The year 1905 was a good one for getting into the postcard business, for the penny greetings had by then become a mania that was racing across the continent like some exotic strain of flu. "There is now no hamlet so remote," wrote one wit of the raging craze, that it "has not succombed to the ravages of the microbe postale universelle."
Incubated in Germany some 20 years earlier, the postcard germ, as social commentators dubbed the fad, first appeared in America at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. By the turn of the century the microbe had become a ubiquitous infection, "postcarditis" was a favorite diagnosis, and few American housholds were immune. Every town, city, and state saw to it that its leafy green Main Street or highest peak made it onto a promotional card; every family counting itself among the middle or upper classes displayed on the parlor table an album bulging with images of the Sphinx, the Eiffel Tower, and Niagra Falls. According to the Post Card Dealer, one of several journals that popped up to report on the craze, one young suitor even proposed marriage by penny postcard. Postcard "showers" enjoyed a fad with friends who deluged an honoree with as many as 200 cards.
But amid all the good fun there were also excesses, including a case of smuggling in which cards embossed with morphine and cocaine were mailed to a New York prison. And in 1912, local postmasters were permitted to confiscate some of the more risque cards, such as those showing "feminine ankles, lovers in romantic attitudes, and pictures of animals 'portrayed without fasionable attire.'"
- Discovering America's Past ©
This house on the road to Suffern needs a dozen panes of glass,
And somebody ought to weed the walk and take a scythe to the grass.
It needs new paint and shingles, and the vines should be trimmed and tied;
But what it needs the most of all is some people living inside.
If I had a lot of money and all my debts were paid
I'd put a gang of men to work with brush and saw and spade.
I'd buy that place and fix it up the way it used to be
And I'd find some people who wanted a home and give it to them free.
Now, a new house standing empty, with staring window and door,
Looks idle, perhaps, and foolish, like a hat on its block in the store.
But there's nothing mournful about it; it cannot be sad and lone
For the lack of something within it that it has never known.
But a house that has done what a house should do,
A house that has sheltered life,
That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife,
A house that has echoed a baby's laugh and held up his stumbling feet,
Is the saddest sight, when it's left alone, that ever your eyes could meet.
So whenever I go to Suffern along the Erie track
I never go by the empty house without stopping and looking back,
Yet it hurts me to look at the crumbling roof and the shutters fallen apart,
For I can't help thinking the poor old house is a house with a broken heart.
Poem by Joyce Kilmer