Reward of Merit, embossed card from unknown artist or publisher. Circa late 1890s. Size: About 4 and 1/16 x 6 and 1/16″.
Here’s a nice one for the season, though it doesn’t look like this in California at the moment, at least not where we are! It’s a Reward of Merit, embossed and showing a beautiful winter scene of three children, or perhaps one adult and two children. They are standing in front of a large home, or maybe it was a school, which appears inside a rustic wooden fence, and has a line of trees to its right. It must be a daytime scene since the sky shows blue, the scene is well enough lit; therefor that is the sun we are seeing rather than the moon, but a wintery-looking sun. Not sure what the taller person is holding but what comes to mind is a bird’s nest, as he seems to be carrying it carefully. The card is bordered by mossy, snowy branches, maybe birch, with two adorable birdies at the top right, and a row of icicles at the top – a nice touch. The artist has blurred the border a little in order to focus our attention on the scene itself. And you can’t see it in the scanned image here, but if you turn the card at an angle, you can see a sparkly snow effect.
The town of Derinda, Jo Daviess County, Illinois is less than six miles west of the town of Pleasant Valley, as the crow flies. Though there is no location named on the back of the card, it’s a pretty sure bet that the following student and teacher combo is correct. (Other searches were done online without finding any other possibilities) So, as indicated on the back, this Reward of Merit was given to Katie Stearns by her teacher Clara Dittmar. The 1900 Federal Census records show that Katie lived in Pleasant Valley, and Clara in Derinda.
Katie (spelled Kattie) Stearns, age 11, was born November 1888 in Illinois. Her parents are Robert and Betsey Nash. Robert born July 1861 in Iowa, his occupation day laborer; and Betsey, born January 1867 in Iowa. Katie’s younger siblings are Martin, age 9; Lillian, age 7; William S., age 5; and Susan, age 9 months.
Clara Dittmar, age 24, was born September 1875, in Illinois. She is single, living with her widowed father and siblings, and her occupation is public school teacher. Her father is Albert Dittmar, age 53, born April 1847, in Germany, occupation farmer. Clara’s siblings are Julia B., age 26; Lottie A., age 18; Emma E., age 16; William A., age 14; and Lydia M., age 10. Living with the family is Lillian E. Kringle, age 24, also a public school teacher. According to an Ancestry.com family tree, Clara’s mother was Anna Maria Praeger.
Sources: Year: 1900; Census Place: Derinda, Jo Daviess, Illinois; Roll: 310; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 0031; FHL microfilm: 1240310 (Ancestry.com)
Year: 1900; Census Place: Pleasant Valley, Jo Daviess, Illinois; Roll: 310; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 0038; FHL microfilm: 1240310 (Ancestry.com)
“Iowa, Marriages, 1809-1992,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XV93-6LH : accessed 6 December 2014), Robert Sterns and Elizabeth Nash, 19 Dec 1887; citing Clayton, Iowa, reference ; FHL microfilm 1,255,483.