Grace & Louie Figge Postcard Collection (1910-1920)
by Emily Mikkola
This is an exhibit that uses a collection of postcards from 1910-1920 to highlight the importance of transcription as a resource for preserving social history. They are sent and recieved within a singluar family, with the majority being either sent to or sent from Louie and Grace Figge. The content of these postcards shows a glimpse into everyday lives in the early ninteen hundreds and preserves the social history of a family that likely would not make it into history books.
Connecting Upcott's Album with Grace & Louie Figge's Social History
While reading William Upcott’s collection of letters from eminent women, the importance of preserving what I am calling “social history” became clear to me. By social history, I mean conversations and events that occurred in a historical context but would not necessarily be preserved in history books. Transcriptions of postcards and letters can be used to preserve parts of history that seem insignificant but can be put together to create a bigger picture of what social history could have looked like for non-historical figures. The Edwardian Postcard Project, a database put together by Lancaster University is an example of how transcriptions and digitized postcards can be preserved in order to protect this valuable form of social history. The practice of exchanging postcards (most popular during the Edwardian age, between 1901-1910) allowed people to communicate in an affordable and relatively quick matter. According to The Edwardian Postcard Project, up to six deliveries a day were being made in major cities, and approximately 6 billion cards were sent during this period of time. They were able to reach their destinations relatively quickly, and were not only sent for holidays or events, but for everyday communication purposes. Postcards were also a more accessibly form of communication than traditional letter writing— rather than writing a formal letter that fit into conventional standards, individuals could buy or commission their own artwork and send shorter messages. Postcards acted as an Edwardian form of social media, and having databases such as Lancaster University’s allows us to make connections with everyday people in the past. After the decline in popularity in sending postcards, an accessible, affordable way to quickly send short messages and pictures did not exist until the digital age. Social history studies the experiences of ordinary people and gives us a glimpse of human and social behaviours from previous time periods. We can use the information that communication mediums such as postcards and letters contain to contextualize what social (and literary) patterns were occurring when they were sent.
The form of social history that I am looking at is a collection of postcards that are from over a century ago. This collection of postcards were purchased in 2016 from an antique shop on Guemes Island, Washington. The postcards range in the dates that they were sent, with the earliest being March 23, 1910 and the latest being December 5, 1920. They were all sent and received by a singular family, namely a couple named Grace Smith (later on Grace Figge) and Louie Figge. This exhibit contains digital scans of the postcards as well as transcriptions of the content, so that the Smith/Figge family history can be pieced together. The content as well as physical clues (stamps, addresses, and pictures on the postcards) help place them in a sociohistoric context. The purpose of transcribing them is to create an accessible way to view the postcards that can be easily preserved and digitized for many years to come.
March 23, 1910 (to Grace Smith from Mabel Fisher)
On the front of the postcard there is an image of a woman wearing an old fashioned bathing costume — a red bathing gown with white stripes, blue striped stockings, white lace-up slippers and a large bow in her hair. She is sitting on a stump in the water with mountains behind her. Beside her is written “My Latest photograph” (presumably written by Mabel Fisher). At the top it says "171- A Bathing Beauty. Copyright 1905 by G.M. CO. On the back there is a stamp that says "Los Angeles, Cal. STA.E. MAR23, 330 PM". There is a one cent US Postage stamp beside it.
[THIS SPACE FOR CORRESPONDENCE]
Dear Grace I
received your card.
Was glad to hear
from you. Are you still at the
factory?? I haven’t
done anything since
I left there. Write
again. Mabel Fisher.
[THIS SPACE FOR ADDRESS]
3226 Huron Ave.
Based on this letter we can assume that at some point Grace worked at a factory with Mabel. Mabel must have lived in Los Angeles but it is unclear where as there is no return address.
May 23, 1910 (to Grace Smith from Louie Figge)
On the front of the postcard there is an image of a park with large palm trees and deciduous trees, a waterfront view, a green lawn and a flower garden. There are two girls sitting on the lawn. It says “Winter Scene in Hollenbeck Park, Los Angeles, Cal.”
