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Archive for the ‘Festival of Postcards’ Category

In this series, Ferdinand Müller, a German-born naturalized U.S. citizen living in Philadelphia, has returned to Germany in 1912 for a trip. Along the way, he writes to his friends back home, Max and Laura Thumann (my great-aunt). This week’s card is dated two days after trip to Coblenz.

20 September 1912 ~ Offenbach, Germany

Front: Burg Eltz located between Koblenz and Trier

Front: Burg Eltz located between Koblenz and Trier

Back: Ferdinand has a lot to say, but unfortunately nothing about his visit to the castle!

Back: Ferdinand has a lot to say, but unfortunately nothing about his visit to the castle!

The postcard reads:

Offenbach a/m Sept. 20.12.  Freund Max und Lary ich habe mein Ticket für retur zu Fahren schon gelöst fahre am 26. Oktober mit Graf Walder See von Hamburg ab Franz Hahlm auch denke wir kommen in eine Cabine das Wetter ist jetzt besser wir hatten bevor immer Kalt und Regen fahre nächsten Sontag nach Baiern mit dem Auto Es grüßt, Ferdinand.  schicke ein Bundel Zeitungen Englisch ver………   Lass bald was hören von dir

Translation:

Offenbach a/m. September 20.12.  Friend Max and Lary. I already purchased my return ticket and will go on October 26 on the Graf Waldersee from Hamburg with Franz Hahlm also. I think we will take a cabin. The weather is better now, previously it was always cold and rainy. I will go next Sunday to Bavaria by car. Greetings, Ferdinand.  Sending a bundle of newspapers English (cut off, not legible). Respond soon.

Ferdinand has already set his return date – five weeks away on October 26 he will board the steamship Graf Waldersee in Hamburg with his friend Franz. In the meantime, weather has improved and he’s going to Bavaria soon. But Ferdinand fails to mention anything about view on the front of the card, the beautiful Burg Eltz. He must have visited the site on his way back from Coblenz, the last card he sent.

It’s too bad we don’t get his impressions of it. Unlike some of the other places he’s been so far, this one was unharmed by the Second World War and looks much the same as it does on this card…which is much the same as it’s looked for centuries! Burg Eltz has been owned by the same family for 850 years – that’s 33 generations. It is one of three castles on the left bank of the Rhine that were never destroyed over the centuries. The castle (or parts of it) is open to the public for tours and, luckily for anyone that is in Germany or will be soon, it just re-opened for the season two days ago.

Part 11 of a 22-part series of Postcards from Ferdinand

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In this series, Ferdinand Müller, a German-born naturalized U.S. citizen living in Philadelphia, has returned to Germany in 1912 for a trip. Along the way, he writes to his friends back home, Max and Laura Thumann (my great-aunt). This week’s card is dated the day after his car trip to Burg Rheinstein as he drives back along the left side of the Rhine.

18 September 1912 ~ Coblenz, Germany

Front: The Kaiser Wilhelm monument in Coblenz.

Front: The Kaiser Wilhelm monument in Coblenz.

Back: No time to write!

Back: No time to write!

The postcard reads:

Habe diese Karte auf dem Denkmal gekauft Hatte keine Zeit zu schreiben schr…. (or) Schwörie (?) in Bad Ems.  Ferdinand

Translation:

Bought this card at the memorial. Had no time to write. Schwörie in Bad Ems.  Ferdinand

There is slight confusion over Ferdinand’s handwriting on this card. My cousin was not sure about the word after schreiben (write) but I think it may be the elusive friend referred to as Schwörie. This would make sense if the message is he had no time to write at the memorial where he bought the card and he’s telling his friends that he is now in Bad Ems, quite close to Coblenz, with Schwörie?

If you’ve never heard of the town of Coblenz, that’s because the spelling was changed in 1926 to Koblenz. Situated where the rivers Rhine and Mosel meet is the monument to Kaiser Wilhelm, who, as we’ve learned from several of the monuments visited by Ferdinand thus far, was celebrated for the unification of Germany in 1871. The monument was built in 1897. The equestrian statue of Wilhelm was designed by a sculptor named Emil Hundreiser who was a student of Rudolf Siemering whose work we’ve met earlier in Ferdinand’s trip.

The quote on the monument read:”Nimmer wird das Reich zerstöret, wenn ihr einig seid und treu” (Never will the Empire be destroyed, so long as you are united and loyal). In 1945, an American artillery shell hit the monument and its remains were removed shortly thereafter. However, in 1993 – nearly one hundred years after the initial statue – a replica was inaugurated. It still represented German unity – only this time as a result of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of East and West Germany.

Part 10 of a 22-part series of Postcards from Ferdinand

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In this series, Ferdinand Müller, a German-born naturalized U.S. citizen living in Philadelphia, has returned to Germany in 1912 for a trip. Along the way, he writes to his friends back home, Max and Laura Thumann (my great-aunt). This week’s card is dated the same day of his trip to Niederwald, but he has a lot more to say…

16 September 1912 ~ Offenbach, Germany

Front: Burg Rheinstein

Front: Burg Rheinstein

Back: Ferdinand is "cruising" the Rhine by car

Back: Ferdinand is “cruising” the Rhine by car

The postcard reads:

Liebe Freunde bin gestern mit dem Auto von Offenbach den Rhein runter nach Rüdesheim u. Fahre Morgen nach Koblenz an dem linken Rhein Ufer da ist sehr vieles zu Sehen werde Euch eine Karte schicken Schwörie last fragen wan ich zurück fahre bin noch nicht gewiß wach denke Oktober 26 Graf WalderSee habe noch nicht fest gemacht. Euch Alle zu denken. Grüße Ferdinand. Grüße an Julius und Herman

Translation:

Dear friends, Yesterday I took the car from Offenbach along the Rhine to Rüdesheim. Tomorrow, I’ll drive to Koblenz alongside the left bank of the Rhine. There is a lot to see. I will send you a card. Schwörie asks when I will drive back. I am not sure yet but think October 26. Have not fully planned. Count Waldersee. Thinking of you all, Ferdinand. Best wishes to Julius & Herman

Ferdinand sends a much longer message than his last postcard, but given that it’s the same exact day he can be forgiven for his brevity last time!  He is once again taking a car for day trips from Offenbach, which is located just outside of Frankfurt. In 1912, I doubt that cars were common. How refreshing a car trip along the Rhine would be without hundreds of other cars doing the same!

