Saturday, September 26, 2009

Twitter of the 1910's

This is a newspaper article from my hometown paper in Alexandria, Minnesota describing this project. Scroll down for the postcards.

Twitter of the 1910s

Postcard collection offers colorful glimpse into the past.

By Tara Bitzan, Alexandria Echo Press

Annie Bartos saved nearly 700 postcards during her lifetime. She died in 1983.When Annie Bartos carefully tucked away every postcard she received from friends and family through the years, she probably thought that no one else would ever appreciate them as much as she did.It’s almost certain that she never thought that one day those postcards would be posted on something called the Internet and read and enjoyed by people around the world.

According to her great-niece, Lorlee Bartos, Annie was a “collector.”“One walked between boxes in her house,” she said.Annie and her twin brother, Wencil, lived together on the Lowry farm homesteaded by their grandfather in the 1860s. After Wencil’s death, Annie lived alone on the farm until her death in 1983.Annie never married or had children, but she did have several nieces and nephews, including Lorlee’s father, John Bartos, who lived in Forada.

After her death, family members gathered to go through her belongings and prepare for an estate sale.Among her things was a small wooden box that contacted approximately 700 postcards Annie had received, mostly between the years 1910 and 1924.“Aside from being real pretty, they are a beautiful sign of the times,” Lorlee said of the cards. “Ever since I first saw them, they captivated me.”

Lorlee’s mother, Clara, felt the cards should not be sold, and tucked them away in her own home, where they remained until she moved to Windmill Ponds in Alexandria about six years ago. The heirlooms were then up for grabs for the next generation.“Both my older sister and I were interested,” Lorlee noted. “We had a friendly bidding war, with the money going to the Reno Cemetery where Aunt Annie is buried.”Lorlee outbid her sister and took ownership of the postcards.

“Once I had this treasure, it struck me about what a treasure it was since it was such a large collection from a single source. Not necessarily monetarily, but historically,” she explained. “With each card, I gain new insight into these ancestors, some of whom I never knew. It is my way of touching the past.”Lorlee took the cards to an antiques appraisal show where she learned they were worth about $1 to $3 each, but the box they were in – a wooden seed box – was probably worth more than the cards.“Obviously, there was never any intent on my part to sell them since they are a family treasure,” she stressed.

Lorlee not only appreciated the historical value and the family sentiments tied to the cards, but also their beauty.“I found them to be so beautiful and such sweet reflection of and insight into the time,” she said. “A sweeter, simpler time.”She noted that often the cards were signed with such sentiments as “your loving brother” or “your loving son,” etc.

Lorlee decided the postcards should be available for others to enjoy as well, so she explored the idea of setting up a website to which she could post all the cards.Discouraged by the design cost, she opted to start a blog instead, and began the tedious process of scanning the postcards, both front and back.She tries to scan and upload five to 10 cards each week and currently has about 140 done.

“My sister is the genealogy buff and has done the genealogy, so this is my contribution to family history and my tribute to the memory of Aunt Annie,” Lorlee explained. “Perhaps, also, as one gets older, you have a greater appreciation for family and what has come before. It is a way to display and document our family history.”Her main purpose in uploading the cards to the Internet was to share them with family.“While Annie only had 11 nieces and nephews, in the second generation there are more than 50 and I feel a little guilty being the one who has the cards,” she said. “In addition to direct descendents, there are descendents of Annie’s many cousins who number in the hundreds.“The descendents of those who wrote the cards also number in the hundreds,” she added. “This way everyone can ‘own’ them and review them at their leisure.”

“I think, though, that even if one has absolutely no connection to Aunt Annie, they are so charming and a window into the past.”Others agree.A couple of weeks ago someone from Argentina posted on Lorlee’s blog in Spanish the words “Very good blog.”Another reader posted that though he didn’t know any of the people, he enjoyed reading about them.“It may be as one of my friends commented, we love to read other people's mail!” Lorlee said.Once the postcards are all scanned into the computer, Lorlee plans to will them to the Pope County Historical Society so they are “saved for posterity.”

Lorlee Bartos is posting Annie Bartos’ postcard collection to a blog, which can be found at:

Following are a few excerpts from some of the postcards in Bartos’ collection.

Hello Anna, just a line from me to let you know that I didn’t for-get you yet, am far from home today and tomorrow. I intend to go to a show so will write again after I get back. Your friend Anna Dynda•

Dear Sis Anna. Just a few lines to le you know I’m sill alive and that I received your letter and card a week or so ago. I did not write because I did not know where I would go or be. Am in Longmont a town of about 5,000 people. am working in a Sugar Beet Factory you can see a little of it on the other side. I board in town. The factory is about a mile walk from where I stay a good walk in the morning and evening. Working pretty hard some days but feel fine just the same. I would like have my overcoat sent up as soon as you can. I will stay here a while so please send it and all my mail this address Longmont Colorado. With Best Regards For All. I am your brother John J. Bartos Longmont Colorado. PS Will send you a letter in a couple of days. PS. When you answer let me know when is Bessie Chan’s Birthday.•

Dearest Bird your card all o.k. was to the dance Sat and had a pretty good time. Why didn’t you folks go? Heard there is no dance at W. Benesh this Sat. but I think there is one there next Sat so we’ll make up for lost then won’t we? Love Friend Antonia. How’s John? Heard he had a runaway.

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