[THIS SIDE FOR CORRESPONDENCE]
Dear Grace: I received the cards you
sent me today. I don't feel very good
these days, you know. My
finger is better though, it has
started to heal. I went to church
last night, I think the last
time for a while. It is too much
of a temptation, you know.
and besides Mr Shields told a
story about a counterfeit among
the genuine on a week ago Wed-
nerdy night, meant for me possibly.
I hope you a happier than I.
Love always, Louie
xxxxx you know.
[THE ADDRESS TO BE WRITTEN ON THIS SIDE]
Miss Grace Smith,
This is written to Grace but addressed to be sent to Illinois, so she must have left Los Angeles sometime between March 23, 1910 and May 23, 1910. There is no real address or stamp so it is unclear how this postcard was delivered to Grace.
June 8, 1910 (to Grace Smith from Sister Jay)
On the front of the postcard there is an image of a pink and gold rose, on a background of a torn piece of paper with gold embossments. On the back there is a 1 Cent US Postage stamp that says 1910, and another stamp beside it that says JUN 8 7 PM.
How is the
old kid and how
is grandma and the
rest? We are all doing
nicely. L It.7. was over
the other night and was
asking about you.
Grandpa is getting
along fine, but awful
Miss Grace Smith
This postcard is addressed to Grace in Illinois, so she must have stayed there for an extended period of time. The contents of the letter suggest that Sister Jay is related to Grace, or at the very least is close to her family.
June 29, 1910 (to Louie Figge from Grace Smith)
On the front of the postcard is an image of a man walking, with the caption "John, the drunkard marching up to the butcher shop.” It also says “Copyright 1908 by C.U. Williams 5524”. There is a stamp from Petersburg, Illinois that says June 29 630PM, 1910. "Grace Smith" is written on the side, and there is a 1 Cent US Postage stamp.
you I am glad
your hours are
shorter it is hard
How is your
parents give them
my love and
my best regards
[Name and Address Here]
Mr Louie Figge
2623 Huron St.
This postcard was sent to the same address that Grace was recieving letters at in Los Angeles, which suggests that they were living together before she went to Illinois. She mentions Louie's parents, so it can be assumed that they live in Los Angeles as well (possibly at 2623 Huron Street).
Undated, possibly sent between March 23, 1910-March 12, 1911 (to Grace Smith from Louie Figge)
On the front of the postcard it says "Loving Greetings to You" on an orange background. There are blue flowers surrounding the border, with three shamrocks hanging from pink ribbons. There is german writing on the back.
The german post as daays
"Heartiest Congratulations to your Birth
day.” I dont know if you know
my mother’s is June 7th & mine
is in September. I would like to
know when yours is, because there
is something coming up for you
I need time to make it.
I was up to see your father
xxxxx you know.
Miss Grace Smith
There is no stamp or real address, only a city and state so it is unclear how or when this was sent. It is addressed to Grace in Illinois so it is likely that it was sent sometime between March 23, 1910-March 12, 1911. It is addressed to Grace Smith and not Grace Figge, so it was sent before Grace and Louie got married on November 2, 1911.
March 14, 1911 (to Grace Smith from Louie Figge)
On the front of the postcard there is a green background with gold shamrocks and a white pipe, and a scene of a small town in Ireland. It says “St. Patrick's Day Greetings”, and “Dalkey Co. Dublin” on the front. On the back, there is a stamp that says "Los Angeles, Cal. Sta. 1911. Mar 14, 7PM". There is a 1 Cent US Postage stamp in the corner.
I broke my prom-
ise. I told you I
would not write to
you anymore, but
I hope you will
forgive me, I have-
n’t seen you for
so long, I’ll be
home soon. xxx Louie
Miss Grace Smith
3226 Huron St.
This letter is written to Grace at the same address in Los Angeles as previous letters (addressed to both her and Louie), suggesting she returned from Illinois sometime between June 19, 1910 and March 14, 1911. Louie sent the postcard from Los Angeles but says that he has not seen Grace for a long time, suggesting that he had gone away from home. It also sounds like there is a rift in their relationship that he is hoping to mend.
September 13, 1911 (to Jane Smith from R. Carl Pengelly)
On the front of the postcard, there is an image of a couple dressed in formal clothing. They are holding each other beneath a giant mushroom in a forest. On the back, there is a stamp from Tonopah, Nevada that says "Sep 13, 6PM 1911". There is also a 1 Cent US Postage stamp.
