Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Spooky Tuck & Sons Hallowe'en postcard mailed in 1910

I like this vintage Halloween postcard because it reminds me of what is still one of my favorite pieces of ephemera, eight years after I first wrote about it: The dark and stormy night Victorian trade card.1

The postcard features a young girl who is wearing a nightgown and holding a candle. Peeking behind her, she seems the unsettling image of a grinning jack-o'-lantern in the mirror. In researching if there is any folklore surrounding the idea of seeing a carved pumpkin in a mirror, I didn't come up with much. But I did stumble upon this amazing photograph from the October 31, 1980, edition of the Star-Gazette of Elmira, New York.

First, it's a great piece of photojournalism by George F. Lian (who was Chief photographer for the Star-Gazette and died in 2010).

Second, it's a great time capsule of what American girls wore in 1980.

Third, I saw it and immediately thought, "The Olsen twins? What the heck?"

Finally, I love that this girl is the daughter of a man named John Saxon. Obviously it's not the same John Saxon who is a minor icon of horror movies, but it's a fun Halloween photograph Easter egg.

Getting back to the postcard, it was printed in Saxony and published by Raphael Tuck & Sons as part of the company's Hallowe'en series of postcards (No. 174). It was postmarked at 2 p.m. on October 20, 1910, in Remus, Michigan.2 It was mailed to Belmont, Michigan.

Here's my best transcription of the cursive message:
Having lots of fun here some more than in Dear (?) Old Cannon. Have not heard the cause yet and it has been 9 days instead of 2.
As ever,
My best guess is that "Cannon" refers to Cannon Township, which is also in central Michigan. But what is Brid referring to? What happened? We'll never know for sure. But here's on historical tidbit that's a possibility.

In August 1911, several Michigan newspapers reported a minor epidemic of infantile paralysis, or Acute Anterior Poliomyelitis, in Cannon Township and other areas of Michigan. One article notes that "this disease is most prevalent during the months of August, September and October. It seems to be more prevalent in dry weather, and at times rain has seemed to cause the subsidence of an epidemic. It would therefore seem as though dust had something to do with the spreading of the contagion."

So is it possible there had also been an outbreak of infantile paralysis in Cannon Township in October 1910?

We, of course, know this disease as polio. It was usually spread, according to Wikipedia, "from person to person through infected fecal matter entering the mouth. It may also be spread by food or water containing human feces and less commonly from infected saliva. Those who are infected may spread the disease for up to six weeks even if no symptoms are present." So we now realize that any idea that rain could cause the epidemic to subside held little merit, except to the extent that heavy rain might "cleanse" unsanitary locations.

Polio was one of the most devastating childhood diseases of the first half of the 20th century, until Jonas Salk developed an approved vaccine around 1955.

1. There's a Victorian trade card titled "The Ghost Story" that's very similar to one I call "A Dark and Stormy Night." I plan to write about that one some day, too.
2. Remus is an unincorporated community near the center of tiny Wheatland Township in Central Michigan. The post office was originally named Bingen but was renamed Remus in 1880.


  1. It's probably a play on the legend that if a girl looks in a mirror on midnight at Halloween, she'll see her future husband. This girl was in for a surprise because she's apparently marrying a Jack O' Lantern. I did a post on post cards featuring this legend.

    1. I think you're 100% right, Tom. Her future husband probably thinks she's gourd-eous.