What Two Real Photo Postcards Reveal About Early Twentieth Century Wheeling
Why are there so many real photo postcards (RPPC’s) postmarked 1906 or 1907?
The credit is due to George Eastman of Kodak fame, who acquired the rights to produce photo paper with a pre-printed postcard back and in 1903 developed an inexpensive folding camera that produced postcard sized negatives. A few years later, in 1907, he introduced the “real photo postcard” service allowing amateur photographers to turn any photograph into a postcard, inexpensively. The RPPC’s popularity exploded and people everywhere used them to chronicle events and small town scenes that might otherwise have been lost to history, having been largely ignored by professional photographers. RPPC’s depicting various Wheeling subjects frequently appear on eBay and other online auction sites.
Two examples — one from 1906 and one from 1908 — provide some interesting information about “German Wheeling.”
Prior to the First World War, Wheeling was a very German town, home to German language newspapers and a number of German singing societies, as well as German banks, insurance companies, breweries and other businesses.
For more on German Wheeling click HERE.
Saengerfest Aug. 1906
The first “German Wheeling” RPPC, created at Nicoll’s Art Store, shows Arion Hall at 20th and Main Streets decorated for the 1906 Saengerfest, a large music festival featuring numerous regional German singing societies. Wheeling hosted three such festivals in 1860, 1885 and 1906. In addition to choral concerts at the Court Theatre and other venues, the 1906 festival featured an elaborate parade and a picnic at Mozart Park, which was, at the time, essentially a beer garden for businessman Henry Schmulbach and his Mozart Singing Society. The image shows Arion Hall, headquarters of the Arion Singing Society, draped in patriotic bunting and German flag pennants in a manner consistent with other buildings along the parade route. The intact steeple of 2nd Presbyterian Church can be seen in the background.
German Day, 1908
The second “German Wheeling” RPPC was recently acquired by the Ohio County Public Library Archives, and depicts a group of men, many wearing striped aprons, posing in front of an industrial looking building. (By the way, any assistance in identifying the location of this image would be most welcome and appreciated. If you have suggestions, please add your comment below.)
Three of the men in the image are holding a sign printed in German. According to Dr. Adam Oberlin, German Teacher in the World Language Department at the Linsly School, the translation reads:
THURSDAY, 27 AUGUST
GREAT KING’S BALL IN THE EVENINGS
“The ‘bird-shooting,'” Dr. Oberlin explained, “is an old game that involves shooting a wooden bird high up on a pole from a certain distance with either a bow or a rifle, not actually hunting birds.”
Indeed, the Wheeling Intelligencer from August 26-28, 1908 included reports about a German Day at Mozart Park presented “under the auspices of the German Central Union” and featuring “amusements and novel sports,” including bowling and an “Eagle Shoot.” The newspaper estimated that about two thousand people attended the event, with the City and Elm Grove Railway providing transportation to Mozart Park. The event also featured a concert and a singing contest among members of the Mozart, Arion, and Beethoven singing societies. “The dancing pavilion,” the Intelligencer noted, “was crowded with trippers of the fantastic toe.” Paul Rigot of Benwood won the Eagle Shoot while Gus Hilderbrand won the bowling tournament, and was awarded a punch bowl for his efforts.
For all practical purposes, “German Wheeling” was essentially rendered extinct by the anti-German backlash of the First World war. Reminders can still be found both in architectural features still visible around town and in real photo postcards.
UPDATE: The response to this post led to two interesting developments that help illustrate why we launched Archiving Wheeling in the first place. Find out how these two postcards helped solve two Wheeling History Mysteries.
Like what you’ve read here? ▼ Please share! We’ve made it easy with these buttons below. ▼