He writes again of “Schwörie” who is apparently a mutual friend. He mentions possibly returning home on the Graf Waldersee on October 26.  Will he? Stay tuned… Also, in this postcard he sends his greetings to Laura’s (half)brothers, Julius and Herman Goetz, so he likely knew them as well. No mention of her brother who is my great-grandfather though!

Map of some towns along the Rhine river.

Map of some towns along the Rhine river.

Today’s trip takes Ferdinand to one of the marvelous castles along the Rhine, Burg Rheinstein. Amazingly, the castle was constructed in the early 1300’s. However, after the Nine Years’ War in the late 1600’s, the castle was left in ruins. It was rebuilt from 1825-1844 thanks to Prince Frederick of Prussia. Although it is privately owned, it is open to the public for tours. It is rather impressive even if it’s not the original (then again, would I really want to walk around in a 700-year-old-castle that’s perched on the side of a cliff?)  I hope to visit it on my next trip to the Rhineland.

Photo of the Burg Rheinstein gardens taken in 2009 by gogoninja https://www.flickr.com/photos/gogoninja/3782060210

Photo of the Burg Rheinstein gardens taken in 2009 by gogoninja https://www.flickr.com/photos/gogoninja/3782060210

Part 8 of a 22-part series of Postcards from Ferdinand

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In this series, Ferdinand Müller, a German-born naturalized U.S. citizen living in Philadelphia, has returned to Germany in 1912 for a trip. Along the way, he writes to his friends back home, Max and Laura Thumann (my great-aunt). This week’s card is dated a whole week after his trip to Frankfurt. It’s also his shortest message to date…

16 September 1912 ~ Niederwald, Germany

Front: The Nationaldenkmal near Rüdesheim

Front: The Nationaldenkmal near Rüdesheim

Back: Ferdinand keeps it short!

Back: Ferdinand keeps it short!

The postcard reads:

Herzliche Grüße von Eurem Freund Ferdinand

Translation:

Warmest greetings from your friend Ferdinand

We’ve all done it…sent a perfunctory postcard with only the words “thinking of you” or “wish you were here” or even “warmest greetings from your friend.” But it’s definitely the thought that counts, and given that Ferdinand has written to his friends every step of the way so far, he can be forgiven for the rather brief message on the card that’s featured this week.

This postcard features the Nationaldenkmal in Niederwald which commemorates the foundation of the German Empire and the unification of Germany in 1871. The monument was sculpted from 1877 to 1883 and reads (in German, of course): “In memory of the unanimous victorious uprising of the German People and of the reinstitution of the German Empire 1870-1871.”

Part 8 of a 22-part series of Postcards from Ferdinand

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In this series, Ferdinand Müller, a German-born naturalized U.S. citizen living in Philadelphia, has returned to Germany in 1912 for a trip. Along the way, he writes to his friends back home, Max and Laura Thumann (my great-aunt). This week’s card is dated the day after his road trip to Loreleifelsen. He continues to make day trips from Offenbach – this time he’s off to Frankfurt to see a monument similar to one back in Philly…

9 September 1912 ~ Offenbach, Germany

Front: The Bismarckdenkmal in Frankfurt a. Main

Front: The Bismarckdenkmal in Frankfurt a. Main

Back: The bad weather continues...

Back: The bad weather continues…

The postcard reads:

Offenbach Sep.9.12 Freund Max und Lary, den mir sehr werthen Brief von 28. Aug habe ich erhalten und freude mich sehr, und sehe darauß daß es Euch Gut geth. mir geht es auch ganz Gut nur haben wir so schlechtes Wetter immer Regen wir hatten so weit kaum 6 Tage SonnenSchein mein Kopfweh ist auch besser. Schwörie hatte mir von Konstanz geschrieben, Es grüßt Euch alle herzlich Ferdinand

Translation:

Offenbach Sep.9.12  Friend Max and Lary, I have received the precious letter from August 28 with much joy and see that you are doing well. I am also well but we only have bad weather, always rain. So far, we have barely had six days of sunshine. My headache is also better. Schwörie wrote to me from Konstanz. My best wishes to you all, Ferdinand

A few comments on the message before discussing the monument on the postcard. First, this is the first time we hear that the communication is two-way – he’s receiving letters from his friends! Second, the weather sounds a lot like my last trip to Germany…I think it’s a universal trait of human nature to whine about unpleasant weather while on vacation. Only six days of sunshine? Poor Ferdinand, he’s been there for a month! Finally, Schwörie must be a nickname or name of a friend…the name comes up in a few of Ferdinand’s postcards and must be part of their group of friends.

My research on the image on the card has given me a lot of information though! The card features a photo of the Bismarckdenkmal in Frankfurt, a massive monument built in honor of Otto von Bismarck. The monument was created by German sculptor Rudolf Siemering who made quite a few monuments throughout Germany. It appears that this particular one, however, no longer exists – it was melted down during World War 2. But at the time of Ferdinand’s visit, it was relatively new. Wikipedia claims it was erected in 1908; however, Siemering died in 1905 so I’m not sure if that is correct or if it didn’t get put in place until years after he created it.

