Thursday, December 31, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 227

 Happy New Year postcard, ca 1930s

Happy New Year!  Above is a vintage German made novelty postcard from the 1930s that was sent to Petra Lee from her friends, Mr. & Mrs. Rier who were living in San Francisco.  The message on the reverse says:  “Dear Friends, We wish you all a happy New Year also Mr. & Mrs. Lorik [Lorig – Mrs. Lorig was Maggie Landaas Lorig, Petra’s sister] from your friends Mrs. & Mr. Rier 1510 – 16th Avenue South, S.F. Calif.”

It was easy to see that the four-leaf clovers were meant to convey good luck for the coming year and the baby represents the new year but what about the ladybug and the pigs?   Is there more to the card than just a Happy New Year greeting?  As it turns out there is a lot going on in the picture. 

Ladybugs sometimes called Ladybirds are considered extremely good luck and are found in German, Italian, Russian and Turkish lore.  The darker the red color the better the luck, count the spots and more spots mean more months of good luck coming your way.   In the middle ages ladybugs were considered a symbol of protection.  One story is that farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary for help to get rid of aphids that were destroying their crops.  She is said to have sent thousands of ladybugs to annihilate the pests.  Ladybugs are still used as a talisman for safety and protection against all harm.  Ladybugs are also thought to be especially lucky for babies and shower a baby with blessings.  Notice the New Year baby is reaching toward the ladybug in the picture.  The ladybug also symbolizes love, joy and prosperity, making ladybug images a happy gift indeed. 

Four leaf clovers are one of the most common symbols of good luck and are prevalent in Irish and Celtic lore.  The four leaves can represent hope, faith, love, and luck or fame, wealth, love, and health.  The chances of finding a four leaf clover is about one in ten thousand.  One Christian legend tells of Eve bringing a four leaf clover with her when she was expelled from the Garden, anyone lucky enough to possess a four leaf clover has consequently a piece of the blessed Paradise.  A person who carries a four leaf clover is thought to have the ability to see fairies, recognize witches and evil spirits, and be protected from the evil eye.  In 1620 the English writer, John Melton, wrote:  “That if any man walking in the fields, find any foure-leaved grasse, he shall in a small while after find some good thing.” 

The pig as a good luck object is found in Chinese and German cultures.  It is a symbol of good luck, prosperity and wealth.  In Chinese mythology the pig represents honesty, tolerance, diligence and initiation.  The Germans believe the pig signifies that good luck is close at hand.  Chinese and European cultures believe that charms made in the shape of a pig have the power to bring good luck since the pig is a symbol of riches and wealth.

End result?  This postcard is a most auspicious greeting for the coming year!  May we all enjoy a lucky, peaceful, prosperous year ahead.

For more about good luck charms, see:

Thursday, December 24, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 226

 Christmas greeting, 1919

Merry Christmas wishes to all!  This 1919 vintage novelty postcard has a rebus Christmas greeting sent to Marjorie Lee from her godmother, Victoria Anderberg.  Mrs. Anderberg’s husband, Nicolas, was a Seattle Policeman and friend of I.C. Lee. The publishing information is given as Whitney Made, Worcester, Mass.  Whitney Made postcards were started by a Civil War veteran, George Whitney of Worcester, Massachusetts.  Beginning around 1900 to about 1920 this company produced huge numbers of greeting cards, postcards, children's books, paper toys and novelties.  There were several hundred designs issued for the various holidays throughout the year.  In addition to plain cards Whitney added lace and embossing on some of the cards.  Other cards had mechanical parts added.  The Christmas cards, particularly the ones with Santa and Nimble Nicks, were American originals and very popular.  The postcards either have "Whitney Made," as seen on the reverse of this card, or a red W as trademarks.

Rebus puzzles have been around for centuries and use pictures to represent words or parts of words.  The pictograms or pictographs are used for their sounds regardless of meaning. The simple example used on the greeting postcard above was meant to be easy enough for a child to figure out and clever enough to appeal to an adult.  In the 1860s to the 1870s escort cards often featured such puzzles as a fun way for a gentleman to ask a young woman if he could walk her home.  Some linguists believe that Chinese characters and Egyptian hieroglyphs used a similar principle.  In modern times there have been television game shows such as Kidstreet, Concentration, Catchphrase, and Crashbox that have used rebus puzzles.  Several famous people have employed a rebus as a personal device representing a name or as a means of communicating with friends. 

For more interesting trivia about rebus puzzles and the Whitney Made cards, see:

Thursday, December 17, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 225

Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon, ca 1980s

This is a seven-postcard set showing views of the Pittock Mansion in Portland, Oregon.  The last photograph is of the Christmas tree and since it is a week before Christmas it seemed a good time to share this set of cards.  Smith Western, Inc. of Portland published the cards dated from the 1980s.  Some of the cards have the decorative scalloped edging.

