You love old stuff, right? Or else, why would you be on this website? Assuming that’s the case, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say you find things like old letters and post cards interesting. And since it is National Handwriting Day! ( #HandwritingDay #NationalHandwritingDay ) it’s the perfect time to share a few samples of Indianapolis handwriting of yesteryear.

Before we jump into that, you may be curious about and/ or never heard of this “national” day. “National Handwriting Day” is an unofficial holiday that celebrates and commemorates the practice of handwriting with a pen or pencil. The Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association started the holiday in 1977 on the 240th birthday of the guy whose name is now synonymous with “signature.” What better day to mark noteworthy handwriting than John Hancock’s birthday?

Twitter tends to get a bad wrap for tweeters’ laziness in the punctuation department, but take note of the following correspondence. Did tweets really evolve from the post card? Limited characters–inevitably filling a couple of extra minutes, dashing off a thought– image attached, time stamped, often anonymous or with incomplete names–the similarities are striking.

Sadly, penmanship is a dying art. In 2019, teaching handwriting is optional in Indiana schools, so there may come a day these old pieces of mail will require translators. Despite a life-long love of penmanship, a few of these are a strain on the eyes and in need of translation anyway.

Forgive me if I add in some missing punctuation in my translations. The lead image at the top is addressed to “Master Clifford A. Corbitt” at The Plaza, Washington, D. C. and franked October 22, 1902. “Your Auntie would like to take you for a walk down one of the pretty streets.”

Franked Feb 4, 1926 to Mr. J. W. Holsinger

Above: “At Union Station. Am going now to get lunch. Seen the Circle & the Capitol. 11 a.m. -train leaves 12-10 but not a Pullman car. Love, V. E. H.” – This handwriting looks like most teachers I had growing up; the grammar: not so much.

Franked September 7, 1929 to Henry S. Lumpp(?)

Above: “Indianapolis 9/7/29 Just looking’ around a little. All o.k. Geo & Ada” – I got a ‘love note’ once from a boy in an elementary school class with very similar handwriting. I think George wrote this one.

December 22, 1907 to Mrs Laura Stoner from Nellie Reynolds

Above: Nellie Reynolds took penmanship class seriously. This is my kinda gal. This one requires no translation, right? The gist: avoid Oaklandon if you don’t want chicken pox.

Franked August 11 ,1906

Above: “W. H. C. Arrived all O K. at 10:30. Took the monument, capitol and P. O. this P. M.” – Nice itinerary; the same can’t be said for the scrawl in which it was shared.

Franked March 11, 1910

Above: With an image of the northern half of Monument Circle, including the monument: “One of the finest Monuments in the country.” – Not one of the finest monuments to handwriting, however.

Franked September 5, 1906, addressed to Mr. James A. Gough, Adrian, Michigan

“Hello Dad- This is where the cars and I get mixed. – G” (do you see a G? Or is that a Y? What is that letter? That last letter is what looks mixed to me).

Upper left: franked October 7, 1914 to Mrs. Hallie Bittekoffer. Upper right: franked December 3, 1918 to Ida Thompson; Lower left: franked December 4, 1912 to Ethal Sanders; Lower right: Franked April 26, 1909 to Thekla Suanum(?)

Upper left: “Hello Hallie and all! Am slow in writing but I think of you every day. How re you all? I have been pretty sick, but am better now. Got a letter from Nell Mc-K. She is coming out to see us a week from Sunday. How is Mary & baby. Write and tell me all the news. Love to you all from both. Hazel R. 1209 N. New Jersey St. Indianapolis, Ind.” -Proving that just because you live in a good neighborhood does not mean you have great penmanship. I’d expect a better effort out of the Old Northside.

Upper right: “Dear Ida Just a word to let you know I am well and hope you are the same. I am going to leave next Sunday and I am not going to tell mother and don’t you say anything and if I get going I will be home by Tuesday and I might be down before you’re back to work. From …” The post office’s placement of the franking stamp over the sender’s name probably had Ida wondering who in the world sent this. Good way to ensure mother doesn’t know who sent it. But if their house was anything like mine, chances are good mother read the post card and knows exactly who sent it…

Bottom left: “Dear Friend. As you did not answer my letter I am going to send you a card anyway. Would like to hear from you again. I am as Ever Your Friend. H. Hammond.” Early stalker handwriting, perhaps? Dude, she hasn’t responded. Maybe she’s just not that into you. It definitely could be the squished up handwriting.

Bottom right: “Dear Thekla(?) I guess you’ve noticed that I don’t make very good T’s when I write your name but its only because I’m a squarehead that you kindly for that Easter card hope you boss are all well. In haste – Ellen.” Ellen, if only you had slowed down, you could have been prouder of your “T’s” and written “thank” instead of what clearly looks like “that.”

My early impression of handwriting of 100 years ago was that it was textbook perfect. These post cards disabuse me of such a notion.

Which did you find hardest to decipher?


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