Public domain image of Siemering's Washington Monument in Philadelphia

Public domain image of Siemering’s Washington Monument in Philadelphia

In reading about Rudolf Siemering’s life, I found a very interesting parallel. Ferdinand didn’t have to travel back to Germany to view one of his monuments to a great man – because there was one in his new home in Philadelphia. In 1879-1880, an international competition was held for a Philadelphia monument to George Washington. Siemering submitted the winning design, and he completed it in 1897. President William McKinley presided at the dedication ceremony. The original location of the monument, which is where it stood at the time of Ferdinand’s arrival in Philadelphia as well as his trip back home, was in Fairmount Park. But it was moved in 1928 to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum and it still sits there today. Last summer I actually used it as a “meet me” point for some friends, and as I waited I admired the sculpture without knowing any of its history. I’d love to know how it was moved in 1928 – it is massive. At the top is the statue of Washington on his horse. The pedestal shows an allegorical America and two German-Americans from history, Peter Muhlenberg and Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. The bottom area has figures of native Americans, large animals native to America, and four famous American rivers – the Delaware, Hudson, Potomac, and Mississippi.

Was Ferdinand familiar with the Washington monument in Philadelphia? And did he know that the sculptor was the same as the Bismarckdenkmal in Frankfurt? Both equestrian monuments are dedicated to great leaders. Bismarck unified Germany into one nation in 1871 from thirty different kingdoms, city-states, and principalities and during his 19-year reign as chancellor he kept Germany out of military conflict. Washington unified the thirteen colonies against Great Britain and became the father of America (and also kept America out of the conflict between France and Britain). Both leaders are so respected in their own countries that there are monuments dedicated to these two men all over their home countries. Oddly enough, I found statues of them in other countries as well, but I couldn’t find a Washington monument in Germany or a Bismarck monument in the United States.

Part 7 of a 22-part series of Postcards from Ferdinand

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In this series, Ferdinand Müller, a German-born naturalized U.S. citizen living in Philadelphia, has returned to Germany in 1912 for a trip. Along the way, he writes to his friends back home, Max and  Laura Thumann (my great-aunt). On last week’s card, dated 28 August 1912, Ferdinand was on his way to Munich. But the next card in the collection is over a week later! Either Ferdinand was too busy to send a postcard (highly unlikely!) or perhaps Laura gave the card to her brother who had lived in Munich for a while. Or it was simply lost over time. Unfortunately we don’t have details about Ferdinand’s time in between, but now it’s September and he’s been back in Germany for almost a month!

8 September 1912 ~ St. Goar, Germany

Front: Loreleifelsen a. Rhein

Front: Loreleifelsen a. Rhein

Back: Cruising alone the Rhine river - in a car! Who got to ride "shotgun"?

Back: Cruising alone the Rhine river – in a car! Who got to ride “shotgun”?

The postcard reads:

 Liebe Freunde haben heute eine Auto Tur gemacht nach hier von Offenbach. sehr schön. mit Bruder Karl und Frau wir fahren jeden Tag wo anders hin. Es grüßt Euch alle herzlich Ferdinand

Translation:

Dear friends, Today I did a car trip to here from Offenbach. Very beautiful. With brother Karl and wife we drive somewhere else nearly every day. With best wishes, Ferdinand

Ferdinand is cruising along the Rhine this week, only in a car, not a boat. The last card I posted had a car shown on the front which led me to research car makes and models in existence in 1912. I wasn’t able to identify it, but now Ferdinand remarks that he’s off on a car trip with his brother, Karl Müller, and Karl’s wife. I wonder what kind of car they had and how common that was (or wasn’t) at the time. I would assume that a car-owner at the time would be on the wealthier edge of society.

The road trip he shares with his friends back home is to Loreleifelsen. The Lorelei (or Loreley) is a large rock on the bank of the Rhine River near St. Goarshausen. Maybe “large” is an understatement – it soars about 400 feet above the river along what’s known as the Rhine Gorge that runs between the towns of Koblenz and Bingen. The name come from a word in the Rhine dialect that means “murmuring” and a Celtic word for “rock” – the Lorelei is the murmuring rock with the strange sound coming from the currents, a small waterfall, and an echo effect off of the rock!

Of course, given the nature of the rather unusual natural phenomenon, many myths attempt to tell the true story. One story attributes the murmuring sound to dwarves living in caves nearby. An 1801 poem speaks of a woman named Lore Lay who is sentenced to a nunnery for an act of betrayal. On the way to her punishment, she asked to stop at the rock for one last view of the Rhine. But from the top she leapt to her death…and the rock has echoed her name ever since.

In 1824 poet Heinrich Heine built upon that theme with a beautiful female atop the rock bewitching sailors with her singing and causing them to crash. Whether or not a siren-like female was to blame, this part of the gorge is quite dangerous and ships have crashed in the area – most recently a big tanker full of sulphuric acid in 2011.

It may be just a big rock along the river, but it sure is beautiful. And one thing’s for sure – it’s as big a tourist attraction today as it was in 1912 for Ferdinand and his family.

Part 6 of a 22-part series of Postcards from Ferdinand

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In this series, Ferdinand Müller, a German-born naturalized U.S. citizen living in Philadelphia, has returned to Germany in 1912 for a trip. Along the way, he writes to his friends back home, Max and  Laura Thumann (my great-aunt). About two weeks into his trip, Ferdinand is settled in Offenbach and taking day trips from there. Today he’s off to Nürnberg, about 135 miles away so he’s likely stopping there on his way to Munich.

