Thursday, December 25, 2014

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 174

A very Merry Christmas to all . . .

Today’s card shows the American version of Santa’s house and workshop at North Pole, Alaska.  North Pole is a small city located southeast of Fairbanks, Alaska; however, a large area within the same postal zip code is referred to as the North Pole even though it is south of the actual geographic North Pole by about 1700 miles. 

The Santa Claus House, a gift shop, shown on the postcard is the biggest tourist attraction in the area.  Originally this was a trading post established in the early days of settlement here.  The world’s largest fiberglass statue of Santa Claus can be found outside the Santa Claus House.  More and more Santa Claus themed attractions have been added throughout the years.  Before Christmas the North Pole post office receives hundreds of thousands of letters to Santa Claus and even more from people who want the town’s postmark on their outgoing Christmas cards.  There is a community program organized to respond to the letters addressed to Santa.  Streets lights are decorated to look like candy canes; streets have names such as, Kringle Drive, Santa Claus Lane, St. Nicholas Drive, and Snowman Lane.  Many local businesses have also adopted Christmas themed colors and decorations as have the local police with patrol cars in green and white, ambulances and fire trucks are all red.  One of the more prominent citizens, Con Miller, became known as Santa Claus because he frequently wore a Santa Claus suit during his early trading days in Alaska.  He served on the city council and was also mayor. 

On the reverse of the card is this message from the North Pole.

For more, see:,_Alaska

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 173

Christmas postcard, 1919

Last week’s postcard Thursday featured a card from 1913 with a Father Christmas set inside a decorative frame.  This week I have chosen two Christmas postcards with greetings from a few years later.  For a short history overview of Christmas cards please see last week’s card and/or check out this site:

The card above was sent to the Lees in 1919 and is a fairly typical example of a Christmas postcard of the era.  The designs like this one that have a window box showing a winter scene, a tree or other decoration at the front, outside the frame, and a message of the season at the bottom can be found on many cards from about 1915 and into the 1920s.  Another popular custom of the 1910s to 1920s was handmade cards that also had ribbon or foil decorations.  Those cards were generally delivered by hand rather than mailed due to their delicate construction. 

Snow scenes seem logical on Christmas cards in the northern hemisphere since it is winter here in December and Santa Claus is said to live at the North Pole where it is always snowy but the first winter scenes on cards appeared in England as a remembrance of a particularly hard winter in 1836. 

Norwegian Christmas postcard, 1939

This second card, sent to Petra Lee in 1939 by her friends, Inger, Kaisa and Jenny who lived in Bergen, Norway shows a girl in folk costume carrying a lantern in one hand and what looks like a pail in the other as she walks toward the brightly lit houses.  The artist, Nilly Heegaard, has signed the picture at the lower left.  I tried to see if there was any biographical information about Heegaard but was unable to find anything.  Perhaps some of the Norwegian cousins are familiar with her work and will let us know more about her. 


Norwegian 20 øre lion stamp

Instead of the usual post horn stamp this card has the royal lion on a red background.  The cost was 20 øre.  In addition to a thank you and greetings for Christmas the message also carries congratulations to my mother, Marjorie, who had gotten married in April 1939.

It is a little hard to believe that postcards took a one-cent stamp in the United States and were an inexpensive way to send a greeting while today stamps are nearing 50 cents and boxed cards can cost several dollars.  

Friday, December 12, 2014

Rattlesnake Lake

 Rattlesnake Lake

We did try another hike recently this time to Rattlesnake Lake near North Bend on the way to Snoqualmie Pass with hopes of hiking up to Rattlesnake Ledge but there was snow and ice on the ground, not much but enough to make a steep trail somewhat hazardous.  This close to the holidays we were cautious about incurring an accident and chose to just walk part way around the lake and not go all the way up to the ledge.  Instead of a 4 or 5 mile round trip hike this ended up more like a mile or a mile and a half level walk.  It was cold but beautiful.  We will probably come back when the snow and ice are gone and try it again.

The trail winds upward through the trees and has some large boulders along the way.

 Rattlesnake Lake is filled by a leak from the City of Seattle Cedar River reservoir so the level of the lake goes up and down.  The City cut the trees to make the lake and the result is this interesting stump forest in the water.

