again, I’ve delved into my collection of early postcards. On this occasion my focus is on Leisure Time
and Travel in the early 1900s. Of course
back in those days, it’s hard to completely separate travel from commerce in
My apologies for the disparity in print, spacing and background in parts of this post...but I'm not mentally disposed to go back and rework the entire post.
postcard shows the old Union Depot in Kansas City Missouri. It was built in 1878 but this postcard was
mailed from Kansas City to Mrs. J.A. Johnson in Hot Springs Virginia in 1909.
Union depot was located in the bottomlands near the Missouri River close to the
stockyards and meatpackers...primary shippers for the railroads. From a passenger’s viewpoint, the location
was less than ideal. From some angles,
passengers actually had to avoid trains on the tracks. Most passengers from the city accessed the
depot via a ‘thrilling and noisy cable car ride down a steep incline.
to Kansas City left the safety and comfort of their rail cars and they were
‘greeted’ by about 4 blocks of saloons, gambling centers, billiard halls,
tattoo parlors and brothels that surrounded the depot. Smoke from the coal-fired trains coated
near-by buildings with black soot. Then
there was the flooding! In 1903 a major
flood convinced the city leaders to build a new and larger depot that would
avoid the water issues and better serve passengers. However, the replacement depot wasn’t
finished until 1914.
depot was nicknamed the “Jackson County Insane Asylum” by those who thought it
was too large and garish. With its 125
foot clock tower and being a hybridization of Second Empire style and Gothic
Revival, it certainly was an attention getter… FYI, it was only the second
Union station (a station used by 2 or more rail lines) in the USA.
depot was initially thought to be too large, it was overwhelmed in 2 years and by
the start of the 1900s, over 180 trains per day passed through the
station! The population of Kansas City
Missouri had tripled from the time that this depot opened in 1878 through 1905
or so. On 10/31/1914, the last train departed
from the depot. It was torn down in
postcard from 1908 shows the city of St. Ignace Michigan on the shore of Lake
Huron. It’s located close to the tip of
the State’s Upper Peninsula across the Straits of Mackinac. For years this town has been a gateway to the
Upper Peninsula as well as to Mackinac Island, a very popular tourist
destination. As of the November 1957,
Michigan’s lower and upper- peninsula have been connected by the Mackinac
Bridge. However, in the early days all
traffic went via water, with the vessels departing on the 5 mile journey from
St. Ignace. You can see the piers and a
couple of ships in the picture.
the Detroit, Mackinac and Marquette Railroad came to St. Ignace. This rail ferry terminal was the where the connection was across the Mackinac Straits to Michigan's upper-peninsula. Farmers and the lumber industry could now easily move their product to Detroit, a truly major market. At the same time tourists ‘discovered’ the charms of Mackinaw Island and began exploring the wilds of Northern Michigan.
railroad car ferry became the actual link across the straits for both commerce and
travelers. In addition to freight cars,
passenger cars would just be loaded/rolled onto the “SS Chief Wawatam”. The ferry was owned by the Duluth South Shore
and Atlantic, the Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads. The Chief
Wawatam was the last hand fired, coal fueled commercial carrier on the
Great Lakes. She was in service from
1911 until 1984. She was designed to
operate year around. This car ferry was
designed to break ice flows with her bow propeller, which could both maneuver
the ship and suck water out from underneath the ice to enable it to be broken
by the force of gravity.
the early days were less than ideal or even passable. Auto ferry services across the Straits of
Mackinac didn’t begin until 1923, a year after this second St. Ignace postcard was mailed. By 1952, the Michigan Department of Transportation
was operating 5 ships on this route, with a total capacity of 500 vehicles per
trip. By 1952 the ‘new’ auto ferry route
had carried 12 million vehicles and 30 million passengers. I crossed the straits on one of these auto
ferries in both directions in 1952.
time doesn’t necessarily mean extensive travel.
This postcard showing someone feeding a swan in Chicago’s Garfield Park
was mailed in September of 1908. This
park includes 184 acres in the East Garfield Park neighborhood on Chicago’s
West Side. It was designed as a
‘pleasure ground’ by William LeBaron Jenney and its home to the Garfield Park
Conservatory, one of the largest conservatories in the USA.
portion of the park was originally named Central Park and it was opened to the
public in August of 1874. Jenney, who is
now best known as the father of skyscrapers, based his design of the park on
parks he’d seen and visited in Paris. In
1881, the park was renamed in honor of slain President James A. Garfield.
the park was designed to serve as a ‘pleasure ground’ for Chicagoans. The idea was that it should be used for
passive recreation such as strolling and picnicking. The large lagoon was added as a means to
drain the park site while creating desired and attractive water features. It was used for boating in the summer and ice
skating in the winter.
has a number of large and distinctive parks.