28 August 1912 ~ Nürnberg, Germany

Front: The Bratwurstglöcklein in Nürnberg

Front: The Bratwurstglöcklein in Nürnberg

Back: Ferdinand makes the best of bad weather

Back: Ferdinand makes the best of bad weather

The postcard reads:

 Nürnberg 28.8.12  Es Grüßt Euch Herzlich aus Nürnberg, Euer Freund Ferdinand. morgen den 29ten Reise ich nach München Es war bis jetzt nichts als Regen und Kalt Näheres Mündlich nochmals die beste Gesundheit zu Allen

Translation:

Nürnberg 28.8.12  Sending you greetings from Nuremburg, your friend Ferdinand. Tomorrow, the 29th I travel to Munich. Until now it was only rainy and cold. More orally. Again, best wishes to all.

Ferdinand once again mentions traveling to Munich and he’s more than halfway there from his original location of Offenbach. But the weather! Some things never change – when you’re on vacation and it’s rainy and cold, you just have to complain about the weather. In fact, this is reminiscent of one of my own trips to Germany in 2006 where I had a string of cold and rainy days in late March.

So what’s a traveler to do when it’s cold and rainy? Whether it’s 1912 or 2006, the answer is the same – you find someplace warm inside and have something to eat!  And when one is in Nürnberg, there is only one meal to have – bratwurst! You can find all kinds of wurst all over Germany, but the first documented evidence of the sausage comes from the city of Nürnberg – all the way back to the year 1313! Six hundred years later, the weary traveler Ferdinand stops by the city to enjoy the same treat.

The bratwurst that’s particular to Nürnberg is a small sausage more akin to what Americans would consider to be breakfast sausage. It’s a pork sausage seasoned with marjoram that gives it a distinct taste and is usually accompanied with sauerkraut or potatoes.

Memorial plaque for the chapel and restaurant that was next to it

Memorial plaque for the chapel and restaurant that was next to it

The particular restaurant that Ferdinand stopped in – assuming the postcard photo represents the actual place he went – is called the Bratwurstglöcklein. It was attached to the Moritz chapel (note the stained glass window to the right in the postcard) and was renowned for its freshly made sausages. In 1944, the chapel and restaurant were destroyed in air raids, but there is a restaurant on the spot today bearing the name (not so for the chapel).

I tried my best to identify the automobile in the lower right of the postcard, but I didn’t have any luck. I did not think there were quite so many car manufacturers in the 1911-12 time period! After going through images of various German, French, Italian, and British possibilities, I decided to let someone who is much more informed about antique cars find the image here and leave a comment identifying it.

Sources:

Part 5 of a 22-part series of Postcards from Ferdinand

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In this series, Ferdinand Müller, a German-born naturalized U.S. citizen living in Philadelphia, has returned to Germany in 1912 for a trip. Along the way, he writes to his friends back home, Max and  Laura Thumann (my great-aunt). About two weeks into his trip, Ferdinand is settled in Offenbach and taking day trips from there. Last week’s postcard was dated 21 August 1912, and he said he would “go to Munich next week”…but for now he’s off to Aschaffenburg, which is about 20 miles southeast of Offenbach.

27 August 1912 ~ Offenbach, Germany

Front: The Steigerwald brewery in Aschaffenburg

Front: The Steigerwald brewery in Aschaffenburg

Back: Ferdinand stops in a historic brewery and drinks to his friends in the U.S.

Back: Ferdinand stops in a historic brewery and drinks to his friends in the U.S.

The postcard reads:

Offenbach a/m 12.8.27. Lieber Max und Lary, Wir waren am letzten Sonntag in Aschaffenburg und haben sehr gutes Bier getrunken und habe zwei Liter mehr getrunken auf Euer wohl eine kleine Brauerei. Historisches Gebäude vom 16. Jahrhundert war auf den Bildern. Es Grüßt Euch alle. Ferdinand

Translation:

Offenbach a/m 12.8.27. Dear Max and Lary, We were in Aschaffenburg last Sunday and drank very good beer. Drank two liters more to you (translator note: literally “to your health”). A small brewery, historical building from the 16th century was on the picture. Greetings to you all, Ferdinand

There is some confusion as to the postcard’s date. It looks like Ferdinand wrote 2-8.27 and the stamp is removed that would have revealed the postmark date. However, based on the dates and locations on other cards, it would appear that this is the 27th of August during his 1912 trip. He writes of the visit to Aschaffenburg “last Sunday” – in 1912, August 27 was a Tuesday, so the date of his visit to Aschaffenburg was August 25.

The address on the back of the postcard reads: “Steigerwald’sche Brauerei von Wilhelm Singer, sum Schlappeseppel. Schlossgasse 28, Telefon 525. Spezialität ff. Lagerbiere.”

schlappeseppelWhen on a trip to Germany, who among us does not stop in a historic brewery? I’m amused that Ferdinand drinks two liters extra as a special toast to his friends…was this the 1912 version of a drunk dial/text/email? Because after a few liters who wouldn’t brag about enjoying their vacation? “Hey, guys, guess what I’m doing?…but I drank to your health!”

Ferdinand stops at the historic Steigerwald Brewery in Aschaffenburg known for “Schlappeseppel” and specializing in lager. To be historic in Germany, your history has to go way, way back. In the case of the Steigerwald, the legend of the brewery’s origins goes back to the 17th century. The story goes that when Sweden invaded the city back in 1631, the beer barrels were empty. A soldier named Joseph Lögler knew something about brewing beer, and he had good reason to make himself useful since he injured his leg in battle and was going lame. The nickname for Joseph in German is Sepp and Seppel would mean “little Joseph”. The word schlappe means setback or defeat, so little Joe with the limp became Schlappe-Seppel. But he was apparently really good at brewing beer, and he stayed behind long after the King of Sweden left town.

And so the Schlappeseppel beer was born…and lived on through the centuries. In 1866, Josef Steigerwald took over the brewery. It changed hands again in 1899 to a man named Konrad Vogel. When he died in 1910, his wife Anna continued to run the brewery with her second husband, Wilhelm Singer. From what I could gather on the internet, the brewery today is still operated by the Vogel descendants.

