Monday, January 22, 2007

Lives in Letters: That Great Ship

My aunt sent me a bunch of postcards which arrived this weekend. Here's my favorite of them:

Jesmond Dene Waterfall
Newcastle, England
April 23, 1912

Addressed to
Miss J. F-
c/o Mrs. Chas. G-
Hartford, Conn. U.S.A.

Message written on front:

Did you get my letter All safe. What a disaster befell that
great ship! Only topic of conversation.

Message on back:

Dear Jean, What do you
think of this one. I shall
send you coloured ones
also. This is a lovely
spot in summer time.
The weather here has
been lovely for three
days. Hope you are having
better weather also.


This was addressed to my great-great Aunt Jean, who emigrated from Scotland in about 1906. She went to work as a live-in nanny, and continued at that job (with various employers) for a long, long time. This postcard was sent in the care of Mrs. G because Aunt Jean was in her employ at the time.
While a live-in nanny, my aunt was savvy enough to pick up investment tips from at least one boss. Go Aunt Jean!
Aunt Jean got a lot of postcards from all over the world. Some were from family (nephews), but most were from friends or coworkers.
This one had a few points of interest for me. First, I love that it was signed "Chick." I don't know why it continues to surprise me that people used great nicknames back in 1912, but I can't seem to get over it.
I also love the black-and-white photo on the front. I'm not sure how well you'll be able to make it out on the screen, but it is a beautiful scene of a waterfall and pool, and I hope that little part of the world looks the same today.
But the real reason I love this postcard is for the little message on the front. "All safe. What a disaster befell that great ship." In April of 1912, that can only mean the Titanic. Here is an American travelling in England, just days after the Titanic has gone down, with about 1,500 dead. The greatest peace-time tragedy to that point. How amazing to see such a big event in history through 9 words scribbled on the front of a postcard. "All safe. What a disaster befell that great ship."


featherbee said...

Yep, as soon as I read that, I looked back at the date again. Fascinating to see a piece of world history in your own personal family history.

Sherry said...

That is a keeper!

Erin said...

Wow, that is SO COOL.

Stidmama said...

Way awesomely cool. And this time, you also know some of the backstory... I found a cool blog with more pics of the waterfall and the mill, and it is still beautiful.

Nancy said...

Thanks Stidmama!