Astrolabe

I’ll Send You a Postcard

This “deltiologist” discusses the TCI’s earliest known picture postcards.

By Jeffrey C. Dodge

Editor’s Note: In this day of instantaneous digital communication where every cell phone is also a camera and a photo taken by a tourist on Grand Turk can be viewed by someone in China only seconds later, the traditional utility of the humble postcard may be diminishing. At the same time, the collectability of old picture postcards (“PPCs”) is burgeoning and the activity of collecting and studying them has its own name, “Deltiology.” Postcards differ from other collectibles such as stamps and baseball cards in that they often contain important, even unique, historical information.

In the following article, deltiologist Jeffrey C. Dodge shares his knowledge of not only some of the earliest images of Grand Turk, but also how and by whom they were manufactured, who sent them, and who received them 111 years ago!

This picture postcard from Grand Turk circa 1904 depicts men loading lighters on the beach.

This picture postcard from Grand Turk circa 1904 depicts men loading lighters on the beach.

The earliest known picture postcards of the Turks & Caicos Islands were published in 1904 by John Walker & Co. Ltd., London. These postcards, of which only five are known, were professionally printed with titles on the bottom front in red letters. The scenes on the five known postcards include a view of Duke Street, two different views of Front Street, men loading lighters at the beach and men raking salt. The John Walker anchor logo in red ink appeared on the backs of these postcards which were undivided, as only the address was to be written there. Who actually printed them for the John Walker Co. Ltd. is unknown.

In 1905, an as-yet-unidentified photographer on Grand Turk produced what are known as real photo postcards (“RPPCs”) from at least four different photographs. A real photo postcard is produced by printing directly from a photographic negative onto heavy photographic paper the size of a postcard that usually has a pre-printed postcard back. This was an inexpensive way for a photographer—professional or amateur—to produce postcards without having to order hundreds at a time from a printing company. In other words, real photo postcards could be produced on an as-needed basis at home or in the photographer’s darkroom.

The first documented real photo postcard printed on commercially available photographic paper with a postcard back was mailed in 1899. It was probably printed on Kodak’s Velox paper. George Eastman’s Kodak Co. bought the Velox process from the Nepera Chemical Co. in 1899 and began producing photo paper with a postcard back that same year. In 1903, Kodak released the Nr. 3A Folding Pocket camera designed to use film that produced a negative the size of a postcard so that it could be contact printed onto Velox postcard paper.

This 1905 "Real Picture Postcard" shows the American Consulate on Grand Turk, later converted into the famous Turks Head Inn.

This 1905 “Real Picture Postcard” shows the American Consulate on Grand Turk, later converted into the famous Turks Head Inn.

These five postcards of Grand Turk, produced in 1905, are the earliest real photo postcards of the Turks Islands known to date. These were printed on photographic paper manufactured by the Anthony and Scovill Company (Ansco) that was specifically designed to produce postcards. These photographic papers had Ansco’s CYKO logo in the stamp box pre-printed on the back side.

Because the back of early postcards was to be used just for the address, any message had to be written on the front. This is why many early postcards had space to the left or right of the image for a short note. The U.S.A. didn’t permit messages on the back of postcards until 1907—England began to allow them in 1902. All five known 1905 RPPCs of Grand Turk scenes were mailed and all had messages written on the front.

Two of these real photo postcards were mailed to the same person in Arkansas from the same person on Grand Turk. They are especially interesting because the sender made a notation on both of them. He marked a window on the image of the American consulate building and a view from across the salt ponds of the back of the consulate, or the building next to it, with an “X”. He states on these postcards that the “X” indicates where he worked and lived.

This 1905 postcard shows scenes of men gathering salt from the ponds in Grand Turk.

This 1905 postcard shows scenes of men gathering salt from the ponds in Grand Turk.

These two RPPCs were posted by Mr. Walter Stanley Jones who was the U.S. Vice Consul between 1895 and 1909 and Deputy Consul between 1909 and 1914. This attribution is based on a 1904 John Walker Co. Ltd. postcard he posted to the same person and signed with his initials. These three postcards were mailed to Miss Berna Bedford of Bentonville, Arkansas. The connection between Mr. Jones and Miss Bedford is unknown.

Unfortunately, the creator of these real photo postcards is unknown, but may have been either E. Neale Coverley or possibly John C. Crisson; both were photographers known to be on Grand Turk during this time period. It would be very helpful if anyone knowing about other photographers living on Grand Turk during the period 1895–1930 would contact the author at: tinqua1512@gmail.com.

The author wishes to thank Tom Giraldi, Nigel Sadler, and Judy Lawrie for providing images and information used for this article.



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Jeff Dodge
Sep 11, 2016 7:11

Has anyone seen or own a letter envelope addressed to a printing company or postcard company from Grand Turk of Salt Cay dated between 1900 and 1935? I would be most interested to learn about any such envelope as it would help identify who ordered and who produced some of these early postcards of the Turks Islands.

There is a comment in a note written by Lillian Alice Harriott (age 14) on a postcard she was sending to a fellow postcard collector in 1906 that someone in her family (the Harriott family of Salt Cay and Grand Turk) ordered or produced a series of postcards. Any more information regarding the Harriott family and postcards would be most helpful in my research. Lillian and her sister Gertrude (both teenagers and living on Grand Turk) were postcard collectors and traded postcards with fellow postcard collectors around the world. This is another interesting story………..

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