The town of Aschaffenburg was severely damaged by Allied bombing during World War 2. If the brewery was destroyed, however, it was rebuilt and still stands today. If I go visit one day, I hope to drink a liter or two to Ferdinand. Prost!

Photo taken of Schlossgasse 28 in Aschaffenburg on 20 August 2012 by Lutz Hartmann -  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AB_Schlossgasse_28_Brauerei_Schlappeseppel.JPG

Photo taken of Schlossgasse 28 in Aschaffenburg on 20 August 2012 by Lutz Hartmann –
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AB_Schlossgasse_28_Brauerei_Schlappeseppel.JPG

Sources:

Part 4 of a 22-part series of Postcards from Ferdinand

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In this series, Ferdinand Müller, a German-born naturalized U.S. citizen living in Philadelphia, has returned to Germany in 1912 for a trip. So far, he arrived in Hamburg and stopped to see the lovely view nearby in Blankenese. Now he heads to Offenbach, which will be his “home base” for much of his trip.

21 August 1912 ~ Offenbach, Germany

Front: Zeppelin "Schwaben"

Front: Zeppelin “Schwaben”

Back: Ferdinand is having a good time so far.

Back: Ferdinand is having a good time so far.

The postcard reads:

Offenbach 21.8.12. Liebe Freunde ich amusiere mich sehr Gut hier und werde nächste Woche nach München fahren und werde von dort Euch schreiben Ich hoffe es Geht Euch Alle Gut und Grüßt Euch beide recht Herzlich. Ferdinand

Translation:

Offenbach 21.8.12. Dear friends, I am enjoying myself and will go to Munich next week and write to you from there. I hope you are all well. Greetings to you both. Ferdinand

This is a very interesting card! The caption on the front of it reads: Erster offizieller Postflug des Zeppelin-Luftschiffs “Schwaben” unter der “Reichs” Postflagge (Abwerfen der Post mittelst Fallschirm) which means “First official postal flight of the Zeppelin airship ‘Schwaben’ under the ‘Empire’ postal flag (dropping the mail by means of parachute)”.

The zeppelin, or airship, on the postcard, called the Schwaben, was built in 1911 for passenger service and is considered to be the first passenger-carrying airship that was commercially successful. It was 460 feet long, but the cabin only held 20 passengers and a crew of 13. It began passenger flights in July of 1911 and made 218 flights in the next year.

Advertisement in the  Darmstadt Tageblatt on Monday, June 10, 1912

Advertisement in the Darmstadt Tageblatt on Monday, June 10, 1912

But the Schwaben is significant for another reason that’s noted on the card – it was the zeppelin that first carried mail – in other words – the first air mail via zeppelin! Its maiden air mail flight was from June 10-23 in 1912 when the airship went between Darmstadt, Frankfurt, Mainz, Offenbach, and Worms. But the story gets even better – it wasn’t just air mail that the zeppelin carried during that trip – it was postcards.

The Hessen Royal Family created a home for mothers and children, and as a charity fund-raising event Postkartenwoche (Postcard Week) would have mail delivered by air from both the Schwaben and a propeller biplane called the Gelber Hund. The Schwaben carried the bulk of the mail and was piloted by the most famous airship captain at the time, Dr. Hugo Eckener. Funds were raised for the charity from the sale of special airmail postcards and stamps and admission to the parade grounds to watch the mail drops and pickups.

To put this in perspective, the distance between Frankfurt and Darmstadt is about 20 miles. It took the Schwaben about 13 minutes to make the trip.  Theoretically, that’s even quicker than a trip on the autobahn by car today, which according to Google should take about 34 minutes. Considering that the entire concept of flight began less than ten years before, this event in 1912 was huge by today’s standards. Crowds showed up to see the airship make the delivery, and there was a party atmosphere that included food, military bands, and an appearance by the Duke and Duchess. It was reported that 460,700 postcards were transported (between the airplane and zeppelin) and 35,000 marks was raised for the charity.

Shortly after Postcard Week, on June 28, 1912, the Schwaben was destroyed while landing. Strong winds and a buildup of static electricity caused a fire that destroyed the airship; over 30 people were injured in the accident.

Back to Ferdinand… On 21 August 1912, it was just weeks after the Schwaben came to its demise after over a year in the spotlight as a successful airship. While he didn’t have this postcard carried by the airship or mailed during the famous postcard week, I imagine it was one of the very last postcards of the airship still available for sale. Later on Ferdinand’s grand tour, airships will again be the subject of his greetings to friends in Philadelphia.

Sources:

Part 3 of a 22-part series of Postcards from Ferdinand

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In last week’s first installment of this series, Ferdinand Müller, a German-born naturalized U.S. citizen living in Philadelphia, just arrived in Hamburg on 10 August 1912. The postmark is illegible on the next postcard, and he didn’t indicate the date, but the postmark is definitely from August. Based on a map, this location would have been his next stop on the tour based on the date and location of the following postcard.

August 1912 ~ Blankenese, Germany

Front: Postcard from Blankenese

Front: Postcard from Blankenese

Back: a rather short but nice message

Back: a rather short but nice message

The postcard reads:

Blankenese  Freund Max und Laury Es Grüßt Euch Herzlich Euer Freund, Ferdinand

Translation:

Blankness Friend Max and Laury, sending you warmest greetings. Your friend, Ferdinand

Blankenese was a small town located on the banks of the Elbe River; today, it’s a suburb of the city of Hamburg. But one thing hasn’t changed since Ferdinand visited – it’s still a tourist destination and a resort town! The winding stairs, the castle at the top of the hill, and the picturesque views of the river remain the same. Ferdinand may have been just passing through on his way to his destination, but I hope he stopped and stayed a while and enjoyed the view.

