A Family History Sent by Mail

By Elizabeth Standridge, Commonwealth Center for Humanities and Society Intern

Since the advent of quicker and more convenient forms of communication like e-mails, text messages, and phone calls, postcards and letters have fallen by the wayside. While I love the immediacy of being able to talk to loved ones near and far, there is something special about receiving a nice personal note or letter in the mail (especially when it’s not a bill!). During my internship at the Filson, I have worked with several fascinating collections, but my favorite has been the Saxton Family scrapbooks. The two scrapbooks contain postcards addressed to several members of the family dating between the fifty year span of 1906-1956, with the bulk of the collection dating from 1910-1930. I love looking at the beautiful illustrations, and often funny messages with cheesy puns, while also seeing learning the story of the Saxton family through many life milestones.

Many of the postcards celebrate various holidays including Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Valentine's Day. Others offer birthday wishes, congratulations on the birth of child, or marriage. Looking through the Saxton family scrapbooks provides a little glimpse into the family’s history and each of their lives.

One volume almost exclusively contains postcards concerning the life of Bernadine Meyer (née Saxton) from postcards offering congratulations to her parents for her birth, to cards from friends celebrating her wedding. Other postcards include notes exchanged between husband and wife on anniversaries and cards sent to family members during their honeymoon.

The second volume holds cards addressed to Bernadine’s mother, uncle, and grandmother among other family members. Like the first scrapbook, many cards relate to major holidays, but also included are postcards from John H. Adams, Bernadine’s uncle, sent to his mother and sister during his time training in Texas with the National Guard during the first World War.

Here are some of the highlights from the collection including some of my personal favorites!

A note celebrating the wedding of Bernadine Saxton, 1933.

Wishing a happy new years, postcard addressed to John H. Adams, undated.

An undated postcard showing a steamboat on the Kentucky River.

A postcard from John H. Adams during his time in Texas with the National Guard to his sister Mattie, mother of Bernadine, circa 1915.

Jana Meyer

Jana Meyer is an Associate Curator of Collections. She received a degree in History from the University of Louisville and a master's degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Kentucky. Jana specializes in arranging and describing the Filson's manuscript collections. In her free time, she enjoys playing board games and hiking with her husband and three-legged dog, Rascal.

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