Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Postcards From Nowhere : A Girl-Less Gibson

Each week I take a random dip into my collection of vintage postcards and investigate what comes out.



Charles Dana Gibson (1867 – 1944) was an American graphic artist whose work was widely published in books and magazines in the late nineteeth and early twentieth century. As this period coincided with the golden age of postcard collecting, his pen and ink sketches were also a popular subject for postcards. He is perhaps most famous for his depiction of the stylized, wealthy and glamorous new-century woman that became known as a "Gibson Girl". The style and look is said to have been based on that of his wife Irene Langhorne and her sister Nancy (who would later marry Waldorf Astor and - as Lady Astor - become the first  woman to become a member of the British Houses of Parliament). As an early practitioner of the craft of syndication - selling your work to a whole range of parallel publications - Gibson became one of the most successful illustrators of the time, made a fortune, bought an island in Maine, and also bought Life Magazine.

My Gibson postcard does not, unfortunately, feature any Gibson Girls. The somewhat risqué caption on the face of the card below the illustration reads "Mr. Meeker doesn't object so much to his wife's entertainments as he does to the way she uses his room for the gentlemen's things".  There is neither a catalogue number nor a publisher listed on the card. It was postally used in what looks like November 1903 and sent to Mr F Beckett of 48, Ryton Street, Worksop. The message opens "Dear Fred" and appears to come from his mother. As far as I have been able to interpret it, the message is as follows:

"Dear Fred. Hope you got home safe. Send me a Programme of the Bazaar. When they are out I will do you something for it. With love from Mother"

The card was posted in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire which is a relatively short train journey away from Worksop. It would appear that Fred had been to visit his mother. The "when they are out" phrase leads me to think that his mother might have been in service as a cook or housekeeper, this being the golden age of not only postcards but also of domestic servants. But what was the bazaar and who was Fred? Answers on a postcard please. Send them to me.

19 comments:

  1. Wow you have the best history collection. I have never heard of collecting postcards from the past and I am sure they are not easy to find but they are really fantastic and thank you for sharing this one with us.

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  2. Ocean Girl : They are not that difficult to find - especially in these days of eBay and the like. And given their antiquity and the insights they provide into social history, they are not that expensive to buy.

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  3. This postcard poses far more questions than answers!
    What an unusual card to be sent from a mother to her son... You certainly know how to find them!

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  4. Good find! I have a friend in New York who collects postcards and old documents, and he has a collaborator who lives in Kentucky (ah! the wonders of the Internet!) who does genealogical research who follows up on who the people referenced, both sender and receiver, are. You should find somebody like that for your own collection. I'll bet he/she could find out all about Fred Beckett and his mother, even as to who she worked for.

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  5. Fred and his mother should be in the 1901 UK census. I'll give it a go. It's the same as looking up the strangers on interesting tombstones I photograph at random.

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  6. That is risque!

    P.S. I would also like a collaborator to research senders and recipients.

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  7. The only "Fred" Beckett in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, in 1901 was 16-yr-old Fredrick E. Beckett, a boarder and student in the St. Cuthberts College district. He was born in 1885 at Onghty Bridge, Yorkshire, and appears to be a son of John and Catherine. In 1891 and 1901, they and two daus 20 and 21 (but not Fred in 1901) were at 33 Elmore Rd, Nether Hallam, Sheffield, Nether Hallam, Yorkshire. John Beckett was a commercial traveller, Catherine apparently not working outside the home. "When they are out" could only mean when Fred's sisters were out.

    Isn't this fun? :)

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  8. Excellent post Alan. You've reminded me that I'm way overdue with my own postcard offerings.

    Maybe mother was offering to bake some goodies for the bazaar in question. If she was using her employer's facilities, she may well have wanted to wait until they were out.

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  9. I agree, that is an unusual postcard from mother to son. Maybe she didn't fully understand the implication. It is amazing how so much of the person's life can be deemed from this postcard.

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  10. Roy : I have been out most of the day. Whilst I have been away someone (your good self) has made an excellent suggestion for further research, someone (JamaGenie) has volunteered to do it, done it and reported back! This is why I love blogging.

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  11. JamaGenie : Thank you so much for this. It adds so much to the story. You are a first class detective. You should mirror the story on your own blog - it is half yours anyway.

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  12. Christine : "I would also like a collaborator to research senders and recipients".... Get off her, I found her first!

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  13. Those Gibson Girls are beautiful...very similar to Harrison Fisher! :)

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  14. I was unaware of the Lady Astor connection to the Gibson Girl art. Another intriguing postcard post, Alan!

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  15. Betsy : Just Wiki'd Harrison Fisher and you are right - very similar.
    Willow : I have a wonderful anecdote about Lady Astor which was told to me many years ago by the then elderly lady who eventually won her parliamentary seat off her in 1945. I will try to remember to recount it at some point.

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  16. Yes, missing the Gibson girls here (hey, sounds like a TV show!) but what interesting tidbits form these cards. Bizarre even.

    BTw, Alsn, I have so enjoyed reading your comments elsewhere. you are one funny chap.

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  17. Haha "I will do you something for it" Clearly she's not going to give him sixpence, perhaps a nice stew or a pair of knitted socks. I think the messages on your collections are more charming than the graphics frankly. Priceless.

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  18. Alan, 'great minds', etc. I *am* thinking about mirroring the story of Fred Beckett and family on Sat's Child, but have to do a bit more research first. :)

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  19. The "rest of Fred's story" is at my blog, Sat's Child.

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