The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Postcards in the (home) archive 1940

a guest post by Stephen Grant

Fig. 1. Folger Shakespeare Library from Northwest 1940
Author’s Collection, photo by Stephen Grant

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

Printed on address side:
THE UNION NEWS COMPANY
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 is librarian, and Joseph Q. Adams director of research.
65827 UNCO TRADE MARK REGISTERED POST CARD

Written message:
Dear Helen, Am in Washington so thought I would send you a card. Wish you were with me but you are on your way to school for it’s about 8:30. How’s “It.” Love, Nellie.
In pencil

Postage stamp: 1c green Washington, Scott #804, Presidential Issue 1938

Postmark: WASHINGTON, D.C. 16 MAY 9, 1940

Destination: Brunswick, Md.

Color type: Color

Commentary: Nellie writes the card in Washington at 8:30 a.m. and it was postmarked at 11:30 a.m., but perhaps the next day. What might “it” be? We wonder if schoolgirl Helen Mills, who lives 60 miles from the Folger Shakespeare Library, will ever visit the library or theatre.

With this blog post we welcome postcards of the Folger sent through the mail in the 1940s.

Fig. 2. Folger Shakespeare Library from north, 1940
Author’s Collection, photo 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 Second Street Façade, the fountain, and the figure of Puck by Brenda Putnam.
Photograph by William Rittase
Printed by the Meriden Gravure Company, Meriden, Conn.

Written message:
July 5, 1940 My dear Bette, Many times I have thought of those happy hours with you while we were spending time in New Jersey with Frederick and family and I heartily appreciated your delightful hospitality. That delicious and far too bountiful luncheon reminded me to be careful of calories a day or two afterwards. Your charming garden and the gardens of your neighbors, gave . . .

Postage stamp: None.

Postmark: None.

Destination: None.

Color type: B&W

Commentary: This 1940 message lauds Bette’s delightful hospitality and charming garden, with the only self-admonishment: careful of calories! But oh no! The postcard trails off in the middle of a sentence. Will we ever find out who sent this postcard?

Fig, 3. Folger Shakespeare Library Exhibition Hall, 1940
Author’s Collection, photo 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 Second Street Façade, the fountain, and the figure of Puck by Brenda Putnam.
Photograph by William Rittase
Printed by the Meriden Gravure Company, Meriden, Conn.

Written message:
I never tire of the beautiful ride along the Potomac River to Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon, and this time of year it was especially lovely. In one week two of my grandchildren and their parents are spending their vacations here, and week after that another grand-child and his parents will arrive. I have engaged a cottage at Seabrook Beach for the season and everyone will flourish there. I shall see them all every day, but prefer to live in my own home. With love for you, Bette, and kind remembrances for Ned. Helen. I hope you will come to Massachusetts soon.

Postage stamp: None.

Postmark: None.

Destination: None.

Color type: B&W

Commentary: While we now know who sent the previous postcard, I still harbor a disappointment about this  message. Fig. 2 starts the message with a friendly “My dear Bette.” Fig. 3 ends the message with “Helen.” While the message in Fig. 3 starts a sentence, the message in Fig. 2 does not end a sentence. We are missing the third postcard in the series!

As soon I realized the “middle” postcard was lacking, I emailed the postcard dealer who sold me the 1940 postcards on Ebay in November 2021—that would be Kelly from Saco, Maine—hoping she could look through the cracks and locate it. Alas, she wrote back she did not have it: “These cards were in a bulk lot that I acquired from a seller in Arizona. They go to estate sales and auction off lots of postcards. I just looked through my scans (2k postcards) from that order and it doesn’t look like I have it. I’ve actually got about 80k postcards that are scanned and ready to be listed. When I do purchase bulk lots I do sort through and sort by US State then view so if the #2 card was there it would have been listed at the same time. I do know that the seller I got these from does cherry pick cards out of them so there is a possibility that they kept that one for themselves.”

