Railroad Station Lounges for WWII Service Men

USO lounges in Philadelphia, New York City, and Newark railroad stations

These are three postcards issued by the Pennsylvania Railroad for U. S. service men during WWII. The cards show service men lounging and engaged in recreational activities at USO lounges in various railroad stations.The USO (United Service Organization) was formed in 1941 from six service organizations. Railroad stations were one place the USO set up recreation and canteen facilities for the use of troops on layover between trains.

All of these postcards have the same description on the back:

TO MAKE SERVICE MEN COMFORTABLE while on the move, attractive Lounges and Special facilities are maintained in Stations in a number of cities served by the Pennsylvania Railroad. They are operated and staffed by the USO, the Traveler’s Aid, and local patriotic organizations, including the Women’s Aid of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

USO lounges in Indiana and St. Louis railroad stations

USO lounges in Ohio railroad stations

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Pianola for Everyone

The perfect family piano

Here are several postcards advertising Pianola player Pianos. I never learned how to play the piano. I wish I had had one of these to play

Fun for All Ages

Fun’s in Store for Everyone

A Piano Everyone Can Play


This brief description from Wikipedia tells how the pianola works:

The pianola (pronounce: “pee-ah-NO-la”), also called the player piano, is a piano which has a pneumatic mechanism so that it can play by itself. The air for this system came from a pump operated by the players feet, and in some later models, an electric pump. Inside the piano are paper rolls which have holes punched in. These holes release air which in turn triggers the keys to play. When the pianola plays itself the keys of the piano can be seen “playing themselves”.

The pianola was developed around the 1880s. It was fitted with control levers so that the player (“player pianist” or “pianolist”) could play in the way he wanted. The pianola made it possible for the player to sound as if he was playing very difficult music that he was not capable of playing. At the same time he could control the performance.

The pianola became popular in the late 19th and early 20th century as mass-produced pianos became popular in people’s homes and more and more people bought sheet music. By the 1920s it started to become less popular again as the gramophone had been invented.

A pianola is the same as any other piano except it is fitted with a pneumatic player action, which plays paper rolls. This mechanism consists of about one hundred bellows, large and small, the smaller ones being called pneumatics of which there are 88, one for each note on the piano.The largest are the foot operated ones,called the bellows. Other pneumatics of varying sizes operate the roll motor, tracking device, motor speed governor, and the sustain and soft pedals.

You can see a pianola in action in the following YouTube video.


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Poolside Posers

Fairway Motor Hotel, McAllen, Texas

There was a time when almost all motels and hotels had free  postcards for their customers. The postcards were not just a convenience for the customers to write to their friends and relatives. They were also a marketing tool for the hotel or motel. The best of these postcards highlighted the lodging’s amenities and used attractive images designed to appeal to the recipient.

Early motels didn’t have pools, and early motel postcards tended to emphasize their quality mattresses and bathrooms. Swimming pools began being installed in hotels in the  1930s, and became common in motels in the 1960s. Picturing attractive people posed around a pool and appearing to be enjoying themselves was an ideal way to showcase a hotel or motel. Who wouldn’t want to join the fun and relax by the pool in nice weather?

These postcards are mainly form the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s and are some of my favorite motel postcards.

Holiday Inn, various locations, circa 1976


Queen City Motel, Manchester, New Hampshire


The Ascot – Luxury Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey


Deauville Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida


Venetian Isle Motel, Miami Beach, Florida

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The Edison Phonograph

The first sound reproducing device was an Edison Phonograph, invented by Thomas A Edison in 1877, at Menlo Park, N. J., where he then had his laboratory. In 1887 Mr. Edison took up his residence and his laboratory work at Orange, N. J., and here, under his personal direction, the Phonograph has been developed into the wonderful musical instrument it is, known and enjoyed in the homes of every nation.

The image on this postcard (copyright 1905 by National Phonograph Co.) illustrates how amazing it must have been to first hear recorded sounds coming from the phonograph invented by Thomas Edison.

Originally the sounds were recorded and reproduced on cylinders. Flat disc records that rotated on turntables were developed by the late 1880s and co-existed with phonograph cylinders until superseding them by around 1912. The phonograph disc record was the primary medium used for music reproduction until late in the 20th century when digital media, stored on compact discs (CDs) and played on CD players became dominant. There has been some resurgence of phonograph records in the early 21st century.

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Home Harmony and The House Beautiful

January 1913, HOME HARMONY

Here are six postcards from a set published by Grand Rapids Furniture Record Co., copyright 1912.  These cards were made to be sent by furniture retailers to their customers. The back of each postcard had a calendar for one month of 1913 and a timely advertising message. Below the advertising message was a space for printing the names and addresses of local furniture sellers.

The back of the January card states that that was the month when the buyers went to the great furniture markets. It was suggested to potential customers that with the holiday rush over, they could now buy whatever they might need.