Miss Jane Smith,
While eating straw-
berries I came across your
address on the bottom of the basket.
Would like to hear from you
for I do like straw-berries Ahem!
R. Carl Pengelly
Miss Jane Smith
3226 Huron St
This is addressed to Jane Smith, who we can assume is either related to Grace, or is Grace herself and "Jane" was written by accident. It does not seem like R. Carl Pengelly knew whoever he had written to, and was hoping to hear back. It is addressed to the same address in Los Angeles that Grace (and possibly Louie) lived at, which suggests that is was possibly the Smith's family home.
Undated, sent before November 2, 1911 (to Grace Smith from Earl Hinds)
The front of the postcard says "Joys around your birthday centred, with their merriest welcome greet you, and the year that you have entered, day by day, those joys repeat you." The text is on an image of a peice of parchment surrounded by small blue flowers and green leaves, on a whitish grey background.
Evona Jozer told me to tell you to write to her. [Added at the top of the postcard]
Earl told me to
write for him. He poisoned
so bad he can’t use his arm.
I hope you have a nice
birthday. Your cousin,
I wish you would come out [unclear]
[unclear]; I remembered you and
your birthday. Ruth Hinds.
[For Address Only]
3226 Huron St.
There is no stamp or year, but the letter is addressed to Grace Smith instead of Grace Figge so it must have been sent before Louie and Grace's wedding on November 2, 1911.
Undated, sent before November 2, 1911 (to Grace Smith from Louie Figge)
The postcard is white with four different coloured ribbons tied into bows on it. Under each bow there is a poem:
“If of me you sometimes think
Send to me a Bow of Pink”
“If you have another fellow
Send to me a Bow of Yellow”
[Yellow bow is missing]
“If for me your love is dead
Send to me a Bow of Red”
“If for me your love is right
Send to me a Bow of White”
“If for me your love is true
Send to me a Bow of Blue”
In the middle it says "From a "BEAU" who loves you best, Louie".
(Pick out a bow on the other side and send it to me. Louie)
I received the post cards you sent me today. My father
saw them & he does not think
much of them. I dont see how you
could send them myself; if you
care for me as much as you say
you do. I hope you will
do better or none. You ask me
for a nice long letter & my
picture, I dont see how you
can expect them for a card
like that one. I can’t see your
objection in writing me such a
nice letter as that last one
and send me cards like
these last two. Dont my letters mean
anything to you, if they dont, I won’t
bother you with them. I mean every
word of them. If you love me I want
you to come home, if you dont, you
know. You know by this time I love
you as much as I can. I dont write
this letter to make any hard feel-
ong. I want to straighten things up a
bit. You dont even answer what I ask
Yours as ever,
There is no stamp or address so it is unclear how or when this was sent. The contents of the letter sound like they had been fighting and that Grace was not at home in Los Angeles, so it is possible that this was sent during her time in Illinois.
November 9, 1911 (to Grace Figge from Louie Figge)
On the front of the postcard there is an image of the U.S. Grant Hotel in San Diego, California. On the back there is a stamp from San Diego that says "Nov 9, 2:30AM 1911" and a 1 Cent U.S. Postage stamp.
I am so hap-
py, will be home soon.
We will be busy as bees
in our little hive, fix
ing up you know.. Doing
Fansywork & copper
work & Furniture for
our home. Lots of love
your hubby, Lou
Mrs. G.A.S. Figge
2623 Haron St.
This postcard was sent after Grace and Louie got married and moved to another address on Huron Street.
December 29, 1911 (to Aunt Belva from Grace Figge)
On the front of the postcard it says "May this be your Happiest New Year" with an image of a winter scene in a gold frame and white floral patterns. Has a rose and an hourglass at the bottom page. On the back there is a stamp from Los Angeles, California that says "December 29 330PM, 1911" and a 1 Cent U.S. Postage stamp.
Dear Aunt Belva
I wish you a bright and happy
new year. How are you
and Gilton. My husband
just put a big piece
of candy in my mouth.
He is home today.
I was married a month
ago Dec 2 and I am very
Write soon with love.
From your niece,
2623 Huron St. [circled in red, with stamp that says “Returned for better address”]
This postcard is sent from Grace and Louie's new address and Grace mentions getting married a month ago December 2nd, suggesting that their wedding date was November 2nd, 1911.
