Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Postcard: "This castle in the middle of no-where"

This postcard was tucked away inside a hardcover copy of "The Illiterate Digest" by Will Rogers.1

Pictured on the postcard is Scotty's Castle, which is located in Death Valley (about three hours from Las Vegas). The photograph was taken by Ferris H. Scott and the postcard was produced by Western Resort Publications of Santa Ana, California. Here's the text on the back of the card:
This fabulous multi-million dollar castle was built by Scotty and his partner Albert M. Johnson in the mid-twenties. Located near the upper end of Death Valley, it is today one of the showplaces of the West.2 Scotty and his gold mine sprang into prominence in 1905 and for 50 years he continued to make the headlines across the nation.

Scotty's Castle is not a real castle. Historically speaking, the two primary requirements of a castle are that it (1) is fortified and (2) is a private residence for nobility.

Also, this "castle" did not belong to Scotty (aka "Death Valley Scotty").3 The house, built between 1922 and 1931, cost between $1.5 million and $2.5 million and was financed by Chicago millionaire Albert Johnson, to serve as a winter vacation home for he and his wife.

The house was purchased by the National Park Service in 1970. Tours of both Scotty's Castle and the infrastructure under the castle (with a quarter-mile of tunnels) are available.

This postcard that was inside the Will Rogers book was mailed from Las Vegas back in January 1972, with an eight-cent stamp.4 Here's the note that Florence and Emil Rafael wrote to Mary Miller back in Enola, Pennsylvania:
Dear Mrs. Miller,
Emil and I had wonderful holidays in Phoenix Arizona -- went over to Mexico -- came to Las Vegas and saw Death Valley and this castle in the middle of no-where.

1. It appears that the book originally belonged to Berl William Wager of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, who inscribed the book with his name and the date December 11, 1926. Wager might have gone one to become a Pharmacist's Mate in World War II, according to one stray reference I came across.
2. That seems like a bit of an overstatement.
3. Death Valley Scotty was once a member of Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show.
4. They didn't need that much postage. The price of postcard stamps didn't rise from six cents to eight cents until March 2, 1974.

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