Way We Were: Wish you were here | ParkRecord.com

Way We Were: Wish you were here

Mahala Ruddell
Park City Museum
Countless postcards like this one, from 1907, were mailed to and from Park City during the “Golden Age of Postcards” between 1905 and 1915.
Park City Historical Society and Museum, Thomas F. Hansen Collection

While postcards are still popular throughout the world both as collectors’ items and means of mailed correspondence, the decade between 1905 and 1915 was without a doubt the “Golden Age of Postcards.” Hundreds of millions of postcards were printed, imported, sold, and mailed throughout the country. Cards typically featured images of anything from small town Main Streets and civil buildings to natural disasters or national celebrations. Lithographs easily churned out countless copies of cards made from photographs, negatives, and art. As a cheap and convenient way to keep in touch, postcards flooded the postal system.

The museum has in its collection hundreds of postcards mailed to and from Park City over the years. The bulk comes from this Golden Age. The postcard featured here was postmarked on Oct. 26, 1907 at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The year this card was mailed, it joined over 700 million others in circulation.

Postcard legislation changed in 1907 and this card represents the tail end of the old style. Prior to the change, the back of a postcard was reserved for the address only; no messages could be written in the blank space. By that time, however, it was customary for images to take up the entire front side of the postcard, meaning that correspondents had to keep their messages short enough to fill only the small amount of blank space around the borders of the image, or they had to deface the image itself with their writing. The new legislation introduced the “divided back” which, as the name would suggest, divided the blank space on the back side of the card, leaving room for a message on the half that was not reserved for the address.

The message on this card is addressed to an Evan R. James in Berkeley, California. It reads, “Dear, E.J. Thanks for scores of freshmen. Hurray for 1911. Mines have been in a strike for a month. Things are dead. Heard from Miss Sh- today. She is homesick for Berkeley. Don’t shame her. As for myself am all O.K. Take care of your dear self. Don’t let a female steal you.”

We don’t know who sent this card to Evan James, though we can infer a little about him or her. It’s possible that he or she was a teacher at the high school. The first two sentences reference both “scores of freshmen” and the year 1911. Freshmen entering high school in the fall of 1907 would have been the graduating class of 1911. According to 1910 census records, a thirty-one year old E. James was living in Berkeley and working as a teacher. Perhaps this is our James and he and the author of this message – and maybe even the homesick “Miss Sh-“ as well – had all studied to be teachers together in Berkeley. The strike our unknown author referenced was at the Daly West mine over alleged discrimination against union members. It was resolved on Nov. 6, 1907.