Undivided back, Real Photo Postcard. Circa 1902 – 1906.
“Dear Uncle Walter, Your postals I received. Many thanks for same but sorry to say I lost the postal card Saturday of you. send me one again. be so kind and send Saturday again. This is our float for the 4 of July. I am the one with the head …?… turned …you[?] …with love to you …?…I [?] …?…I will go to stay with Grandpa next month. Myrtle Stein”
Card addressed to: “Mr. Walter Stein, New York City, N. Y., #104 West 100th Str.”
This is a gem of a postcard from probably 1902 – 1906: A Real Photo Postcard, from the undivided back era, showing a photo, taken during a Fourth of July parade, of the Stein family’s horse or mule-drawn float. There are lots of details to try to pick out here. We can see the Stein name on the side of the float, though the word after Stein is hard to read. You’ll notice what appear to be street signs just behind the tropical looking plant. The signs seem off-kilter so maybe they were put up for the parade. And is the plant part of the float? It’s hard to tell. One of the signs looks like it says “First National.” Here is a cropped but not resized photo. You should be able to click twice on the image to get the best view.
Man or bear?
Continuing on with some of the other details, there’s a lady wearing a large hat, and a gentleman with a white goatee. There are several different hat styles the men are wearing. And that looks like part of a windmill behind the wooden utility pole. There’s the star-spangled banner and oh that beautiful iron railing that the banner hangs from! On the float the man in the front wears a funny hat, and there are three girls at the back, one of whom is Myrtle, probably the one on our right, based upon what she says in her note. And what are we looking at just to the right of the man? To me it looks like a fake bear standing up, with his head looking upward and his left arm reaching up or holding onto the vertical support, and a chain or rope around his waist. My husband thinks it’s a guy in a fur coat with a belt and wearing a hat. (This is always so amusing, to wonder if what you think you see is really what you see, and if not how far off were you? You can picture yourself doing that quick heel of the hand to the forehead gesture, saying, “Ahhhh, of course, I see it now, it’s….” as you are cracking up laughing.) Come to think of it, this would be hot weather so it seems doubtful someone would be wearing a fur coat…
Railway Mail Service
Although the card is postally used, the postmark did not get fully stamped, unfortunately. What we can read of the postmark is “.& El Paso. R” and just below that “Tr. 9.” (Train 9? Trolley 9?) To the right of that is a mark that should have read “RMS” which stands for Railway Mail Service and means that this postcard was processed in a mobile post office, such as a railway, or streetcar. The postal workers would have worked in a separate mail car attached to the train or on a trolley where half of the car would be for passengers and half for mail. The railway postal clerk job was dangerous, involving the possibility of train wrecks, falls, fires, robberies and derailments.
The addressee, Walter Stein, was not found at this address on the 1905 New York State Census or the 1900 and 1910 Federal Census for Manhattan. There are multiple entries for Myrtle Stein in various locations but no confirmation was found for this postcard. As for railway companies or lines there are at least seven that end in “& El Paso” that I’m finding in a quick search so this avenue of research is also proving to be difficult…Okay, so we have another for the Mystery category, but still, this is a great postcard. And one more note: At first glance the photo for this postcard looks like it was glued on to the card, as there’s sort of an optical illusion effect happening on the right. But it would have been cropped and taken somewhere to have it made into a postcard, so it’s actually all one flat surface.
Source: Smithsonian, National Postal Museum. Web. 4 Jul 2014. [http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/exhibits/2c1_railwaymail.html]