This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

Here Be Bears and Dragons!

06 September 2013

Tom und Alma
Musik -Clown und Instrumental = Virtuosen

Basel - Switzerland 9/9/1899

My Dear Angeline - This is the picture of two funny Swiss players that I saw last evening. They could do many queer things to make people laugh. Does thee get the pretty postals that Papa sends thee? To-day I go to a City whe(re) it is said, are many bears all over the place - called Berne - which means "bear", but they are quite tame. In Basel they have dragons everywhere, but they let the people pat them on the head, or do what they please. Hoping thee is well of thy cold, and that I shall have another letter from thee at Geneva. Thy Loving Papa. P

Postmarked from Bern, Switzerland on 9 IX 1899, this charming postcard was delivered Sept. 21st to the mailbox of young Angeline Johnson Power at her home in Philadelphia on 2035 N. 15th St.  She lived there with her parents, Emma and Edward S. Powers and her older sister Edith. Ageline was born in September 1888 and would have been age 11 when her papa sent this picture of the two Swiss clowns, Tom and Alma, to her. The 1900 US census records the occupation of Edward S. Powers as Pharmacist, which suggests he may have been on a business trip to Switzerland.

A picture postcard was a new novelty for Americans. There had been some souvenir postal cards for the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. But for various reasons involving US Postal regulations and an economic recession, the postcards of the mid-1890s were primarily only advertising cards for trades and retail merchandise. In 1898, Congress reduced the price of message cards to 1 cent, and authorized private companies to make a  Private Mailing Card.

But there were still many restrictions on the paper, size, and color that prevented many postcards like this from being produced in the US. The rules were changed in 1901, which really marks the beginning of the popularity of real photo postcards and picture postcards in America. Note that this postcard is not a photo but instead uses a Photogravure type printing process. The printing company was F. Kemnitz of Eberswalde in Prussia, so maybe Tom and Alma were German performers.

Follow this link for more information on the timeline of U.S. postcard history at the website for the Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York.

As for Tom and Alma, they are an example of the early comedic musical duos who played music halls, vaudeville theaters, and circuses around Europe before the Great War. These two considered themselves virtuoso musicians, but we can only guess what their instruments were. And maybe their gender too.

I bet they made Angeline laugh.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone else is afloat in a boat.


Little Nell said...

Lucky ANgeline t receive such an interetsing card, and lucky us that it has been preserved for you to share with us on Sepia saturday. How interesting the use of 'thee'.

Kristin said...

I wonder if he sent a later card with pictures of the bears and tame dragons? Interesting the way he wrote all around the picture.

Gail Perlee said...

The address on the front of the postcard is rather interesting and the fact that it actually got to its intended receivee is somewhat amazing! It would never have gotten there today - that's for sure!

Alex Daw said...

There's such a thing as a Postcard Club??? I have led such a sheltered narrow life.

Deb Gould said...

Love the use of the Quaker familiar speech...and Philadelphia had (and still has) a huge Quaker population. Music to my Quaker ears; sweet post!

Anonymous said...

Lovely to see the cursive script, and written with a steel nib dipped in real ink.

Postcardy said...

Interesting postcard and message. I don't have anything that old.

Bob Scotney said...

It was the script on the address that caught my I before I wondered how it was ever delivered.

Joan said...

Very interesting. I don't know much about post card history, so it was fascinating to me. Also really liked how Papa wrote to Angeline. She must have felt so special.


Thee has done well, once again!

Thy big fan,


Anonymous said...

What a lovely message from a father to his young daughter. She will have cherished the postcard; otherwise we could not enjoy it now.

Tattered and Lost said...

What a magnificent piece of ephemera! A wonderful story just from the image and simple lines. I'm envious.

Hazel Ceej said...

'Thee' and 'Thy' really sounds charming. First time to read the words off the Bible but in a postcard.


Wendy said...

Papa made the most of that card!

Interesting history of the postcard. For a long time I had thought the photo cards of my ancestors were odd but now I get it.

Jo Featherston said...

Definitely very different! You must have a wonderful postcard collection.


  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP