The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Postcards in the (home) archive: Folger postcards, 1935

A guest post by Stephen Grant

Editor’s Note: Stephen’s previous post covers postcards of the Folger from 1934.

Figure 1. Left: Statue of Puck, Folger Shakespeare Library 1935. Right: Address side of same card. Author’s Collection, photos by Stephen Grant.

Printed on picture side:
Statue of Puck Folger Shakespeare Library

Printed on address side:
FIGURE OF PUCK, BY BRENDA PUTNAM   FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY, WASHINGTON, D.C. ©RIDEOUT STUDIO    POST CARD    CORRESPONDENCE

Written message:
“Perhaps with a magnifying glass you can read what Puck is saying. We hope you are have [sic] a little spring up there – winter is trying very hard to stay on here. L. Erwin”

Postage stamp: 1c green Franklin, Scott #552 Regular Issue 1920

Postmark: WASHINGTON DC 8                APR 14, 1935

Destination: Little Falls, N. York

Color type: Sepia

Commentary:
Erwin writes a three-part message: 1) Look closely at the Puck statue outside the Folger Library, 2) Enjoy spring in New York, 3) Winter weather is persistent in Washington, D.C. Writing about the weather is one of the most common themes in postcard messaging.

In these AZO postcards, writing room is sparse. It’s good that printed material divulges name of sculptor and photographer. It is smart of L. Erwin to suggest Ellen fetch a magnifying glass to take a closer look at the sculpture. What would a magnifying glass reveal? In terms of the carved writing on the marble statue it depends on how powerful the magnifying glass was. First, one would be able to see, “LORD, WHAT FOOLES THESE MORTALS BE!” in Elizabethan spelling. A stronger lens would make out under the above quotation from Act III on the right side “A MIDSOMMER NIGHTS DREAME.” An ever more powerful magnifying glass would reveal the name of the sculptor above the quotation and on the left side of the pedestal under the statue: “BRENDA PUTNAM.”

In this photograph of the Folger garden to the west, on either side of Puck one sees English Taxus yew shrubs.

In 1935, Emily Jordan Folger was still alive, but in declining health and hampered by writer’s cramp. You can learn more about her relationship with postcard’s in my blog post about her detiological profile.

April 14, 1935 was exactly seventy years to the day since Lincoln’s assassination.

Figure 2. Left: The Library Building, Folger Shakespeare Library 1935. Right: Address side of same card. Author’s Collection, photos by Stephen Grant

Printed on picture side: Nothing

Printed on address side:
POST CARD   Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington   Administered by the Trustees of Amherst College   The Library Building, Paul Philippe Cret, Architect   Alexander Buel Trowbridge, Consulting Architect   Printed by the Meriden Gravure Company, Meriden, Connecticut, from a photograph by Horydczak.

Written message:
“Dear F, Believe it or not, I have achieved Washington and a week’s vacation – I have wished you were here with me many times – Tomorrow I go to Phila. for Easter – to New York Monday and drive back Tues. p.m. It has all been quite wonderful & Washington just now is simply beautiful. I’ve been trying to write to you for weeks – but it has just been impossible. Happy Easter to you – Laura”

Postage stamp: 1c green Franklin, Scott #552 Regular Issue 1920

Postmark: WASHINGTON, D.C. 2             APR 19, 1935

Destination: Cincinnati, Ohio

Color type: B&W

Commentary:
In this effusive hyphenated message, happy and busy Laura fills the card with her spring itinerary. Although she confesses difficulty in putting pen to paper, she does not hide her affection for her correspondent “F” (presumably the “Francis” in the address) in the middle west. Although Laura does not mention the Folger Library, she finds Washington beautiful.

In this view of the Folger north garden the tree on the left is an American Elm, whose branches stretch all across the top of the card. Elms would have been a key choice for such a prominent street as East Capitol that ends at the Capitol. The two trees in the back on the left are probably Magnolia grandiflora, an elegant, showy tree with leathery foliage that was popular as an ornamental and all-season evergreen. A bill from February 1934 in Folger archives provides evidence for the east end, where Small & Sons put in “agricultural tile drainage around the 3 magnolia trees on the East lawn.” The entrance to the administrative wing of the Folger is flanked by concentric squares of English boxwood. In between is a boxwood parterre edging. Boxwood squares also flank the entrance to the Folger theatre wing. I received help in Folger garden history from Arlington’s principal at Phyto Studio, Thomas Rainer. 