Nice of Kelly to give such a thorough explanation; from it (you and) I learn something about how many thousands of postcards dealers manage. Over four score years, the cards traveled from Washington, D.C. to Arlington, VA via AZ and ME and who knows where else.

At any rate, it was a “first” in my collection that I had two postcards telling part a and part c of the same story. These two cards have been around for 80 years. They are in excellent condition and I can tell why. The corners of both cards are lighter in color than the rest of the cards as they were protected in a photo album using “corners” one published from a photo shop, the way my parents used to do. Me, too.

Let’s look into the identity of the photographer of Fig. 2. We’ve seen this B&W shot of the east end of the building before, in 1935. In this 1940 postcard from Helen, we read “Photograph by William Rittase.” In the 1935 postcard from Jane, we read, “from a photograph by Horydczak.” What? Which one was it? Horydczak or Rittase? I have no explanation, but invite a clever reader to enlighten us all.

Let’s also look into “Seabrook Beach.” The web recognizes a Seabrook Beach in MA, ME, NH, NY, SC, TX, and WA. Perhaps we can discard SC, TX, and WA as being too far afield. Chances are it’s ME, NH or NY as Helen turns the postcard one rotation to finish her message and beseech Bette to visit her.

Fig. 4. Folger Shakespeare Library from Northwest 1940
Author’s Collection, photo by Stephen Grant

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

Printed on address side:
THE WASHINGTON NEWS COMPANY
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.
65827 COLORCHROME WNC WASHINGTON, D. C

Written message:
How fast the month does fly it is almost the middle of the month Fall is coming down rapidly. You should see many pretty leaves out in the woods these days So many here have colds as the weather is changeable This pen is no good and I am too lazy to get another Mae C

Postage stamp: 1c green Washington, Scott #804 Presidential Issue 1938

Postmark: WASHINGTON, D.C. 4 SEP 11, 1940

Slogan cancel: AIR-MAIL SAVES TIME

Destination: Ocean City, Md.

Color type: Color

Commentary:
Mae makes common remarks on the weather and the beauty of fall foliage. She notices people around her have colds. She surprises us by admitting laziness in not replacing a defective pen. A slogan cancel used in 1937 has reappeared in 1940: AIR-MAIL SAVES TIME.

61 years later to the day “9/11” occurred.

Fig. 5. Folger Shakespeare Library from Northwest 1940
Author’s Collection, photo by Stephen Grant

Printed on picture side:
115 FOLGER SHAKESPEARIAN LIBRARY, WASHINGTON, D. C. 4A-H1791

Printed on address side:
SCENIC ART SERIES, B. S. REYNOLDS CO., WASHINGTON, D.C. GENUINE CURTTEICH-CHICAGO “C.T. ART-COLORTONE” POST CARD (REG. U.S.OFF.PAT.OFF.) POST CARD

Written message:
Dear Aunt Lou, I have had a very busy week. Quite warm and clear. We go shopping with Emma most every day. Some very nice rides. We are just across from the Cathedral. Nice service Sunday at 4. Will be seeing you, Wanda

Postage stamp: 1c green Washington, Scott #804 Presidential Issue 1938

Postmark: WASHINGTON, D.C. 7 SEP 24, 1940

Slogan cancel: BUY U.S. SAVINGS BONDS ASK YOUR POSTMASTER

Destination: Moundsville, WVa.

Color type: Color

Dealer price: $1

Commentary:
While Aunt Lou will not be getting a visit this time, she no doubt appreciates the chatty upbeat message from niece Wanda, who is enjoying a spectacular view of the Washington Cathedral, the construction of which will not be completed for a half-century. This is the third identical copy of a Curt Teich postcard of the Folger we have seen, with serial number 4A-H1791. It was produced in 1934.

17 receiving states 1934–40
4 NY
4 OH
4 PA
3 CT
3 MD
3 NJ
2 ME
2 WI
2 WV
1 CA
1 DE
1 MA
1 MN
1 NC
1 SC
1 TE
1 VA
N = 35

Receiving country:
1 France

 

 

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.

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