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Wish You Were Here

Sep 14, 2009 11:11 AM | 3 comments

"The Steeplechase"                                                                                                                                           "Hello Betty:  How would you like to take a ride on those horses down that hill?  Would you?  I wish you could be here to ride with us."

Much of our postcard collection is available through our digitized Historic Photographs, but what our virtual visitors may not realize is that some of our postcards were actually used and include letters, addresses, and postage. 

Many of the cards are from the first half of the twentieth century and have come back to Brooklyn after travelling to Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts and even Cuba.  As you would expect, many were sent by vacationers, who provide an outsider's view of Brooklyn.  One writer remarks that the Soldiers and Sailors' monument is "pretty", while Earl writes he is having a "fine time" in Coney Island. 

But postcards were also used to write notes and letters.  Often, these cards feature images of Brooklyn that may not be on a tourist's itinerary:  the Long Island Storage Warehouse, Brooklyn Public Library, Fort Hamilton Avenue or the Troop C Armory, for example.  Cassie from Delaware County used a postcard to tell her mother she had "got here all right."  Margie from Dorchester, MA wrote to say she'd be arriving home on the six o'clock train on Saturday.  And Edith Hyden sent a card depicting Pratt Institute to her Aunt Minnie in New Hampshire because she thought "you might like to know where I go to school."

My personal favorites are the longer postcards, that give us a brief glimpse into the life of an individual:  "Dear Mr. Losee:  You left so early and in such a hurry on saturday morning that I didn't get a chance to say Good-Bye to you.  So here goes now.  "Good-Bye" and I hope we'll meet again in the near future.  Our trip home was real nice and we all arrived O.K.  What kind of a time did you have in Millerton?  Real jolly I hope.  So now, once more thanking for that treat on Friday.  I am your friend."  Who were these two and how did they meet? 

Postcards bring out the "human" side of Brooklyn history: birthday wishes, invitations to parties, and good luck messages at the start of a new school year.  Friends write to each other, expressing the hope of seeing one another during the next holiday, or apologizing for not stopping by when they were last in town.  These postcards help us to remember that Brooklyn's history included the same daily relationships we all work to maintain today -- now through Facebook, Email and Text Messages. 

And then of course, there are the truly cryptic postcards that just make us wonder.  In 1906 a postcard from Coney Island was sent with the shortest of messages: 

Poor Fred, I guess his trip to Coney Island wasn't as cheerful as it should have been. 


9/16/2009 10:27:52 AM #

This cracks me up. I feel more sorry for the recipient than for Fred though.


9/29/2009 1:43:04 PM #

What on earth happened to Fred?


10/9/2009 11:38:54 AM #

Enjoyed your post! Whenever I pass a shop selling old postcards I can't help stopping to read the messages on the back.

Andrea Vaughn