This postcard, which was mailed in 1915, pictures Washington Park. It was built in 1870 and it covers 372 acres
in the Washington Park community on the South Side of Chicago. Named for George Washington, it was conceived
by Paul Cornell, a Chicago real estate magnate who founded the adjoining town
of Hyde Park. Cornell hired famed
landscape designer Frederick Law Olmstead and his partner to lay out the park.
Olmsted examined the property designated for the park, he saw a field filled
with trees and decided to maintain its character by creating a meadow surrounded
by trees. In keeping with the bucolic picture
on the front of this card, he called for sheep to graze on the meadow as a way
to keep the grass short. Through the
trees you can just make out on of the lagoons that were included in the design. As per the back of this postcard, the park
“contains 7 miles of charming driveways, walks and bridle paths.
Another leisure time activity back in
the early 1900s and continuing today are visits to museums. The Art Institute of Chicago was founded in
1879 in Grant Park. It is one of the
oldest and largest art museums in the USA.
The building on this 1906 postcard was built in 1893 as part of the
World’s Columbian Exposition. While most
of the buildings constructed for the Exposition were temporary, the Art
Institute lobbied for a building that would serve as part of the fair, but
would be used by the Institute after the Exposition ended.
This building, now greatly enlarged,
was completed in time for the second year of the Exposition. The entrance to the Art Institute is still
guarded by 2 bronze lions who were created by Edward Kemey’s in 1894. They each weigh more than 2 tons!
Chicago’s Art Institute is huge, now
reputedly the second largest art museum in the USA. Its annual number of visitors now totals around 2 million. Wear good walking
shoes and plan for a break or two because it will wear you out! Laurie and I are fortunate in that we visited
the Art Institute many times, sometimes with a private group. The Institute’s Security Director sponsored a
few visits and dinners for his peers in the Chicago area.
P.S. I don’t know when someone invented that
annoying sparkly glitter…but this postcard is still shedding it!
still touring Chicago in the early 1900s.
What can I say, this is the postcard album that I picked for this post
and it’s still all about leisure time!
postcard that was mailed to Menomonee Falls Wisconsin in 1911 shows the
“Baseball Grounds”. A bit of research
confirmed that this postcard shows West Side Park, the name of 2 different
baseball parks that used to be in Chicago.
Both of them were home fields for the team we all know (and love) as the
Chicago Cubs. In this photo, the playing
field is covered with fans… Given the date of the postcard, plus the visible
stands and buildings, I believe that this is the second West Side Park.
played on this field for almost a quarter-century but both West Side Parks
hosted baseball championships. This
field was the home of the first 2 World Champion Cubs teams in 1907 and
1908. In 1906, it was also the home of
the only cross-town World Series in Major League Baseball history.
original layout of the park could seat roughly 12,500 fans. However, as was common at the time, fans were
often permitted to stand along the outer perimeter of the playing field itself. Early in the 1900s a small covered grandstand
was added behind home plate. Uncovered
bleachers extended along both foul lines and into left field. From 1906 through 1910, the Cubs won 4
National League pennants and 2 World Series championships…and then we waited
another 108 years for another championship!
Cubs moved to Weeghman Park in 1916, (now Wrigley Field), West Side Park
continued to host semipro and amateur baseball events for a number of
years. It even served as a setting for
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. This
ballpark was torn down in 1920 and the property was sold to the University of
Illinois. It’s now occupied by the
University of Illinois Medical Center.
Before the USA had
automobiles and/or passable highways, the best way to travel the long distances
between and around the Great Lakes was by ship.
From the mid-1800s until into the 1950s, a person could travel most of
the lakes in comfort and even luxury. A
Chicago or Detroit businessman could board a ship in his hometown and take an
overnight trip to spend the weekend in a cool northern cabin in northern
Michigan or Wisconsin. Then he could
take another ship back to work after relaxing a bit…
The SS Theodore Roosevelt was one such
passenger steamer. This postcard, mailed
in May of 1918, shows the ship passing through the State Street Bridge in
Chicago. The card, written by ‘Pearl and
Fred’ stated that they arrived alright, that they were “going to a show tonight
and a ball game tomorrow”.
