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April 2003:  Wooden Postcard

There used to be an adage, "Don't take any wooden nickels."  Well, here's a wooden penny postcard.  It was mailed as an Easter greeting in the spring of 1908, according to the date that was written on it later as it passed down through my father's family in Kentucky.

The lettering appears to have been carved using a woodburning technique.  As a boy in the 1950s, I had a woodburning set that scorched designs in soft wood, using what was essentially an electric soldering iron.  My guess that whoever made this card in 1908 heated an awl in a candle flame and used that tool to scrape out the letters, leaving charred grooves with blackened edges.


On close examination, the periods after the initials seem odd at first.  These dots are conical pits, 2 millimeters in diameter, that don't go straight into the wood but rather are slanted toward the top of the card.  However, the wood is only 5 millimeters thick.  Suppose that the artist had pressed the hot awl straight in.  Before the pit was wide enough, the awl would have punched right through to the other side.  Instead, the awl was held at a sharp angle to the wood (and wiggled back and forth) to make a sufficiently large dot.

The card meets postal regulations.  It measures 3½ by 5½ inches, has a thickness of about 3/16 of an inch, and weighs about two-thirds of an ounce.  (That works out to 20 pounds per cubic foot, twice the density of balsa but about right for pine, which to my inexpert eye this piece of wood appears to be.)

I don't know who sent it.  The postmark reads "Mount Vernon"; the town of that name in Kentucky is about 50 miles south of Lexington.  Nearly 200 miles to the west, on the Tennessee border, lies the destination of Guthrie, Kentucky.  "R.R. 4" stands for Rural Route 4, which would have been a delivery circuit through the nearby countryside.

I also don't know who received it.  "Mrs. T.H. Thomas" doesn't appear in the part of the family tree that I know about.  H.F. Thomas (my grandfather) had gotten married the previous summer.  People outside the family called him "Tommy."  If that accounts for the scrambled initials, the card could have been intended for his bride Lydia (my grandmother).  At one time — I thought it was a few years later — the family worked a farm near Olmstead, a few miles northeast of Guthrie.

The "message" side of the card has beveled edges and bears an Easter greeting.  The whole scene might have been colored; there's still some pink on the giant Easter egg and a slight tint on the bunnies.

I join with my unknown relative's unknown correspondent in wishing "A Happy Easter to You"!



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