Sunday, July 22, 2007

Postcards: Westfield, Massachusetts

These two Westfield scenes are good examples of the early days of postcards. Prior to December 24, 1901, only the federal government could use the term "Postcard," privately-produced cards having been officially sanctioned for postal use specifically as "Private Mailing Cards" in 1898. With the 1901 rule-change, granting use of the term "postcard" for commercial purposes, the postcard publishing and posting frenzy took off, with almost 700,000,000 postcards reported mailed country-wide in fiscal year 1908 alone, when the population of the United States was less than 90,000,000.

It wasn't until March 1, 1907, that the government allowed the mailing of "divided-back" postcards, giving senders the ability to write brief messages on the left-hand side of the card. (Unconfirmed reports claim that this is when the phrase "Wish you were here!" came into fashion, remaining in vogue even today as a form of vacationers' literary shorthand for "Nah nah, nah nah nah.") Knowing these two important dates in postcard history - thanks to a great article by Stefano Neis over at Lisa's Postcards Page - we can place these "undivided-back" postcards in the December 24, 1901 to March 1, 1907 era...Each a century or better old.

Special thanks to local historian Barbara Shaffer for sharing these great postcards with us.

One can't help but wonder from Fannie's question what memories she hopes to stir in Emma. Was it a day of wonderful picnicking and swimming down by the river side? A sun-baked and sandy-skinned summer promise to stay friends forever...no matter what life was to bring? A day of fishing and stone-skipping contests while the other kids were in school? Ah, the intrigue!

The reverse of the previous postcard. Notice the "undivided-back" and the warning in the lower-left corner: "This side is for the address only." The postmark appears to show the letter being mailed from Westfield, Mass., sometime after noon on October 2, 1905 and arriving in Port Chester, New York, the following day, stamped by the Post Office there at 7 AM, not bad time at all.

Franklin Street in Westfield, so-named in honor of patriot Benjamin Franklin, was once held in tribute to one of Westfield's most-famous local sons, General William Shepard (1737 - 1817). The street (which is also Route 20) had as its prior moniker, "Shepard's Lane," which was changed to "Franklin Street" sometime before 1870, much to the dismay of many local folks.

General Shepard's home occupied the corner of Allen Avenue and Franklin Streets, and he spent his golden years in his son's home on the corner of Franklin and Shepard Streets. Shepard spent eight years in service to his country during the Revolutionary Period, and was the commanding officer in the defense of the National Armory at Springfield against the rebellion of Daniel Shays and his men on January 25, 1787. A bronze statue - near the Green in Westfield and facing Broad Street - memorializes this important local hero.

This postcard was never mailed but, again, the "undivided-back" places its production sometime between 1901 and 1907.

For a look at some linen postcards from the 1930 - 1945 era depicting Springfield's Forest Park, make sure to check out the EWM post, 'Postcards: Forest Park, Springfield, Massachusetts.'

As always, thanks for stopping by!

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