This card reminds me of the quick “wish you were here” greetings that I’ve sent on postcards when I was younger and in a hurry. Spoiler alert: his messages to his friends get more interesting as he settles into his trip. I just like the fact that he’s sending his friends “warmest greetings” along the way so they can see what he’s seeing.

I found an image on Wikipedia very similar to the 1912 postcard – 100 years after Ferdinand’s visit, the view is just as beautiful. You can also view some great historical photos at this site.

A 2012 photo of Blankenese's view from the hill by Kroppe - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hamburg-Blankenese(01).JPG

A 2012 photo of Blankenese’s view from the hill by Kroppe – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hamburg-Blankenese(01).JPG

Part 2 of a 22-part series of Postcards from Ferdinand

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In 1912, Ferdinand Müller, a German-born naturalized U.S. citizen living in Philadelphia, took a trip back to Germany. While there, he sent postcards to his friends Max and Laura Thumann. Laura is the sister of my great-grandfather, Joseph Bergmeister, and she saved her friend’s postcards in a scrapbook. They offer a fascinating look at travel just shortly before the Great War. While not directly related to genealogy other than the familial ownership of the collection, as ephemera these cards give us a glimpse into travel, communication, and connection with friends before the days of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Each week I will post a different card from Ferdinand’s “grand tour” of his homeland, and in the final installment I’ll try to provide more information about who Ferdinand was.  I welcome you to follow along with Ferdinand on his journey home…

10 August 1912 ~ Hamburg, Germany

Postcard from the Prinz Adalbert of the Hamburg-America line

Front: Postcard from the Prinz Adalbert of the Hamburg-America line

Back: Ferdinand has arrived in Germany!

Back: Ferdinand has arrived in Germany!

The postcard reads:

Hamburg 10 Ag 12   Leibe Freunde ich bin so weit gut angekommen gute Reise gehabt und bin gesund soweit Es Grüßt Euch Alle  Herzlich  F. Müller

Translation:

Hamburg 10 Ag 12    Dear friends. I have arrived well.          Had a good trip and am healthy so far.                                Sending you warmest greetings. F. Müller

The Hamburg-American line was established in 1847 and was the first German transatlantic steamship line. The SS Prinz Adalbert was launched in 1902. It was one of several ships that spotted the iceberg that sank the Titanic months before Ferdinand’s crossing. Most of us are familiar with the trips from Hamburg to the United States – I can only wonder what the trip from Philadelphia to Hamburg was like. I am sure the ship was a lot less crowded than the western voyages that would bring hundreds of new immigrants to the U.S.

Advertisement for the Hamburg-American line from the Washington DC newspaper, The Evening Star, July 23, 1912

Advertisement for the Hamburg-American line from the Washington DC newspaper, The Evening Star, July 23, 1912

The SS Prinz Adalbert left Philadelphia on Saturday, July 27. If the date on Ferdinand’s postcard is his arrival in Germany, it took two full weeks for the transatlantic passage.

What I love about this first message is the fact that he immediately let them know he arrived safely and he’s healthy. I also like how Ferdinand sends “warmest greetings” – the affection he has for his friends Max and Laura come through with every card he sends. I wonder how long it took them to receive the postcard in the mail? The journey begins…

Part 1 of a 22-part series of Postcards from Ferdinand

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Lux Mundi

The theme for the 7th Festival of Postcards is Light.  The postcard I chose to illustrate this theme is modern, not vintage, but the Light that it portrays is much older!  This postcard was sent to my parents from me in July, 1985 on my now infamous first trip to Rome, Italy.  The image is the inside of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. (click on the image for a close-up view, then hit the “back” button to return here)

This image was taken from the nave near the statue of St. Peter, which is shown in the foreground on the right, and is looking towards the magnificent baldacchino or canopy over the altar.  The reverse of the postcard is as follows:

I wrote: “Dear Mom, Dad, & Drew, We are having a great time – very interesting!  See you soon.  Love, Donna + Louie + Tom.  P.S. I was there” Very interesting? An understatement that only a teenager could make with a straight face.  Though, in retrospect, I probably kept it simple so as not to surprise my mother with the little details that would make her crazy, such as our dump of a hotel or the fact that I was wandering around a large city of foreigners occasionally without adult supervision.

The light shown on the postcard appears to enter the basilica from one of the windows near the dome.  While it may look like an overly dramatic image that was “touched up” to sell postcards, I can assure you that the rays of light entering St. Peter’s is often that dramatic depending on the time of day.  I took this photograph years later from a slightly different position in the basilica and got an equally dramatic effect.  I am standing right by the main altar looking towards the left transept – you can see only the twisted columns of Bernini’s baldacchino but not the canopy itself.

Interior, St. Peter's Basilica, Rome - taken by the author December, 2003.

While the play of light on the interior of the basilica makes for stunning photography (and postcards), I chose this for the “Light” theme for another reason – the presence of Jesus, the Light of the World, that I feel within these walls.  For every time I visit Rome and enter St. Peter’s, I can not help but feel the overwhelming love of God in addition to literally being overwhelmed by the immensity of the building itself.  I am drawn back there time and again.

For more images of the interior of St. Peter’s that also show the incoming rays of light, see the Wikipedia article and Sacred Destinations.

[Submitted for the 7th Festival of Postcards: Light]

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The theme to this month’s Festival of Postcards is “quadrupeds”.  Once again I have managed to find a unique example that meets the theme and also has a connection to my family history.  Here’s a great card that shows a couple of quadrupeds all decked out to celebrate the dog days of summer!

