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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Happy Holidays from Shapleigh Hardware Co.

This holiday postcard advertising Shapleigh Hardware Company’s Diamond Edge tools was sent on December 24, 1915.

Hardware Dealers’ Magazine, Volume 46 of 1916 had an article on Hardware Christmas Greetings in which Shapleigh’s Christmas card and its verse were mentioned. According to that magazine, The Shapleigh Hardware Co., St. Louis, Mo. furnished their salesmen a handsomely colored Christmas card in the shape of an open book, upon the pages of which greetings were inscribed. The timeless message of sharing bears repeating:

Merrie Christmas!
When at this little card you look
You’ll smile to see so big a book,
With earnest wishes–verse and prose,
That we to you and yours would send
For happiness that has no end,–
For health and wealth and joy of living
For power of having and of giving.
Happy New Year!
One New Year’s wish we would include,
Lest vain regrets some day intrude,–
‘Tis that while life runs still and smooth
You’ll ne’er forget this simple truth,–
That what you have and what you get
Will bless you most if you will let
Your good be shared by other folks
Whom old Dame Fortune aye o’erlooks.

The Shapleigh Hardware Company of St. Louis existed in various forms from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century. For its history, see Brief History of The Shapleigh Hardware
Company published by The Hardware Companies Kollectors Klub.

Hardware Dealers’ Magazine, Volume 41  reported in 1914 that the  company was celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary  of its Diamond Edge trademark. The slogan “Diamond Edge is a Quality Pledge” was of more recent origin, said to have been first used in 1909.

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Heatherbloom Petticoats for Christmas

This advertising postcard suggests giving a Heatherbloom Petticoat as a Christmas gift. The back is imprinted with an advertising message from Senson Brothers of Clay Center, Kansas.

Below is a magazine ad that promoted Heatherbloom Petticoats for Christmas gift-giving. According to the ad, many stores were offering Heatherbloom Petticoats in “handsomely decorated Christmas boxes.”

Below is a  closer view of the ad’s text and a picture of the label that was put in Heatherbloom petticoats. A. G. Hyde & Sons manufactured Heatherbloom cotton taffeta that was used in the petticoats, but not the petticoats themselves. The fabric was said to have “the lustre, swish, and beauty of silk with three times the wear at one third the cost.” A. G. Hyde advertised the fabric, which was considered superior to similar petticoat fabrics, in publications aimed at the ultimate petticoat customer. Potential customers were asked to look for the Heatherbloom label in every petticoat. The petticoat manufacturers were required to include the label in their petticoats manufactured with the Heatherbloom fabric as a  condition of using the fabric.

Near the bottom of the ad was a line offering s FREE series of “beautiful Souvenir Post Cards.” It didn’t say anything about the type of postcards, and I haven’t been able to find anything online about them. Were they holiday cards, advertising cards, or something else?

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Cranberry Harvesting

Looking down into a cranberry bog.

Cranberries grow on low lying vines planted in bogs composed of peat soil topped with a layer of sand.  After planting, the first crop is ready for harvesting in 3-4 years. They are harvested in the fall from mid-September until mid-November. A closeup of a cranberry bog ready for harvest is shown above. There is a closely grown mat of green vines and red berries.

Most of these cranberry postcards were published from the mid-1950s until the 1970s, so some of the information and views  shown are outdated. The majority are from Massachusetts, the state that was formerly the largest cranberry producer. Wisconsin has been the leading producer since 1995.  Approximate current percentages of cranberry production by state are Wisconsin 63%, Massachusetts 24%, New Jersey 7%, Oregon 4%, and Washington 2%.

Sign ar Edaville Station — Edaville, So. Carver, Mass.

There are two methods of harvesting cranberries: wet and dry. Dry harvested cranberries are sold as fresh fruit and are most often used for cooking and baking. Dry harvesting formerly used hand held scoops like the ones shown below on the next postcards. The N.C.A. letters on the crates stand for National Cranberry Association.

Frosty September nights and Indian Summer days color the cranberry to a rich, ruby red and the cranberry harvest is on, scooping from the low-lying vines in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Washington, and Oregon. Circa 1950s.

Cranberry bog at picking time, Cape Cod, Mass. Originally published 1954.

Harvesting cranberries on Cape Cod. (when Massachusetts produced about 50% of the national cranberry crop.

Cranberry picking time, Cape Cod, Mass.

The next postcard has a handwritten “Cape Cod Christmas Carol” (to the tune of O Christmas Tree) on the back:

O Cranber-Ree, O Cranber-Ree
All gourmets, they know ya
O Cranber-Ree, O Cranber-Ree
To think dear Cape Cod grows ya.
The finest fruit twas ever grown
Yes, you deserve a heavenly throne.
O Cranber-Ree, O Cranber-Ree
Thy taste is just Ambrosia

Cranberry harvesting on Cape Cod.

Picking Cranberries on Cape Cod. postmarked 1968

A typical “Cape Cod” Bog with pump house which is used when flooding is necessary. The old fashioned SCOOP as shown has now been replaced by a mechanical picker.

The next postcard shows both the older and newer methods of dry harvesting. The newer method uses  mechanical pickers resembling lawnmowers to comb the berries off the vines.

Replacing the picturesque wooden hand scoop are various types of mechanical picking machines.

Cranberry harvesting on Cape Cod with a mechanical cranberry picking machines.

Cranberry harvesting in Northern Wisconsin.

Wet harvesting is used for the majority of the cranberries. Wet harvested cranberries are used for juices, sauces, sweetened dried cranberries, and ingredients in processed foods. The bogs are flooded with water and  water reels, nicknamed “egg beaters”, are used to stir up water and loosen the cranberries from the vine. Cranberries have air pockets inside  which allow the berries to float to the surface of the water. The floating berries are then rounded up  with a boom

Wet cranberry harvesting on Cape Cod, Massachusett

Wet cranberry harvesting in northern Wisconsin. In this scene the water reel picks the fresh berries from the vines.

Wet cranberry harvesting in Washington state. Berries are loaded on trucks by conveyor for transportation to processing plant near Long Beach, Wash.

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