 View of the lake from near the picnic area.

 We saw a fisherman in a boat out in the middle of the lake.

Before the lake was formed this used to be a large meadow where the Native Americans gathered Camas bulbs, salmon berries and black berries, and other edibles.  They would burn the growth down to prevent the forest from building up in the meadowland and come back annually to gather the new bulbs and berries.  There is a plaque explaining about the meadow at the edge of the lake.

The beach was rocky and covered in brittle ice.  Every time we took a step we broke through.

The landscape looked so cold and wintry but it was very pretty.

On this particular day there was not enough snow to ski but too much for hiking  . . .

Thursday, December 11, 2014

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 172

Christmas postcards, 1913

I thought this Christmas postcard from 1913 was interesting because the Father Christmas figure really does look more like an eastern Saint Nicholas than a western Santa Claus.  The hat is different than the red cap with white pom-pom or tassel and the fur trim is brown rather than white.  The bag of toys includes a blond doll, a train, what looks like a ball, and a flag with light blue and light green bands.  Father Christmas is holding another doll or possibly a nutcracker with a Chinese motif.  

The first commercial Christmas cards appeared in England in 1843 the idea of Sir Henry Cole and his friend, John Horsley, an artist as a way to encourage more people to use the new postal service.  The card was a tri-fold and cost 1 shilling.  The two side panels showed people caring for the poor and folded over the center section with a picture of a family having a Christmas dinner forming the envelope and card all in one.  As new railways were built the “Penny Post” (public postal delivery service) that was established in 1840 could offer to deliver an unsealed envelope for one halfpenny or half the cost of a regular letter.  Approximately 1000 cards were printed and sold making any that have survived time very rare today. 

By the 1860s and 1870s printing methods had improved and Christmas cards gained popularity.  It also helped that the price of sending a postcard dropped to half a penny and meant even more people could afford to send them.  The custom of sending cards at Christmas began in the United States in the 1840s but was expensive.  It wasn’t until 1875 that a German born printer, Louis Prang, started mass-producing cards.  While early cards featured Nativity scenes, robins, and snow scenes, the new cards also featured flowers, plants and children.  By the early 1900s the custom had spread all over Europe too.  John C. Hall and two of his brothers created Hallmark Cards in 1915 and that company is still one of the largest greeting card companies today. 

Please see the following for more information:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 171

Klöntalersee, Glarus, Switzerland

My wonderful French friend who now lives in Italy sent this beautiful card of Klöntalersee, Switzerland where he had gone with a group to bicycle in the mountains.  Located in the Canton of Glarus, Klöntalersee is a natural lake that has been used as a reservoir for hydroelectric power since 1908.  A dam constructed for the power plant has substantially increased the volume of water in the lake.

As the picture on the card shows this is a deep valley between mountains.  Tödi is the highest peak in the Glarus Alps at 11,857 feet (3,614 meters).  Other peaks include Hausstock at 10,361 feet (3,158 meters) and Glärnisch at 9,550 feet (2,910 meters.  The Linth River runs through the valley.  The left tributary of the Linth, the Löntsch, drains the Klöntalersee.  

Legends say that the people of the Linth Valley were converted to Christianity in the 6th Century by efforts of an Irish monk, Saint Fridolin, who was the founder of Säckingen Abbey (ca 538) and his image can be found on the coat of arms for the Canton.  His image was also used to rally the people during battles particularly in the 1300s. 

German settlers came as early as the 8th century and a variety of the Alemannic German language is spoken here today.  Beginning in the 9th century the Abbey owned the area around Glarus with the town called Clarona.  The Habsburgs claimed all the abbey’s assets by 1288. 

Slate works were established in Glarus in the 17th century.  Later cotton and wool spinning became important industries.  Cotton printing and hydroelectric plants were added and still later metal and machinery factories and paper mills became part of the economy.   These industries did not replace the more traditional dairy farms or cattle breeding.  These are still important today and cattle can be seen grazing on the mountainside.  Another important industry in the canton is Forestry.  The view in the photo on the postcard shows mostly the trees, lake and mountains so it was somewhat a surprise to learn of all the industry in the area. 

For more information, please see: