Friday, October 30, 2009

The Breakwater at Oamaru, New Zealand - early 1900s

One of the joys of collecting postcards is in uncovering the stories of the people in them or the far-way places pictured. Oamaru, 120 kilometres north of Dunedin on the coast of New Zealand's South Island was familiar to me as the real-life location of many of Janet Frames' novels - Waimaru from her first book in particular - whilst Dunedin was the title of a novel by Shena Mackay that I read many years ago.

Oamaru Harbour was designed by the architect Thomas Forrester and still survives today as one of the best examples of a deep water Victorian-Edwardian port and is even registered as a site of National Significance with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. When the earliest European settlers arrived in Oamaru it became notorious as one of the most dangerous anchorages on the island with over 20 shipwrecks recorded there between 1860 and 1875. The Oamaru Harbour Board was formed in 1874 and by 1884 it had finished the breakwater.

The photograph is copyright to the Morris studio of Dunedin. The Morris name would seem to have been synonymous with photography in Dunedin at the end of the 1800s with its most famous local photographer John Richard Morris being one of 5 brothers, 4 of whom became photographers! He was elected president of the association of professional photographers and had a chain of studios, including one with Robert Clifford - Clifford, Morris & Co - with his final address being that of George Street, Dunedin in 1915. J R Morris died in the influenza epidemic of 1919, however, which brings me to one of main things that attracted me to this card when I first saw it...

Whilst this postcard may not be in the best possible condition I was immediately struck by it and knew I wanted it for my collection because of one curious detail - although it was printed in New Zealand and features an Oamaru landmark, it was actually posted in Italy in 1928 and bears a Procida - Napoli cancellation!

How this card made its way to Italy in the late 1920s, is surely another tale to be told, but sadly we'll probably never know...

Find more vintage postcards at Marie's Cpaphil Vintage Postcard Blog and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Opera Singer Alba Chrétien-Vaguet - 1901

Portrait postcards of opera stars were extremely popular in the early 1900s and although many of the names will only be familiar to opera-buffs nowadays, they are still charming indicators of how fashions change and provide an important historic and cultural record. This undivided back Belgian postcard was published by Paris and Brussels-based printers Vanderauwera & Cie (who also appear to have published pamphlets) and features the French operatic soprano Alba Chrétien-Vaguet in a portrait by Dupont.

The young Alba first studied the piano at the Paris Conservatoire and began her operatic career at the historic Belgian opera house La Monnaie in Brussels in 1891. This card, in fact, shows her in the role of Charlotte in Werther, which ran for 20 performances over the 1892-1893 season at La Monnaie, and identifies her by her maiden name Mme. Chrétien - she would marry Albert Vaguet, a tenor of the Opéra de Paris, the following year in 1894.

The card has a matte rather than glossy finish and is probably a collotype print from a monochrome photograph. The original photograph bore an embossed logo for Dupont which is just visible to the right of the printer's credit in the bottom right hand corner of the image.

Interestingly, the card was not actually posted until 1901 and being an undivided back card contains no message, just the address. Whilst I've been unable to uncover anything about the recipient, a certain Anna di Marzo, the address does excite some curiosity - Palazzo Maddaloni, in full Palazzo Carafa di Maddaloni, is a well known historic Baroque palace in Naples, which after having faced the threat of demolition for years, has finally been restored.

Find more vintage postcards at Marie's Cpaphil Vintage Postcard Blog and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sante Fe Streamliner Crossing Canyon Diablo - 1941

As somebody who has lived their entire life in Europe, I'm fascinated by the elegance and romanticism of US streamliner trains, so found this Fred Harvey Trading Co. postcard of a Sante Fe Streamliner particularly irresistible.

The Fred Harvey Trading Co. actually started life in 1878 as a restaurant, then hotel chain, with quality establishments across the Southwest. (The Harvey Girls, the 1946 MGM musical, is about Fred Harvey's famous Harvey House restaurants.) By 1897 Fred Harvey had also acquired the news stands for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway company and begun publishing large numbers of postcards, initially aimed at promoting its route to the Grand Canyon and naturally, the Fred Harvey hotels within the National Park.

When Fred Harvey died in 1901 the surviving company contracted out their postcard production with the Detroit Publishing Company, and would continue to do so until 1932. Luckily for us, these cards are easily identifiable today because they included an "H" prefix before the series numbers on the front of the card, as is the case with this card. When Detroit closed in 1936, Curt Teich took over printing the cards.

However, this uncirculated card is still slightly difficult to date, so we need to look for clues. The bridge over Canyon Diablo in Arizona on the card is the early version of the bridge that first opened in 1882 after a series of engineering mishaps - the bridge was built pre-assembled off-site and due to miscalculations was initially too short to span the canyon - rather than the present modern bridge, which was built in 1930.

The train, on the other hand, is the EMC E1, a streamlined diesel electric locomotive, decked out in the now-famous "Warbonnet" paint scheme devised by Leland Knickerbocker to echo Native American ceremonial headdress - the red "bonnet" wraps around the front of the train, bordered by a yellow stripe and black pinstripe, with the remainder of the train either painted silver or made up of stainless steel panels. These trains were built between 1937–1938. Clearly the newer train has been added to an older photograph of the bridge!

But the final clue that helps solve the mystery is that this is a fabulous example of a postcard printed on Linen Card Stock - a slightly heavier paper stock embossed with a linen-finish texture. Chicago-based Curt Teich perfected this technique. Whilst the front of the card still bears the Fred Harvey/Detroit series number, the back of the card carries the Curt Teich serial no. 1B-H752, which dates it to 1941.

Find more vintage postcards at Marie's Cpaphil Vintage Postcard Blog and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Comic Tryst Between Butler and Housemaid - early 1900s

I picked up this little gem from the so-called Golden Age of postcard production at a market in Rome. This comic postcard depicts a classic "upstairs downstairs" innuendo-laden scenario with the butler leaving the kitchen after a secret tryst with the cook - or not so secret, as it turns out! The dramatic staging of the tableau has very much the air of a still from a silent movie, yet with the whole story told in one image. The card has a matte rather than glossy finish and is, I believe, a collotype print from a monochrome photograph (which is quite possible given that this method was popular in early European postcard production).

This is an uncirculated card with an undivided back, but there are several clues that help us date its production. The top left hand corner of the back of the card includes a space to add a posting date and sender, with the date space beginning "190..." which puts the card in the early 1900s. Whilst Great Britain was the first to adopt the "divided back" postcard in 1902, Italy issued its first divided back private postcard in 1906, with the Universal Postal Union allowing their use internationally with effect from 1 October 1907. Finally, the words Union Postale Universelle confirm the card as dating approximately from the period 1901 to 1907.

The publisher is identified as "ASC" and is mentioned just above the copyright notice below the address space.

Find more vintage postcards at Marie's Cpaphil Vintage Postcard Blog and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.