August 19, 1912 (to Louie Figge from Chas Gunn)
On the front of the postcard it says:
Tell me, maiden, tell me true,
For I’ve spent lots of dough on you,
Before my cash is all turned loose,
Tell me, is it any use?
There is a red border design on brown paper, and the bottom left corner is torn off. On the back there is a 1 Cent US Postage stamp in the top right corner, with a date stamp on top that says "AUG 19, 1912, A.M. Nevada". It also says "Carlin Post Card Co., Los Angeles".
Queer card to send to a married man.
Mr. L.H. Figge
2623 Huron St.
It is unclear who Chas Gunn is, but this postcard was sent to Louie and Grace's home that they moved to after they got married.
December 5, 1920 (to Grace from her father)
On the front it says "A Happy Christmas" with an embroidered blue and yellow bird. The bird is holding a basket of roses and blue flowers, and it is surrounded by white imprints of ivy leaves. On the back it says "Tuck's Post Card" and "Raphael Tuck & Sons' Broderie D'Art Series, Art Publishers to their Majesties the King & Queen.
December 5 1920
Dear Grace, I want to drop you a few lines
to let you know that I am always thinking of
you and Louie, hoping you are both well and happy.
The sun was bright and warm this morning but it is
could [cold] and foggy now. good weather to stay home
I wish I could be with you during the Hollydays
I get a little lonesome sometimes, if Louie would
write me a few lines sometimes I would feel better, Father
It is unclear where this letter was sent to or how it was recieved because there is no stamp or address. It is dated more than eight years after the last previously known postcard. Grace's father mentions Louie, suggesting that the two of them stayed married.
Undated (to Louie Figge and possibly Grace)
On the front of the postcard it says "May you have a real jolly Christmas" with an image of a hearth with two stockings hanging up. There is a wreath on a chair and a vase, candlestick, and book on the mantle.
Merry Xmas from Frank
Mery Xmas from Aunt Amanda
Papa is in Kansas. Marie
Dear Louie & Grace [the 'G' is crossed out]:
and a Happy New Year
from Marie F.
Wishing you a very merry
xmas, and a prosper-
our new year.
There is no stamp or date so it is unclear how or when this was sent. Marie F addressed both Louie and Grace, so it is possible that it was given to them after their marriage.
Undated (to Della Helm from Bessie Smith)
On the front of the postcard is an image of a field covered in hundreds of pigeons with a building behind it. Below that it says "Pigeon Ranch in California".
I would like to help you
get a collection
of postals. I am
Grace Smith’s sister.
[This Side for Address only]
Miss Della Helm
There is no stamp or date so it is unclear how or when this was sent.
Through this collection of personal postcards, we are able to get a glimpse into the lives of Grace and Louie, as well as several friends and family members. We learn that at some point prior to March of 1910 (and possibly after), Grace had worked in a factory, presumably in Los Angeles with someone named Mabel Fisher. We see Grace's stay in Illinois, beginning in from the spring of 1910 and lasting for over a year. We can also use the addresses on the postcards to figure out that Louie was staying at the address Grace was living at in Los Angeles with her sister Bessie (and Jane, another family member). When Grace begins recieving letters at the same address in Los Angeles once again, we see several postcards from Louie that allude to a fight or a rift in their relationship, before their eventual marriage in November of 1911 (the most obvious being the postcard where it seems as though Grace had sent the ribbon that said she "had another fellow" back to Louie). After their marriage they seem to be quite happy and must remain so, if the mention of Louie's name in a postcard from Grace's father sent almost a decade later is taken into consideration. We can even see when Grace and Louie move into a new home on Huron Street, when the address changes in November of 1911, shortly after their marriage.
We see other notes from people close to Grace and Louie, such as Sister Jay and Earl Hinds, or even the crpytic note sent to Louie from Chas Gunn. Even interactions between strangers can be placed in a sociohistoric context such as the postcard sent to Jane Smith from R. Carl Pengelly in Nevada, and the one sent from Bessie Smith to Della Helm. Although I have not been able to find any information about this family in history books, this collection of postcards provided valuable information about their everyday lives and interactions with eachother. With it being digitized and transcribed, it is now available in an accessible and preservable format for many years to come.