Saturday, December 21, 2019

Christmas postcard #5:
"Dear Girlie"

This postcard was published by the Golden Rule Printing Company of Albion, Michigan, and it features a hefty block of prose by Henry van Dyke Jr. (1852-1933). Van Dyke was born in Pennsylvania and served simultaneously as the U.S. ambassador to both the Netherlands and Luxembourg for a stint in the 1910s. He was also an author, minister and educator and has been remembered for his Christmas-themed writings.

This card was postmarked on December 30, 1920, and was mailed to Miss Winnifred Stewart of Cresson, Pennsylvania1, in care of the Mountain Merchantile Company. A few words are lost because of the postcard's missing corner, but here's the message, as best I can reckon:
Dear Girlie,
— I want to thank you for the beautiful gift & the beautiful love back of it. Conditions were such this year that I could not prepare for Xmas without over work and worry, so left my friends under ... impression (perhaps) that I did [not?] care for them. But I did. [Missing words] Your god mother.
This is added across the top of the card:
Tell me all about your children. What are they like, and what do you do for them?

1. Cresson is located in Cambria County and is not to be confused with Cressona, in Schuylkill County, eastern Pennsylvania. About a decade ago, in the midst of a side business selling used books on Amazon and at a local antiques mall, Joan and I traveled to Cressona and filled most of a U-Haul with used books that another online seller was selling for a super-cheap price. All those books sat in boxes in our garage for months, as we methodically worked through posting them for sale. I think the folks in Cressona probably knew what was coming better than we did, because the online book-selling business was crashing to a halt, in terms of profitability, thanks to the flood of penny books from bulk sellers. It was an interesting time. Joan details some of it in this 2013 post on Man vs. Debt.

Christmas postcard #4:
Bertha writes to Levi

This beautifully decorated "A merry Christmas" postcard (which was made in Germany) was written upon and addressed, but there's no stamp or postmark. Perhaps it was hand-delivered or mailed into an envelope. It was addressed to Mr. Levi S. Moyer in Fredericksburg, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania.

Levi S. Moyer is not that rare of a name in Pennsylvania history. And that makes it harder to pinpoint which one this is referring to. There is a Levi S. Moyer who is mentioned extensively in 1905's History of Bucks County, Pennsylvania (Volume III). But I don't think that's the one we're looking for.

The best guess is probably the Levi S. Moyer who lived from 1872 to 1950 and is buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Fredericksburg. He was the vice president of First National Bank of Fredericksburg when he died and, according to his obituary in the March 14, 1950, edition of the Lebanon Daily News, "he was a retired farmer and insurance broker and was widely known throughout the northern tier of the county." He was also affiliated with the Sons of America camp and the Odd Fellows lodge of Fredericksburg.

This is the message from the back of this Christmas postcard:
"Hello. I wish you and all the family the most loving and sincere wishes. Hoping Santa will find you and bring you many good things. Good-bye.
From Miss Bertha Krissinger, Fredericksburg, Pa."

Bertha A. Krissinger Donmoyer lived in Lebanon County from 1907 to 1959. So that means this card, with its nice handwriting, was probably written around 1925 or thereafter.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Christmas postcard #3:
Holiday grippe and croup

The postmark is obscured on this "A Merry Christmas" postcard, but I think it's safe to say it was mailed about a century ago. The card was published by the Midland Publishing Company, which was only in operation from 1912 to 1914, according to As that website further notes, most of the Midland cards were printed by the Gold Medal Art Company, whose distinctive owl logo appears on the back.

From the portion of the postmark that's legible, we know that it was mailed in Chicago, Illinois, on Dec. 23. It was sent to Mr. and Mrs. Jay Follet of Corry, Pennsylvania. This is the cursive message:
Dec 22nd
Dear Matie [sp?]
I wish you all a Merry Xmas.
Baby Helen & I have both been sick a week up in bed with grippe, she first with croup & still so hoarse. Hope you are all well with love to all.
Cousin Mary
Grippe is a word that's not used much these days. It essentially means flu/influenza, though I reckon it was probably applied to a wider range of respiratory issues. So it was a bummer of a Christmas holiday for Mary and Helen, which I feel retroactively sad about.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Christmas postcard #2:
Things that would hinder

This postcard appears to have stayed within Greene County, New York, in December 1908. It was postmarked in Oak Hill, a hamlet near the small town of Durham. And it was delivered to Julia Hallenbeck of North Hill, a hamlet near Greenville. (Hamlets are essentially unincorporated communities.)

The cursive message was short and to the point:
We will come new years unless sickness or death hinders.
There's a tiny "LL" written on the front of the card, so perhaps those are Lucy's first and last initials.

* * *

Bonus Christmas memory: Easton's Peace Candle, more than 100 feet tall, has gone up almost every Christmas season in the eastern Pennsylvania city since 1951. According to Wikipedia, "it has been said to be the largest non-wax Christmas candle in the country. Although conceived with the hopes of restoring Easton's pre-20th century reputation for elaborate Christmas decorations, city officials also believed a candle would serve as a symbol of peace for all religions and denominations. (But) some have criticized the Peace Candle, calling it a symbol of the over-commercialization of Christmas, and condemning the fact that it covers a war monument."

I asked Dad, who was a kid growing up in Easton in the 1950s, for his memories and he wrote: "We would drive to the downtown circle to see it and all the light at the downtown department stores. There was a Woolworth's five-and-dime store there."

Hunter Kahn [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, December 16, 2019

Christmas postcard #1:
A message from Stiles, Pa.

I have a fresh set of old postcards to help count down the days until Christmas 2019. When browsing, I was looking for ones with interesting messages on the back; tiny little stories from the past. I wasn't particular about what was on the front. So a lot of those will be generic or even dull, even for being a century old.

Up first is this Merry Christmas postcard published by H.I. Robbins of Boston. According to, Robbins was "a publisher and printer of New England view-cards and holiday cards in tinted halftone" from 1907 to 1912.

This card was postmarked on December 2, 1907, in Stiles, Pennsylvania, and mailed to Mrs. Jacob Reinert in Fredericksville, Pennsylvania.

Here's what I think the cursive message on the back states:
"we will come up to your place on Monday the 9. we will go to Rumigs on the 7. he will fetch us at the station, Tell Mr. and Mrs. Webb to come home too.
Estella Swavely"
Postcards were the emails or text messages of the day, announcing holiday travel itineraries, so that people could make their plans. Of course, it could get trickier if you had to change the itinerary.

* * *

Bonus Christmas memory: On the "Williamsport & Lycoming County, PA Past, Present, & Future," someone posted a picture of the Christmas tree at the old Sylvania plant in Montoursville. I remember seeing the tall tree at Sylvania, where Dad worked for a time, as a kid. I asked him about it and he added this holiday memory: "The Montoursville Jaycees has Santa Claus on Main Street in [an] RV. Spent many a night with kids telling me their wish list. Montoursville was small town America with a great spirit."

Here's a Williamsport Sun-Gazette slideshow from the tree's 70th anniversary lighting in 2017.