Real Photo Postcard, Undivided back, unused. Circa 1904. Eastman Kodak Stamp Box.
This seems like a photo taken on a tropical island or at least somewhere exotic from our North American viewpoint. A clue to location should be the sign (mid-right in photo) showing “Hotel Continental” displayed atop two pillars, forming an entranceway. Behind, we notice part of a white building. Maybe that was the hotel. But Hotel Continental is, of course, a common name. When this postcard was made there were plenty such proud establishments, worldwide: Atlantic Beach, Florida; New York City; Algier, Morocco; Havre, France; Vigo, Spain; Port Said and Cairo, Egypt; Cologne and Schwalbach, Germany; Bagni di Lucca, Capri, Genoa and Naples, Italy; Christiania, Norway, just to rattle off the ones we came across. Obviously some of these could be ruled out. But after browsing old photos of many locations (really too long of an endeavor), we didn’t get any closer to figuring it out. Also possibly, the Hotel Continental in this image was not too fancy or large, and might not have made it into old travel destination journals or onto old postcards which survived (except inadvertently, this one).
But, it’s a great photo. Imagine the scenario: a tourist snaps this shot while walking behind these ladies, who are balancing this large trunk above (and on two of) their heads. Not something you see everyday, a definite Kodak moment (!) The time-frame is wonderful for clothing – the women all wear long (of course) skirts with striped shirtwaists, corsets underneath. The road they’re on is dirt, or at least, rustic; the wall of the building on their left, a little crumbling or aged, and with greenery growing on top. A short stone wall runs on their right. A gentleman, head down, in a dark suit and hat walks beside them, but is seemingly on his own, or at least unconcerned with needing to help with the trunk, or maybe feeling embarrassed he was not allowed to. (The ladies work for the hotel?) Notice his pant cuffs seem to be rolled up a little. Was this a seaside location somewhere and he had recently exited a small boat? Back to the trunk – it looks almost square, definitely well-used and…..did you assume, like me, that it was heavy, or at least full? (Thinking of photos of women carrying jugs of water, or whatever, on their heads?) Or, did you automatically assume the trunk was empty?
There are two other people in the photo, a woman busily occupied with something and a man behind her, barely discernible, wearing a tall hat (at least that’s my interpretation right now). Above them, some balconies, kind of rough-looking…..Wouldn’t this, wherever it was, have been a great place to stay?
As for the 1904 date for the card, this comes from the excellent, Playle’s website, as a date that’s been verified for this particular stamp box: The design is a profile of a man with a pipe (Mr. Eastman?) looking through a camera, with the instructions, “Place One Cent Stamp Here”. And it may be likely that the photo was taken in the U.S. since it was found here, but always possible it was taken elsewhere and processed when the person returned home.
Sources: “European and Eastern Hotels.” Cook’s Tourist Handbook for Switzerland. Thomas Cook & Son. London, 1895. (Google.com books).
Cook’s Tourist Handbooks Health Resorts. Thomas Cook & Son. London, 1905. (Google.com books).
“Real Photo Postcard Stamp Boxes, D-E.” https://www.playle.com/realphoto/photod.php. (accessed May 18, 2022).