At Pippin Home in Chelsea just off 17th Street, I came across a great assortment of vintage postcards neatly filed in drawers in the back of the store. The pastel colors and elegant handwriting on the postcard of the South Haven, Michigan lighthouse caught my attention. It is dated October 2, 1906 and is stamped in the lower right corner as hand colored.
Nothing dramatic is happening in this communication. The sender, Ellen, is confirming receiving a letter from her friend, Edna (last name I cannot decipher) from rural North Manchester, Indiana, and promises to write soon. The card was postmarked in South Haven at 4:30 p.m. on October 2, 1906 and arrived in North Manchester, Indiana (129 miles to the south) at 11:30 a.m. on October 3, 1906. Postage was one cent.
Finding an old postcard with text is like finding a message in a bottle washed up on the beach. This postcard was printed by The Rotograph Company here in New York; and its return to the city of origin seems appropriate.
As I was looking through the drawers, I thought of Ray Johnson, who used correspondence with his friends as one medium of his art, while at the same time questioning the preciousness of the art object itself. It was his work that served as the point of departure for my own Historical Amnesia line of postcards.
Using Google Earth, I did a fly over of South Haven along Lake Michigan and found that the lighthouse structure is still intact and appears almost exactly as it did in the 1906 image. I pulled a recent photo of the lighthouse that had been marked at the site.