Saturday, January 4, 2014

Water-stained work of art: Hudson & Manhattan Subway Terminal

Here's a 1909 peek at a New York subway platform, courtesy of a worn, water-stained postcard that was originally mailed in 1911. The illustration on the front of the card, which is credited to Pierre L. Pullis, states "Hudson & Manhattan Subway Terminal New York."

I especially like the hanging lights and the pillars in this illustration.

As I'm a generalist and not an expert, I'm probably going to get some part of the following history wrong. But, to the best of my knowledge, the Hudson & Manhattan Subway/Railroad is the predecessor of the current Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH). The original lines, one of which is pictured here, were part of a monumental engineering project that began in 1902 and concluded with the opening of the Uptown Hudson Tubes in 1908 and the Downtown Hudson Tubes in 1909 (the year this postcard was produced). The tubes were given a major rehabilitation and upgrade beginning in the mid-1960s and the tunnels, though not the many (if any) of the stations, are still in use today.

You can find much more about the history of these tubes online. Two good articles to begin with are:

Moving along, here's the back of this postcard.

To many postcard collectors, I suspect this would be considered a badly damaged card — unworthy of collections and generally without value.

To me, it's a thing of beauty. The passage of time has given this postcard more character than it might otherwise have if it was in "mint" condition. You have the purple from the water stain, the brown from where the stamp used to be, the black postmark and the faded but still readable message. This piece of ephemera has survived 102 years!

We see that it was addressed to a woman at Englewood Hospital in Englewood, New Jersey.

Here's the message:
June 16, 1911

Dear Floss:
Your cards both received and are so glad to hear you are better. I expect to be there on to-morrow afternoon. I must go to breakfast. Hope it will stay pleasant. Love from [?] and myself.
Lovingly, Georgia

A couple of other things to note about the back of the card:

1. This is the tiny symbol in the lower-left corner:

2. Along the bottom are the words "Theochrom Serie 6."

Finally, if you really love this century-old illustration by Pierre L. Pullis, you might be surprised — as I was — to learn that it's available as a print from (water stain not included).

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