Ephemera

Levantine courting postcards

Postcards became widespread by the latter stages of the 19th century and continued gaining in popularity right through early to mid-20th century. They were the brief messaging system of their day, similar to the way e-mails / text messages are used today so huge numbers were sent around, often kept their recipients in bundles as the image added to their intrinsic value and so today there is still an impressive number floating around, acting as a source for imagery, personalities and human touches. One of these human touches would be what we can call ‘long distance relationships’, as people of those days had fewer means of travel, fewer opportunities perhaps of ‘networking’. The Levantine ports probably had the extra challenges for ‘eligible bachelors’ as there were often a limited poor of marriage suitable partners from their culture and religion around. One could speculate on how these postcard correspondents started; perhaps the ladies had visited as a touring party, perhaps they were sent to Europe by their families for education, or there were penfriend introductions facilitated perhaps by friends or family members?

Sent by P. Gout in 1904 to an aristocratic sounding lady in Brussels, Marg. van den Hose de Heusch, this love poem is clearly by somebody who is infactuated. P. Gout maybe Peter Gout (1885-1951) who married (date unknown) Zoe Braggiotti.

A series of postcards all sent in early 1902 by Henri Marcus, of the tobacco monopoly (probably a manager) in Smyrna to a Miss Eugene Paren of Western France. Mr Marcus is clearly keen to impart his knowledge and scenes of Smyrna on this lady and it seems Miss Paren had briefly visited Smyrna, though it isn’t clear how the initial introduction happened. Nothing is known of Henri Marcus apart from what is evident here and he may have had a brother (M. Marcus) who operated a business (shop?) in the city as seen from a lettercover:

This is a postcard sent in 1900 to a Georgette Monchablou of Barl-le-Duc in France by a person from Smyrna who seems a bit forceful including asking the lady's photograph and demanding to know with who she made the trip to Paris with and asking if she is in love. History doesn’t record if there was a happy ending to this story.

4 self-published photo-postcards sent by what seems a budding stage actor Raoul Vinay all sent in June 1904 to a lady in France, presumably for romantic reasons. It is hard to make out the reason for these self-shots but could be to forward to potential stage agents and passing entertainment groups via this land-locked but strategically import Ottoman way-station in the volatile Balkans of the time (in 1903 the Monastir / Bitola region was rocked by the Ilinden Uprising). Raoul Vinay appears to be a Frenchman and it is unclear why he is based at the time in Monastir though perhaps the city did have a minor arts scene amongst its very diverse populations. The postcards below with Mr Vinay’s stamp on them appear to try to place him amongst the pantheon of French acting giants of the time. It is not clear if the lady who received these was impressed but clearly did keep them for posterity. Paul Vinay stayed in that town for at least another 3 years as a dated letter-cover proves:

Albert Lambert is a serious French stage actor from the period as was his comtemporary George Berr, but highly unlikely these two would have made a trip, less to perform in the minor town of Monastir.

The offices of Raoul Vinay in Monastir at the time with the rather grand-sounding names of ‘General Transatlantic Company’ and on the lower floor ‘The International Museum of Monastir’, with perhaps the man himself on the balcony? It appears these letterings were added later to the photo-card.

These 2 postcards are not sent with romantic intention but for pure pen-pal correspondence and presumably the shared pleasure of collecting these images of distant shores and its stamps. L. Massa (sp.?) of Smyrna is corresponding with a René de Wael from Brussels, translation of above: ‘Since I have been a member of the correspondence club I have not been bored as much. I have a lot of correspondents, they often write to me and their letters give me a bit of an impression, they chase away for a few hours the boredom that I experience too. Write your cards often seen across a few unknown charms’.

This postcard also appears to show the beginning of a pen-pal exchange between Mr N. Chouquet of Paris and a person in Smyrna whose name is unclear. Our correspondent in Smyrna is keen to share his (unlikely to be a lady in a purely platonic exchange as such) pen-pal contacts in different parts of the world: Mr George and Mdme Emelie Podimatos sp.? in Alexandria, Mr Francisco Carrera of Beunos Aires, Mr Richar Menzel of Chile, Mr Fritz Hoffmann of Tsingtan, China, Karl Scholer of Constantinople.

This postcard is also the record of the beginning of a pen-pal exchange between a 13 year old Greek girl Effie (?) of Constantinople and a Miss Noelie Pench of St Etienne, France and the young girls states she enjoys studying French very much and signed off as an ‘unknown friend’.