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Historic postcards shared with Kent seniors

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KENT – Older Kent residents were recently able to travel back to the years when one of the popular forms of communication was photographic postcards. The program was held March 20 at the Kent Senior Center.

Kent Historical Society Curator Marge Smith and Managing Director Logan Wheeler took Kent seniors through a number of the postcards in the society’s collection. They also shared a six-page history of postcards filled with details about how and when postcards began being printed and mailed.

Curator Marge Smith and Managing Director Logan Wheeler show some of the Kent Historical Society’s collection items related to postcards March 20 at the Kent Senior Center. The history program is held every other month on Wednesdays at 11 a.m. Photo by Lynn Mellis Worthington

Postcards became popular in the mid-19th century because they could be mailed for less postage than a regular letter. While original cards made use of lithographic illustrations and drawings, photography spurred their popularity as a visual communication media.

The advent of widespread personal photography in the early 20th century was when postcard production really took off.

“When you look through these postcards you’ll see writing in white on the photo and that’s because it was written on the negative,” said Smith.

She also pointed out that sometimes postcards are mislabeled. Holding up one that states, “South Kent Railroad Station,” she said, “it’s not” and was greeted with laughter from the group.

John Barton takes a close look at the postcards from the Kent Historical Society collection that were shared March 20 during a program by KHS at the Kent Senior Center. Photo by Lynn Mellis Worthington

Catherine Bachrach spoke about her conversations with the late Susie Rundall, who amassed a huge personal collection of postcards. She found one of her own house that was built in the 1700’s.

“It’s like a little time machine because there’s a stone wall in the picture and that stone wall isn’t there anymore. The house was built at two different time periods and in the photograph you can see where the seam is between the two parts of the house,” she said. It even features the owner of the house, Milo Bolt, who was a collier, who made charcoal on the mountain behind the house and who can be seen in the corner of the image.

Binders with postcards protected in clear sleeves were scattered on tables around the room and participants looked through the books at the images. Wheeler also showed a postcard camera KHS acquired and passed around a stereoscope viewer that had two images to create a three-dimensional like view of a scene.

Also on display was a board and framed image of Kent postcards that was featured in last summer’s postcard exhibit, “Touring the Countryside” from three towns, Warren, Kent and Cornwall. Smith said they will both be hung soon in the Kent Town Clerk’s office.

Smith shared that if someone wants to try to determine the period of a postcard, and there is no postmark date, she suggested looking at the backside.

A postcard of the Skiff Mountain Schoolhouse from the Kent Historical Society collection that was shared March 20 at the Kent Senior Center. Photo by Lynn Mellis Worthington

“If you look at the back side, some of them have a division down the back and the messages are written on the back. Some postcards have writing on the front and those are really early,” Smith said. After 1907, the government allowed writing on the address side and the back featured a dividing line.   

KHS is partnering with Kent School to explore more about the Rev. George Smith who was the minister at St. Andrew’s Church in the early 1900’s at the same time Kent School was founded. He was friends with the school founder, Fr. Frederick Herbert Sill. Smith was an avid photographer and captured many different images of Kent during that era and many of his images became postcards. Smith’s son published a memoir that has revealed more about his father.

Anita Brean tries out the stereoscope to look at the two images of Kent Falls during the March 20 program by the Kent Historical Society at the Kent Senior Center. Photo by Lynn Mellis Worthington

The historical society offers the history program every other month on the third Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the Senior Center. Other presenters are featured alternating months.

Those attending shared a number of stories about Kent and their ancestors. Bachrach said what is special about the program is that it appeals to both long-time residents and those who are newer arrivals who want to learn more about the town’s history.

Lynn Worthington
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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Chris Utsogn

    March 28, 2024 at 11:32 am

    My dad would have enjoyed this.
    Ralph Matson.

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