Northeast front of the mansion

The mansion is in the French Renaissance château style and was designed by architect Edward T. Foulkes.  It is located in the West Hills area of Portland.  Completed in 1914, originally the 23-room sandstone estate was built on 46 acres as a private residence for Henry Pittock and his wife, Georgiana.  Pittock was the publisher of The Oregonian newspaper.  Now the city’s Bureau of Parks and Recreation owns the mansion and opens it for tours.  The grounds offer panoramic views of Portland.  

South bedroom

There was a scandal in 1911 when it was discovered and brought to public attention that Pittock had arranged for a water line to be brought to the mansion at city expense even though it was a half mile outside the city limits at that time.  A long standing feud between Pittock and Will H Daly, the city councilman who brought the issue to public attention, developed that resulted in the end of the councilman’s political career.

Failing room

Georgiana, who died in 1918, was one of the founders of the Portland Rose Festival.  Henry died a year later in 1919.  The Pittock family remained in the mansion until 1958 when they tried unsuccessfully to sell the house and property.  In 1962 the Columbus Day storm caused extensive damage and the owners considered demolishing the building; however, the community raised funds to help the city purchase the property.  The city recognized the historic value, purchased the estate in 1964 for $225,000 and spent 15 months restoring it.  The mansion opened to the public in 1965 and has been a community landmark ever since.  Approximately 80,000 people visit a year.  The site is also one of the best places for bird watching in Portland.   It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. 



Dressing room

Christmas in the ballroom

For additional information, see:

Thursday, December 10, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 224

The Old Jail, York Village, Maine, ca 1930-1940

Most likely issued between 1930 and 1944 this unused real photo postcard was published by the American Art Post Card Co., of Brookline, Massachusetts and shows the old jail in York Village, Maine.  The card is titled at the lower left and numbered toward the lower right as 3016.  No photographer is identified.

The old jail is also called the Old York Gaol.  It was a former colonial prison located at Lindsay Road and Main Street in the town of York, Maine.  It is one of the oldest buildings in the United States with portions of the building dating to 1720.  Although the card gives a construction date of 1656, the building shown on the card is a replacement for the original jail; however, it does contain some of the timbers from the 1656 jail.  It is open for public tours between May and October. 

The one and a half story building is mostly wood frame with sections of stonewall.  It has a gambrel style roof that looks a little like some barns.  There have been many additions and changes over the years.  Originally in 1719 or 1720 there was one stone cell block with walls 2.5 feet thick, lined with oak planking.  In the 1730s several first floor chambers were added, a kitchen, dining room, and a parlor space that has a folding wall partition so it can be divided into two rooms. 

Sometime around the year 1763 a second floor was added that had three cells and a central chamber.  One of those cells was the warden’s room or used as a debtor’s cell and was of better quality than the other rooms.  At or about the turn of the 19th century a second stone cell and an extension housing a dining room, parlor and bedchamber for the warden were added.

Originally in the mid to late 1600s to the mid 1700s the building served as the official provincial jail for York County that was at that time part of Massachusetts but is now in Maine.  In 1760 it was turned over to the town of York.  In response to a demand for better conditions for debtors following the American Revolutionary War there was a last major enlargement.  The building has also been used as a school, warehouse, boarding house and most recently a museum.  Today the museum has furnished the jail and jailer’s quarters as they were in 1789.

For more information, see:

Thursday, December 3, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 223

Palermo central square, Sicily, Italy, ca 1910-1920

This black & white photo postcard dates from the early 1900s and shows the Central Square in the city of Palermo, Sicily, Italy, with part of the railway station visible at the lower right.  The national rail company, Ferrovie dello Stato (FS), owns this rail station.  It was designed by the Italian architect, Di Giovanni and opened in 1886.  One of the original main characteristics of the building, the big roof shown here in iron and glass, was replaced by reinforced concrete sometime during the 1950s.  The terminal has 10 platforms for passenger service.  It is one of the most important national rail stations in this region and serves as a hub for regional services such as links to the Airport of Punta Raisi and long distant trains to Rome, Turin, Milan, Venice and Paris.  It not served by EuroStar Trains primarily because Sicily is an island. 

No publishing information or photographer is identified on the reverse of the card but it does have a divided back.  The divided back on the card plus the mixture of horse drawn carriages, the streetcars, and the line of motorized trucks help date the picture to probably not earlier than 1910 and not later than approximately 1920.  Note the circular track that allows the streetcars to return the opposite direction with ease.  The central square shows pedestrians walking and standing in the open space.  Today many European central plazas are pedestrian only but some would be filled with cars; nevertheless, this square would be considerably more crowded than shown in the photo.

People have been living in this area of Sicily since ancient times, perhaps as early as 8,000 BC as evidenced by cave drawings depicting humans.  It is thought that the original settlers came from the Iberian Peninsula.  During the time of the Phoenicians, around 734 BC, the main occupation was sea trading.  Any remains from this period of time are few and those preserved are in the very center of the downtown.  There is also evidence of Greek and Roman influences on the island.  As the Roman Empire was falling apart Palermo fell under the control of the Germanic tribes, the Vandals and the Ostrogoths.  After 1861 Sicily became part of the new Kingdom of Italy.  Today the metropolitan area of Palermo is home to more than 1.2 million people.

For more information, see: