The first true postcards had no space for messages. The photograph took up the entire front of the card, while the back of the card was blank. The address was meant to stand alone there, as it would on the front of an envelope, so that the postman wouldn’t get confused and mis-deliver it. Collectors refer to these as “undivided back” cards.
Undivided back of the Mound Cemetery card
The postmark is hard to read, but the US government allowed printers to begin using the words “Post Card” on the back of cards after December 1901. Cards with divided backs — with space for a message on the left-hand side of the card — came into use in Europe almost immediately, but didn’t start to be used in America until after 1907.
I like that the address on this card is so simple: “Mrs. Sadie Hubberd, Robinson, Ill.” No need for a street number. Zip codes didn’t become necessary until 1944, and then only in large cities.
These undivided back cards were intended to be mailed, then tucked into an album and treasured. Even so, senders managed to squeeze a message in where they could. This one reads, “Still living will write in a day or two,” but there is no signature. I hope Sadie understood who was writing her.
The photo on the front of this card shows the Conus mound in Mound Cemetery, Marietta, Ohio. Atop it stands a woman in a long dress and a proper hat. She’s hard to make out in the photo, but she gives a good indication of the size of the mound.
As the first settlement in the Northwest Territory, Marietta has one of the oldest pioneer graveyards west of the Appalachian Mountains. General Rufus Putnam, founder of the settlement, donated land surrounding this large Native American mound to be a graveyard in January 1801. Revolutionary War veteran Robert Taylor was buried there in October. In fact, the cemetery claims to have the highest concentration of Revolutionary War veterans in the country.
The 30-foot-tall Conus mound was built by the Hopewell people between 800 B.C. and 700 A.D. Inside it lie their chiefs, who were laid to rest, then covered over with a layer of dirt carried from a nearby pit one basketful at a time. Each layer of chiefs were laid above their ancestors until the mound reached its current height.
The mound can still be climbed using the staircase you see in the picture.
The earliest postcards weren’t actually postcards at all. They were trade cards, designed to be collected as souvenirs for the pictures on their faces. Their reverses were filled with advertising text. Cleverly designed, they were advertisements that people chose to keep around.
This card on the left is an advertisement for Eldorado Engine Oil, “the best oil made.” On its face is a reproduction of an etching of the monument to James A. Garfield, America’s assassinated president, who was laid to rest in Cleveland, Ohio’s Lake View Cemetery.
The Garfield Monument, November 2011
The etching puzzles me. The monument resembles the Garfield Monument, in that it has a similar square Romanesque base and a conical tower. However, the tower as built wasn’t nearly as tall. I don’t know if this artwork was based upon the original architect’s plan (which wasn’t entirely executed for some reason) or if this is an artist’s rendering from imagination, description, or another source. It’s clearly not from life. Even the stairways and terrace are different — though eerily similar.
A little poking around reveals that the tomb wasn’t completed until 1890. My tentative dating on the card is 1884, based on the text on the card’s back, which reads in part:
Clark, Clark Co., Dakota
July 1, 1884
Gentlemen: — We have fully tested Eldorado Engine Oil during the past year on all kinds of Farm Machinery and on our Threshing Machines….
Very respectfully yours,
So the card can’t be earlier than 1881, when Garfield died, and is probably no later than 1890, when the President was entombed. 1884 seems as likely a date for it as any.
This card was never intended to be sent through the mail, though. (In fact, the penny postcard stamp was not put into use until 1898). This card is printed on very thin card stock or very sturdy paper. It survives because it was pasted into an album. The advertising side of the card is still slightly rough with remnants of the adhesive.
It’s the oldest card in my collection. So far, anyway.
Morton’s book does a great job of introducing an unfamiliar visitor to the cemetery. She introduces the important permanent residents with an appropriate amount of information, then focuses on the lovely and unusual statuary in the cemetery’s permanent collection. She includes Cleveland-area history, illustrated with just the right number of vintage photographs. She discusses the varieties of nationalities-of-birth represented in Lake View.
My chief issue with this cemetery guide is the cover photo, which — while hinting at the diversity of monuments within Lake View Cemetery — gives no indication how beautiful the place is. Even in mid-November, with most of the leaves already drifted to the grass, Lake View is a gem of garden cemetery design.
I found this book in the shop at the Cleveland Clinic, which turns out to be just down the road from Lake View Cemetery. Morton’s guidebook encouraged me to visit Lake View for myself. I am so glad I did. The restful beauty was exactly the respite I needed from my hospital vigil.
Lake View Cemetery
12316 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44106-2415
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Established: 1869 Size: 285 acres Number of interments: Over 105,000 Open: Daily from 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. The Garfield Monument and Wade Chapel are open daily between April 1 and mid-November from 9 a.m. until 4.
Cleveland, Ohio’s Lake View Cemetery is a large, lovely rural garden cemetery that climbs a ridge east of town and provides spectacular views of Lake Erie and the metropolis stretching westward below. The cemetery also performs as an arboretum, in which many of the trees labeled.
Beneath the stately old trees, much of the cemetery is full of heavy granite markers, but among them stand some marvelous works of art, including the warrior archangel Michael, guarding the grave of John M. Hay, Secretary of State under President William McKinley. Two grieving women, reminiscent of the Duke of Burgundy’s Mourners, attend the sarcophagus of the E. M. Peck family. More modern figures climb the heavy granite monument to the Evans family, re-purposed from the family’s swimming pool.
Lake View Mourner
Just inside the Euclid Gate stands the poignant monument to the 175 victims of the Collinwood School fire, in which an angel protects children with her arms. The unexplained fire struck the relatively new building in March 1908. Teachers managed to save half their charges, but some children panicked and fell, blocking the stairwell so that others couldn’t escape. The tragedy brought national attention to the issue of school safety for the first time.
Another of Lake View’s treasures is the Wade Chapel. The classical building is named for Jeptha H. Wade, who served as one of the cemetery’s first presidents. His namesake grandson hired Louis Comfort Tiffany and gave him carte blanche to design the chapel, which is unusual amongst cemetery buildings because it does not contain any permanent remains. Tiffany designed the breathtaking Resurrection window, which functions as the room’s focal point, in addition to the Biblical murals lining the walls. Because Tiffany refused to have soot besmirch his artwork, his friend Thomas Edison wired the chapel for electric lights, making it the first building with electricity in Cleveland.
The showpiece of Lake View Cemetery is the monument to assassinated President James A. Garfield. Garfield was born in a log cabin in Cuyahoga County. Although his father died when he was 2, he was elected to the Ohio Senate, a post he left to serve as a Major General in the Civil War. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, then the U.S. Senate, but received the Republican nomination for President before he took office. He served four months of his presidential term before a deranged fan shot him in the back. One of the bullets lodged in his spine. Garfield lingered for 80 days, before infection from his inept doctors’ unsterilized fingers finished him off.
Nine years after his death, the President was laid to rest inside this monument, which has been called the first true mausoleum in America, since it serves both as his tomb and a tribute to his memory. The structure combines Romanesque, Gothic, and Byzantine architecture in a tower, domed interior, and crypt. A statue of Garfield captures him as if he’s just stepped out of his chair, a roll of parchment clutched in his hand. Around the room, stained glass windows embody the 13 original colonies as secular maidens. A maiden representing Ohio joins them as a gilded mosaic.
Garfield’s coffin lies in the crypt, alongside his wife Lucretia. Their daughter Molly, who was 14 at the time of the assassination, and her husband Joseph Stanley-Brown, who served as Garfield’s private secretary, are inurned nearby.
November 18th is Garfield’s birthday; this past Saturday celebrated his 180th birthday. Wreaths were laid, flags presented, and both boy scouts and girl scouts toured the monument. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and was able to enjoy the celebration and explore the tomb before it closed for the winter.
Lake View Cemetery presents a full schedule of events, including moonlight nature walks, architectural walking tours, and much, much more. The calendar is online here. Check back for 2012 events.
Upcoming on December 3, 2011 is a tree-trimming at the grave of Rev. H. C. Schwann, who is credited with bringing the first candle-lit Christmas tree into a church in 1851. The tree-trimming will be followed in the afternoon by a program of holiday music and lights outside the Wade Chapel.
Click here to sign up for my monthly mailing list, which will keep you up to date on my speaking schedule and upcoming projects. As a thank you, you'll receive "4Elements," a short ebook that showcases one of my favorite cemetery essays, a travel essay, and two short stories, spanning from urban fantasy to science fiction.