Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Penny (Postcard) For Your Thoughts


Before there was Facebook or Twitter, before email or telephones, people kept in touch with friends and family with postcards. A hundred years ago, my grandparents were no exception. During their courtship and the early years of their marriage, they kept the postal service busy with cards that went back and forth between Fort Plain, where Minnie lived, and Schenectady, where Will was employed during the week at the General Electric plant.

This correspondence appears to have begun the year after Minnie graduated from high school; Minnie and Will had already known each other for a year or two. Will had apparently been laid off from the milk processing plant in Fort Plain where he was employed, and heard of openings at GE.

1910 postcard - Schenectady, NY
In May of 1910, Will sent Minnie a card with a photo of the historic First Reformed Church of Schenectady, with a terse message scrawled on the back: "Got a job, Good bay, Will."  (His penmanship was impeccable, but his spelling was not always accurate, as English was a second language for him.)

Soon the penny postcards were flying back and forth on a weekly basis. Will took the train home to Fort Plain almost every weekend, and when he arrived back in Schenectady on Sunday evening, he would drop a card in the mail to let Minnie know that he had arrived safely.


Here, a bird's-eye view of Schenectady from the top of a hill, on which Will wrote facetiously, "We are having fine weather down here, nothing but rain."

Bird's eye view of Schenectady - 1910

Some scenes of Schenectady are virtually unchanged since the last century:

Nott Memorial, Union College - 1910

But some are very different, such as this photo of some of the 15,000 employees leaving the plant and offices of the General Electric Company:

Workers leaving GE plant at the end of the workday - 1910

And in contrast, a quiet scene on Church Street in the historic Stockade district:

Church Street, Schenectady, NY - 1910


Minnie replied with typical pictures of the village of Fort Plain.

Old Fort Plain Band - 1913

Minnie sent the above card when she and Will had been married for about a year. She recounts an amusing detail on the other side:

Minnie's message - January 1913

The Universalist Church, 1920:

Universalist Church, Fort Plain - 1920


A card from 1922 shows the high school from which Minnie graduated (she graduated in 1908):

High school, Fort Plain - 1922

By 1922, Minnie and Will had three daughters and a son. On the back of this card, Minnie begins, "My dear husband," and tells Will that she is sewing a suit for Bill; that's my Dad, who was a two-year-old at the time. She signs, "with love from Kiddies and Mother."

A photo from the summer of 1922 shows a peaceful Main Street in Fort Plain:

Main Street, Fort Plain - 1922

On the back of this card, Minnie tells again about one of her sewing projects and her washing and ironing chores, and recounts how little Bill says, "I am going to tell my daddy," every time anything happens to him. 

Lastly, here we see the Farmers and Mechanics Bank in 1922; the building has seen a number of different uses since that era, but the town clock still chimes every hour on the hour to this day:

Historic building with clock tower - 1922

I still enjoy buying postcards anytime I go on a trip, and I enjoy receiving them as well. This week is National Postcard Week: Send a friend or loved one a card, won't you?



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