January 1913 Calendar

Grand Rapids, Michigan, known as Furniture City, was the home of many furniture manufacturers and one of the major furniture markets. The boom years for the furniture industry in Grand Rapids were from approximately 1870 to 1930. The Grand Rapids Spectator published a list in 1922 of the numbers attending the January furniture market. The number of buyers had almost doubled in the few years preceding 1922. In 1913, there were 1226 buyers; in 1922, the number was 2150.

In March,  the  merchants wanted the customers to know that housecleaning wants were being anticipated and that the store had a spring stock of rugs in and “new everything.”


The verse on the front of the May postcard seems to be aimed at June brides planning their new home, while the back of the May card promoted porch furniture for the coming summer.

May 1913, PLANNING

In September long evenings were coming and with them thoughts of comfort in the home, particularly in the library, den, and living room–and it wasn’t too early to begin thinking of stoves.

September 1913, THE LIBRARY

The October card featured furniture for “Milady’s Chamber.” The message on the back emphasized mattresses and beds, and pointed out that there was “a long winter to come.”

October 1913, MILADY’S CHAMBER

The December advertising message promoted furniture for gift giving because a furniture gift is seen and used daily. It was said to be a source of comfort, long lasting, a constant reminder, and never forgotten.


December 1913 Calendar

The Grand Rapids Furniture Record Company published a magazine, The Grand Rapids Furniture Record, with information and suggestions for furniture merchants. The July 1914 issue of The Grand Rapids Furniture Record, digitized online, began with an article titled “How to Write an Advertisement.” It is interesting and instructive to see how well the advertising messages on these postcards follow the tips given in that article. This is how the author summarized the article:


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Twin City Lines Early Twentieth Century Streetcars

Union Station, Minneapolis, Minn.

These postcards show early 20th century streetcars operated by Twin City Lines (Twin City Rapid Transit Company) of Minnesota. These streetcars ran in and between the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, west to Lake Minnetonka, and east to Stillwater.

The postcard above shows the old Union Railroad Depot  that was built in 1883. It was replaced by the new Great Northern Station (shown below) that was built across the street on Hennepin Avenue in 1913.

Great Northern Passenger Station, Minneapolis, Minn.

Hennepin Avenue is one of the main streets of downtown Minneapolis.

Hennepin Avenue, East from Sixth Street, Minneapolis, Minn.

Robert Street is one of the main streets of downtown St. Paul.

Robert Street, St. Paul, Minn. (Ryan Hotel to the left)

“Twin City Sight Seer” Car at Indian Mounds Park, St. Paul, Minn.

The next two postcards show views along the way from Minneapolis to Lake Minnetonka, a distance of about 15 miles.

Among the Cornfields on Minneapolis- Lake Minnetonka Electric Line

Gibbs Lake, on Minneapolis-Lake Minnetonka Electric Line

The last postcard shows a view between St. Paul and Stillwater.

Rattlesnake Curve at McKusicks Lake Near Stillwater, Minn. (Twin City Lines)

These postcard views were all published by V. O. Hammon Publishing Company of Minneapolis and Chicago. V. O. Hammon also published additional views of Twin City Lines streetcars as well as the streetcar boats operating on Lake Minnetonka. Below is a display board I entered at the Minnesota State Fair in 2013 that includes some of the other views.



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Iowa Children in Snow–May 1920

This real photo postcard is dated May 1920 and  shows five children standing in the snow.

The handwriting on the back of the postcard seems to be by two different people, with the first asking “Do you know any of these?” and the second replying with the names of  four of the five children: Ruth Clausen, Carl Clausen, Hazel McMullen, and Alice McMullen.

By starting with the name “Carl Clausen” and the year 1920, I was able to find the name of the fifth child and the location of the photo.The location is Glidden, Carroll County, Iowa, and the name of the fifth child is Gladys McMullen. Glidden is in west central Iowa and had a population of 867 in 1920.

The Clausen children were aged 10 (Carl) and 9 (Ruth) at the time of the 1920 census; the McMullen children were aged 8 (Alice), 7 (Gladys) and 3 (Hazel).

It seems likely that this photo was taken to record an unusual May snowstorm. I couldn’t find a record of a 1920 May snowstorm–1920 was not one of the years with record May snowfall in Iowa.

The following is a listing of central Iowa and statewide records that were surpassed in May 2013, along with previous records listed in parentheses. (Source: May 1-3, 2013 Historic Spring Snowstorm)

– Highest May Storm Total Snowfall: 13.0″ in Osage
(10.0″ in Le Mars on 5/28/1947)
– Biggest Iowa Snowstorm based on Average Statewide Snowfall: 3.3″ **
(1.2″ on 5/28/1947)
– Latest Spring Storm to produce more than a Foot of Snowfall: 5/1/2013 to 5/3/2013
(4/20/1918 and 4/20/1992)

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