Dogs with ShadesDogs2The text of the postcard reads:

Dear Donna, As you can see from the picture, we’re not the only brother-sister team that can party Hawaiian-style!  Even if the other sisters are cool – they’re not as nice (and kind & intelligent & loving) as you!  Thanks for the CCD material – it really came in handy.  You’re in my thoughts and prayers.  I love you, Drew

As if you could not figure it out, the postcard is from my brother to me.  But the postmark didn’t quite make the card itself, and I couldn’t remember exactly when he sent it to me.  To determine the date of the card, I used the investigative techniques I’ve learned from my genealogical work as well as skills I’ve learned from others about how to date photographs and postcards.  I focused on three distinct areas to estimate the “age” of the card – clues provided by the sender/recipient, the writing or message content, the card itself, and the postage.

First, the sender and recipient – my brother and me.  There were two different times in our lives that my brother sent me letters and postcards because he was living away from home.  The first was a five-year period in the early 1980’s when he was in the United States Marine Corps.  The second was about a five-year period beginning in the late 1980’s when he was serving in a very different type of “corps” – two different seminaries.

Next, I looked at the subject of the text.  At first glance, I assumed the card was sent while he was in the seminary for two reasons – he’s rather, uh, nice and complimentary.  I’m not saying he was rude when he was a Marine, but I remember the seminarian as a kindler, gentler brother!  Also, he mentions me sending CCD material.  CCD stands for “Confraternity of Christian Doctrine” which is a Catholic religious education program for students attending public schools.  On the one hand, I figured my seminarian brother would have more of a need for CCD material than the Marine brother.  But, I was teaching CCD classes during the time my brother was in the Marines.

The next clue came from the postcard itself with a copyright of 1984.  In 1984, my brother was in the USMC and I was teaching CCD classes, so this clearly tipped the scale in favor of that time period.

Finally, the card has a 20-cent stamp.  I looked at The History of Postage Rates in the United States.  This site shows a 20-cent postcard rate beginning in 1995.  By then, my brother was married and not sending me mail, so this was not possible.  I know that when I send a postcard, I sometimes use a “regular” stamp if I don’t have time to go to the post office for a postcard stamp.  Looking at the normal postage rates, the 20-cent stamp was in use from November 1, 1981 to February 17, 1985.

Conclusion: The postcard has a copyright of 1984, the stamp was in issue from then until 1985 (the denomination, anyway – I could have done further research on the design of the stamp itself), I was teaching CCD during that same time period and my brother was in the USMC during that same period, therefore, the postcard was likely sent during 1984.

Even though this was a “recent” postcard and sent directly to me, I gave this example of trying to determine its date not only because I myself didn’t remember, but because it is a good example of how to proceed with following a postcard’s clues to estimate the time period in which it was sent.

More importantly, once again in finding an entry to meet the “challenge” of the Festival, I am reminded of what postcards are all about…keeping in touch with family and friends.  I was in high school when my brother was in the Marines, and it was always a special treat to get a postcard or a letter from him.  I didn’t save all of them, but I did save a few that were special.  I am sure this one made my “save” pile not only because of his loving message, but because of the humor of the card.  In fact, I think he had a Hawaiian shirt just like that one they have on!  I was about to enter my Hawaiian shirt & shades stage (I haven’t left it yet, by the way), so it was particularly fun to receive this one.

[Submitted for the 5th Festival of Postcards: Quadrupeds]

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The theme for this month’s Festival of Postcards is Water.  Here’s a fine example of a watery scene from a 1950s French postcard (click on the image for a close-up view, then hit the “back” button to return here):

A postcard showing a map of the French Riviera and the Mediterranean

A postcard showing a map of the French Riviera and the Mediterranean

Water PC 2

The text reads:  “Dear Mother, I could not get a birthday card for you.  I hope this will due.  Happy Birthday.  Jimmy” The postcard was mailed on 07 April 1958 from Nice, France with a lovely 20 franc stamp depicting the shrine at Lourdes.  The text on the card reads (in French): A bird’s eye view from Cannes to Italy.  The card shows a lovely view of the Côte d’Azur.

Jimmy is my father, who was serving in the Navy on a Mediterranean cruise aboard the USS Cadmus (AR-14) during the spring of 1958.  His mother’s birthday was 11 April – I wonder if she got it in time?  It was her 45th birthday – since I am nearing that age it seems too young to have a married son!  I also couldn’t help but wonder if he also remembered to send my mother some wishes via postcard as well.  The date he mailed my grandmother her birthday greeting was the date of my parents’ second wedding anniversary!

[Submitted for the 4th Festival of Postcards: Water]

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This month’s theme for A Festival of Postcards is “Main Street”.  My entry is connected to my family history in a different way than last month’s entry, which featured a card from a grand-uncle sent to my great-grandparents.

München, Germany – Karlstor-Rondell

München, Germany – Karlstor-Rondell

This postcard is from the mid 1990’s, but it shows a vintage photograph of a main street in Munich, Germany.  Unfortunately, the card does not indicate the date of this old photograph.  Judging by the automobiles in the photo, I’d estimate that it was taken between 1900-1920.  This main street is the square known as the Karlsplatz.  Although that has been the square’s official name since 1797, it is often referred to as Stachus after a pub that was torn down due to the construction of the square.  The gate-like structure in the center-rear of the photo is the Karlstor, the gate that remains of the city’s medieval fortification.  If you walk through that gate, you are on a pedestrian-only street that leads directly to the famous Marienplatz, Munich’s central square.  The twin steeples you see in the rear of the photo belong to the Frauenkirche , the Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady.

A friend seeks out my family history while studying in Bavaria.

A friend seeks out my family history while studying in Bavaria.