Dealer price: $1

Dealer code: JKC

Figure 3. Left: The Reading Room, Folger Shakespeare Library 1935. Right: Address side of same card. Author’s Collection, photos by Stephen Grant

Printed on picture side: Nothing

Printed on address side:
POST CARD   The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, Administered by the Trustees of Amherst College. The Reading Room, general view.  Printed by the Meriden Gravure Company, Meriden, Connecticut from a photograph by Horydczak

Written message:
“Sunday Don’t forget to go to Orange for me Tuesday morning. Day says come in time for dinner raining today Allie

Postage stamp: 2c red Washington, Scott #554 Regular Issue 1920

Postmark: WASHINGTON, D.C. 8             APR 21, 1935

Destination: Port Jervis, N.Y.

Color type: B&W

Commentary:
This largely punctuation-free message covers Allie’s two big concerns: reminding John to run an errand and arriving in a timely manner for dinner. As an afterthought she reports on the weather. Who knows why Allie paid twice the going rate to send her postcard on its way. Maybe she had run out of 1c stamps.

Three out of these four 1935 postcards were posted in Shakespeare’s birthday month.

Dealer price: $2

Figure 4. Left: Second St. façade, figure of Puck by Brenda Putnam 1935. Right: Address side of same card. Author’s Collection, photos by Stephen Grant

Printed on picture side: Nothing

Printed on address side:

POST CARD   The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington Administered by the Trustees of Amherst College
Second Street Façade, fountain, and figure of Puck by Brenda Putnam.
Printed by the Meriden Gravure Company, Meriden, Connecticut, from a photograph by Horydczak

Written message:
“Dear Delmont, Certainly wish you could see this place. Will tell you about in in the letter to follow. Have been on the go ever since I started. Hoping to see you soon. Jane”

Postage stamp: 1c green Franklin, Scott #552 Regular issue 1920

Postmark: WASHINGTON, D.C. 2             OCT 18, 1935

Destination: Bellevue, Pa.

Color type: B&W

Commentary:
Jane leaves a strong endorsement of the Folger. A postcard is important for its rendering, but Jane promises a letter to say more. Too bad, for us, it’s an elusive letter.

Postcard views of the west façade of the Folger are not very common. (I’ve never seen a postcard of the east façade, where three Magnolia grandiflora (now there are four) grace the garden.) On the right of the card is a sickly Magnolia grandiflora, that did not survive. [Editor’s note: see Erin Blake’s comment below for clarification regarding this magnolia tree!] In October 2020 the only lasting magnolia in the west garden was moved 100 feet to the south, to adopt the location very near where this magnolia was planted in the early 1930s.

Figure 5. Left: The fountain, with the figure of Puck by Brenda Putnam, Second St. façade. Right: Address side of same card. Author’s Collection, photos by Stephen Grant

Printed on picture side: Nothing

Printed on address side:
The Fountain, with the figure of Puck by Brenda Putnam, Second St. façade, figure of Puck by Brenda Putnam. A Midsommer Nights Dream, Act III, Scene 2 “Lord, what fooles these mortals be!”

Written message: None

Postage stamp: 3c purple The Charter Oak, Scott #772 Connecticut Tercentenary Issue 1935.

Postmark: None

Destination: None

Color type: B&W

Commentary:
I admit that including this postcard among the 1935 postcards does not represent a complete fit, as there are no message, postmark, or destination. But it’s a reminder to all of us who have prematurely placed a stamp on a postcard, yet never followed through on deciding whom to send it to! I did it. My mother did it. I have proof. Another question is why the stamp is placed on the picture side, not the address side. This is actually a fairly frequent practice  deltiologists employ who favor the image and postage stamp aspects above all else.

I heartily recommend your reading the two recent excellent posts by Erin Blake on the figure of Puck and on sculptor Brenda Putnam.

Receiving states 1934–35
3          NY
2          PA
1          CT
1          OH

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.

3 Comments


  • Thanks for the glimpses of the past, Stephen: not just old views of the Folger, but the reminder of the postcard culture that died out when Facebook, Twitter, et al., came along. As it happens, the magnolia tree on the right-hand side also survived that long. It was merely young in the postcard, not sickly. In a sense, that magnolia was a casualty of 9/11. It was still thriving when I started at the Folger in 2000, when “Puck Circle” was L-shaped, and exited into the Library of Congress alley. When the Library of Congress put up the bollards and the security gates after 9/11, the Folger had to pave the area alongside the alley, making a U-shaped driveway that exited onto 2nd Street, and encroached on the tree. At first, the tree seemed okay, but eventually it succumbed.

  • I always cherish your comments, Erin. You are the one whose curatorial tour of the Folger prompted me in January 2007 to express interest in writing the biography of the Folgers.


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