and place, he genuinely appreciates the Elizabethan Theatre at the Folger. 

Keep in mind, dear Readers, that when these three postcards were acquired, written, and sent, Emily Folger was ALIVE. She was living alone in Glen Cove, Long Island, still intensely involved with the operations of the Folger, communicating regularly with the Folger director, Joseph Quincy Adams, and with the president of Amherst College, Stanley King. 

Editor’s Note: We’ve been made aware that May 2-8 is National Postcard Week. Perhaps you might wish to celebrate by revisiting Stephen’s other postcard-related posts?

Stephen H. Grant is a retired Foreign Service officer turned writer. He is the author of, among other things, several books about postcards, and Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folger. He can be found on the web at https://www.stephenhgrant.com and on Twitter at @shgauthor.

  1. Editor’s Note: The Folger Shakespeare edition has that speech beginning on line 146.

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