This ship was built
in Toledo Ohio in 1906 and, with one exception, operated on Lake Michigan for
most of its useful life. It was taken
over by the U.S. Navy in April of 1918 for service as a troop transport in
WWI. As such, she transported troops
back and forth across the English Channel between the United Kingdom and
France. She served in this role for
about a year and then was sold to the Cleveland Steamship Company.
Based on the date of
the postcard and her draft into government service, the card is somewhat older
than the mailing date would imply.
In late 1919 or
early 1920, the SS Theodore Roosevelt resumed her commercial career as a
passenger ship, operating on Lake Erie this time. In 1926, ownership changed again and she
moved back to Lake Michigan. The final
portion of her career was based in Detroit Michigan. She was sold for scrap in 1950.
Its amazing to consider that prior to WWII,
roughly fifty (50) cruise steamers sailed on the Great Lakes. Most of these ships were large and luxurious,
some having elegant staterooms with private baths…plus another 70 to 100
off to Detroit, where, on May 1, 1905 at the annual meeting of the shareholders
of the Detroit, Windsor and Belle Isle Ferry Company, it was recommended by the
company president that a “new boat should be built”…”the new steamer to be a general
purpose boat suitable for Bois Blanc, Belle Isle, excursions and to be a very
powerful ice crusher and could be used on the Windsor ferry in case of very
ship was 164 feet long and 45 feet wide.
As a result of a public competition, which awarded $10 in gold and a
season’s pass, the steamer was named “Britannia”.
This vessel entered service on July 4,
1906, with a trip to Bois Blanc Island, aka ‘Boblo’. This card was mailed in August of 1909 to Mr.
Carl Hanson in Fort Dodge Iowa from initials “S.W.” He reported that he and his group were having
a fine time and they were about to board the Britannia for ‘Boblo’.
Blanc means ‘white woods’ in French. The
island was so named because of all its birch and beech trees. Boblo is an English corruption of the French pronunciation
of Bois Blanc. In any case, the Britannia and several other vessels were
in the business of transporting folks to the Boblo Island Amusement Park as
well as another more staid park at Belle Isle on the US side. The Boblo amusement park began operation in
1898 and remained in business until the fall of 1993.
though there was a bridge to Belle Isle, most people didn’t have an automobile
in the early days so a boat ride up the Detroit River was a fine solution. As roads improved and the bridge to Belle
Isle was more accessible to the public and the size of the crowds headed to
Boblo increased, larger boats were needed.
Britannia’s design as an
all-purpose boat was a failure…too small for the Boblo crowd and too big for
the dwindling ferry business to Belle Isle.
Britannia was greatly altered and for a short time,
1924 to 1928, she was used for cross-river ferry service to Canada. When she was replaced by a much larger vessel
in 1928, she became a ‘spare boat’. Then
the Ambassador Bridge opened across the Detroit River in 1929, followed soon
after by the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel in 1930.
So much for cross river ferry service…
Britannia was idle for several years. Then she was converted to a tug. Part of her superstructure, including the
main cabin was taken ashore and used as part of a house in Wyandotte
Michigan. The severely modified vessel
was used to tow log rafts on Lake Superior and then she was sold again in
1952. Nothing is known about Britannia after that until she was
scrapped at Duluth Minnesota in 1961. A
sad fate for a pleasure boat indeed…
I thought that I’d end this
post with a bucolic country scene. This
postcard depicting leisure time along Michigan’s Paw Paw River, was sent in
July of 1906. The sender in Waterville
Michigan was “Rob” and Miss Inez Dobbins in Elgin Illinois was the recipient. Rob assured her that he “was having a fine
time”. Keep in mind, back around the
turn of the twentieth century, a postcard was the way to send a short text or ‘email’.
The Paw Paw River is located
in the southeast corner of Michigan’s Southern Peninsula close to the south end
of Lake Michigan. It only flows about 62
miles before it joins the St. Joseph River just before that River flows into
Lake Michigan at Benton Harbor. Native
Americans named the river after the pawpaw fruit that grew abundantly along the
with a little information on the pawpaw.
It’s an understory tree found in well-drained, deep, fertile bottom-land
and hilly upland habitat. Pawpaw fruits
are the largest edible fruit that is indigenous to the United States. The fruit is sweet and custard-like, similar
to banana, mango and pineapple. They are
commonly eaten raw but are also used to make ice cream and baked desserts.
click on any of the postcards to enlarge them…
for stopping by for a visit!
Big Daddy Dave