The Orphaned Images Project: Ethel’s postcard home

9 03 2011

This postcard was sent to Mrs. J.W. Noland in Laketon, Indiana on March 2, 1911 from their daughter Ethel in Wabash, Indiana. The postcard reads:

Dear Papa & Mother,
Received Saturday’s check—many thanks. Expect I will be home Saturday.
With love, Ethel

I’m not sure which woman on the front of the postcard is Ethel. I have several other photos from the same source with the family name “Noland” written on the back of each. Alonzo Noland, John Noland and George Noland are three of the names mentioned in several photos. I’m assuming they are brothers, based on photos.

During a cursory web search, I discovered a Mary Ethel Noland in Missouri (known to her friends as Ethel), who was President Truman’s first cousin, a fervent genealogist and keeper of all things related to her cousin’s presidency. The Mary Ethel Noland Papers (4,800 pages!) date from 1672-1971 with the bulk of material spanning 1893-1971. The collection includes postcards, printed materials, correspondence, charts, photographs and newspaper clippings relating to her genealogy of Harry S. Truman. She donated the collection to the U.S. government.

I got a tad excited about my Ethel (remotely) being that Ethel, but I really can’t connect them because Truman’s Ethel was in Missouri for most of her life; my Ethel appears to remain in Indiana throughout the series of postcards. That Ethel did have a sister (Nellie) and this postcard shows that my Ethel possibly had a sister, too. I’ve seen a few photos of Truman’s Ethel and none look quite like either of the young women in the postcard below.

It’s rather fun to research (if even just for five minutes) some background information for these orphaned photos—and they’re not even my relatives! I am consistently amazed at how much information can be found if you have a name, city, state or even a studio name written on a photo—even one dating back to the late 1800s. I know I owe most of this gratitude to the multitude of fervent genealogists out there!

A little behind-the-scenes research: My friend Barbara, a self-admitted fan of The Orphaned Images Project, just made a comment on this post and asked about the photograph—suggesting maybe it was bought at a store and quite possibly isn’t Ethel or her sister. I did a little thinking on the subject, then a little research. Here is the thread below:

BARBARA: Now I am confused…would the photo on the front of the postcard necessarily be the writer of the card? (Ethel) Back in those days how easy was it to get your photo taken and have post cards printed? (And we didn’t have Cindy Dyer around to make such cards!) So, I say neither woman is Ethel, they are just two sassy gals on a post card purchased at the local drug store or post office on which to write correspondence.
Am I missing something? I am a fan of the Orphaned Images Project. :)

ME: Barbara, that thought had occurred to me too, but I have lots of postcards that have photos of people and they’re signed on the back. One postcard has two young men on the front and it is signed like it’s from two young men on the back. It would have been easy to make a print that had postcard info printed on the back and an area to write. The subject would have a portrait taken and just request that the back of the image be postcard-ready. Sort of a pre-cursor to Costco’s Christmas card print. I’m glad you’re a fan of The Orphaned Images Project!

Oh, and one more thing….the back of a print made then was always matte finish (at least in all of those photos I have). It would be incredibly simple to simply STAMP the postcard art/type on the back and voila! You have a print that is postcard-ready!

So, as I always do, I typed in and did a search for “postcards with photographs from the 1900s.” I found this article by author Mike Yoder:

Here is an excerpt from that article that confirms my thought on the process:

For the price of a 1-cent stamp and a special postcard, Mary had printed her son’s photo on one side, added a note on the other and put it in the post. It was a turn-of-the-century social media exchange with user-generated content. In 1898 the postal service established a reduced postage rate for privately printed postcards. In 1902, the Eastman Kodak Co. produced a postcard-sized photographic paper on which images could be printed. These two events began a photograph postcard boom.