Monday, March 26, 2007

Lives in Letters: Little Roughneck Postcard

One thing that interests me about collecting postcards is when I find a series of postcards addressed to the same person, or the same family. See the notes below for just a few intriguing connections with this card.

Postcard
West Grand Street
Elizabeth, NJ
August 18, 1916
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Addressed to
Mr. George S-
Paterson, N. J.
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Hello George
hope you are
taking care of
our little rough
neck, having a
great time up
here wish you
would call around
some night with
the kid.
Gertrude S.
Notes:
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Gertrude's postcard was sent from Elizabeth, NJ, about 20 miles south of George's home in Paterson. So when she says she's "having a great time up here" I'm guessing she was visiting New Jersey from someplace even further south. And while she was in the area, she sent the postcard to reconnect with George and ask him to come visit.
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I'm guessing then that Gertrude and George are old friends. Probably part of the same set of friends that 5 years earlier were exchanging notes about country clubs and flowers and ribbons. The tone of Gertrude's note seems to fit the casual style of those earlier messages, though I find it somehow surprising that women corresponded so casually in the pre-World War One days.
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I wonder who the "little rough neck" was. George's child? His little brother? Why would Gertrude call him "our little rough neck" in either case? Maybe he was a mutual friend. But then her last sentence about visiting with "the kid" makes him sound like someone younger.
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Here is how wikipedia explains the term roughneck. Basically it refers to an unskilled laborer, and at the time of this postcard, referred primarily to circus or carnival workers. H.L. Mencken had this to say about the term:
Rough-neck is a capital word; it is more apposite and savory than the English navvy, and it is over-whelmingly more American.
A couple of quick notes about the Elizabeth, New Jersey of 1916...
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The area where Gertrude was staying is (I think) part of the midtown area, which is also the historic district. I found a good site that offers a timeline for Elizabeth, if you want to get a sense of what was going on there at the time, or even in the decades leading up to this time. It is fascinating stuff (Singer sewing machines, Olmstead parks, Carnegie, Nancy Drew) and worth a few minutes to read.
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There were a few famous people from Elizabeth around that time (with thanks to Wikipedia)...
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Antoinette Brown Blackwell (1825–1921), first female ordained minister in the U.S., lived and died there.
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Nicholas Murray Butler (1862-1947), winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and a founder of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was born there.
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Thomas Edison (1847-1931), lived here as a young man.
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William Halsey, Jr. (1882-1959). World War II Fleet Admiral "Bull" Halsey was born in Elizabeth and attended the Pingry School.
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Thomas Mitchell (1892–1962), Oscar and Tony Award-winning actor, was born there.
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Mickey Spillane (1918-2006), writer, grew up there. (Okay, he was born 2 years after the postcard, but I couldn't help including him!)
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Edward Stratemeyer (1862-1930), creator of the Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins, and Nancy Drew, was born and resided there.
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William Sulzer (1863-1941), U.S. Congressman and impeached governor of New York, was born there.
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Edward Patrick Mickey Walker (1903-1981), boxer, who held the Welterweight and Middleweight titles, was born and raised there.
...
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I mentioned at the start of this post that I found a string of postcards written to George and his family. Here's the list, with links to my previous posts.
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Postcard about Papa, 1908 ... addressed to Mary S, who was either George's mother or grandmother
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Postcard from Brooklyn, 1911 ... addressed to George, asking for flowers
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Postcard from the Erie Canal, 1913 ... addressed to George, from Swede who was working on a boat going through the canal
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Postcard to a Sanitorium, 1932 ... addressed to Jean S, who was probably George's wife, and who was either a patient or a nurse at a mental hospital
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This one from Bayport, N.Y. in 1913 that you've only seen the front of so far ... it is another from Swede to George, where Swede signs off as "your loving wife." I have yet to tackle that!
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And a couple others that I haven't posted yet....

1 comment:

dshep said...

Enjoyed your research links. I didn't realize these post cards were 'related.' I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

Just prior to this post card there had been the event that was an inspiration for Jaws right on the Jersey Shore! :)

http://209.85.165.104/search?q=cache:lgVLb16lCYcJ:www.elasmo-research.org/education/topics/saf_nj_maneater.htm+Travel+in+1916+NJ&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=10&gl=us