The postcard reads as follows:

7/2/96

Donna-

Misson accomplished!  I think I’ll send 2 though.  Guess what!  The Goethe Institut isn’t as backward as I thought!  I have e-mail capabilities, so you’ll prob. have heard from me before you receive this postcard!  Gene Kelly is HUGE here; in every music store!  Take care, Rachel   P.S. Goethe Ins. attracts MANY HOT GUYS.  More later…

Rachel was an e-friend; we bonded over our mutual love for Gene Kelly.  She was attending the Goethe Institute to study German, and I told her about my Bergmeister family.  In her free time,  she took the time to  visit my great-grandparents’ home town of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, about a half hour north of Munich.  She sent me photographs of the town, which I had just “discovered” as their place of origin, two years before I was able to travel there myself.  But her mission in Munich was to visit the Karlsplatz that is pictured in this postcard – it was the one place in Munich that I knew my great-grandfather Joseph Bergmeister had probably visited.  I knew this from his military photograph (featured in this post).  The photographer was F.X. Ostermayr with an address on the Karlsplatz.  I knew it was likely that Joseph spent his two years of military service in Munich itself, and he and his family possibly lived there immediately prior to immigrating to the U.S.  However, I had no proof – except that one day back in 1893 he strolled into a photographer’s studio right on Munich’s main street.  There, with his classmates, he had his official military portrait taken.  It is the only surviving photo of him that I have discovered.

As I searched through my boxes of “memories” for this new monthly postcard festival, I knew that this was a winner for the “Main Street” category.  Not only is it a vintage portrait of a main street – one that looks remarkably the same when I finally saw it, but it is also a street on which my ancestor walked.  Perhaps he also stood before the Karlstor and was amazed at how long it had been there and all of the history it had seen.  I wonder if, while he was in Munich, he sent a postcard to his family in Puch and Pfaffenhofen? (Lieber freund, the Infanterie Leib Regiment isn’t as backward as I thought… I doubt he would write about the MANY HOT MÄDCHEN he found there though!)

But this postcard was also special because it reminded me of what postcards are all about – friends connecting and keeping in touch while sharing their travel experiences.  I had never met Rachel before she took this trip to Germany, but we were friends all the same and she took photos of places that she knew meant something to my history.  I did get to meet her when she returned, and it was nice to thank her in person.  I can’t remember when we lost touch, but it would be nice to find her again and catch up.

As a side note, in trying to date the above photograph I found two old public domain photos  (one is actually a postcard) of the same square.  This view is in nearly the same direction as the above postcard:

Karlsplatz in a 1902 photograph.  Reprinted in Hans Dollinger's Die Münchner Straßennamen, München, Ludwig-Verlag, 2004

Karlsplatz in a 1902 photograph. Reprinted in Hans Dollinger's Die Münchner Straßennamen, München, Ludwig-Verlag, 2004

Perhaps my attempt to date the postcard photograph was incorrect – in 1902 only horse carts are parked on the square!  Here is a view in the opposite direction – what you would see as you walked through the Karlstor into the square:

A late 19th Century postcard showing the Karlsplatz facing west.  Estimated date is 1890-1905.

A late 19th Century postcard showing the Karlsplatz facing west. Estimated date is 1890-1905.

This would have been a postcard for sale at the time my great-grandfather was in Munich!  I did make a visit to Munich myself in 1998 and 2006.  While fashions and transportation have changed since that time, many of the buildings remain (or, as in the case of the Frauenkirche, were re-built exactly as before they were destroyed in World War II).  What does the Karlsplatz look like today?  Take a look at this 360° view!

Postcard logofestivalwishyou


[Written for the 2nd edition of A Festival of Postcards: Main Street]

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There’s a new carnival in town – A Festival of Postcards.  This carnival will be a bit more challenging than the others I participate in, because I do not have a large collection of postcards – and very few related to genealogy!  But half the fun is the challenge itself, and I was delighted to find one for the inaugural edition of the festival.  The theme is Wheels.  Here’s a postcard I must have received with some photographs from my great-aunt:

Wallace's Garage in Salem, IL circa 1932; photo by Benke

Wallace's Garage in Salem, IL circa 1932; photo by Benke

This is a nice “vintage” shot of a gas station (was it called “filling station” back then?) called the Wallace Garage in Salem, IL.  If you click on the photo for a close-up view, you will see that the garage is a Texaco station that does general repairs.  They’re an official AAA station, they use Havoline engine oil, and – best of all – a sign in front advertises “modern sleeping rooms.”  It may look a little different than today’s gas stations, especially the cars to the right in the photo.  But, some things never change – just notice the woman trying to get the hose to reach to the other side of her car while the attendant seems to just be standing there watching her fumble with it.

The photographer is noted as “Benke” – apparently this was a Fred A. Benke.  He was called “Salem’s well-known photographer” by this Salem historical site, but I wish he was just a bit more well-known so I could find out more about him!

The reverse of the postcard:

Stanley dropping a line to his parents

Stanley dropping a line to his parents

It is not postmarked in Salem, Illinois but in Odessa, Texas at 7 PM on August 24, 1932.  It was mailed using a 1 cent stamp to Mr. J. Zawodny, 2512 E. Indiana Ave, Phila. Pa.  (same address as the 1930 census).  The note reads: “Well folks were making good time going to Mexico tomorrow.  Stan.”

The recipients of the postcard are my great-grandparents, Joseph and Laura Zawodny (although it’s addressed to Joseph, the note does say “folks”).  My logical assumption is that the  sender is their son, Stanley, who would have been 23 years old at the time.  My first thought was that perhaps this was a road-trip honeymoon; however, Stanley did not get married until 1934 (to Elizabeth Tiernan of Philadelphia, PA, the sister of his brother-in-law John).  I have no idea why Stan was traveling to Mexico in 1923, but hopefully he had a good time!  At least he was a thoughtful son to drop a line to his parents on the journey.

[Written for A Festival of Postcards: Wheels]

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