Bluebird of Happiness — Happiness of Bluebirds


Solid glass bluebird made by Fenton Glass

Solid glass bluebird made by Fenton Glass

For my birthday anniversary several years ago, my sister Susan (contributor to This Old Paper and Ditalini Press), presented me with a beautiful Fenton Glass bluebird. I have it on the fireplace mantle, where I can admire the cobalt-blue glass bird from my work desk.

In thanks for the pleasure derived from this solid-glass bluebird of happiness, I am mailing to Susan the original of the vintage postcard featuring bluebirds illustrated here:

Bluebirds postcard by Stecher (623 D) - obverse

Bluebirds postcard by Stecher (623 D) – obverse

Bluebirds postcard by Stecher (623 D) - reverse

Bluebirds postcard by Stecher (623 D) – reverse

The printed inscription on the front of the postcard is, “The Bluebirds bring to you my Greetings”. In the foreground, a pair of bluebirds are depicted perched on a rustic, wooden roost, while two more bluebirds can be seen soaring in the puffy-clouded sky in the background. A woman walks up the path toward the front door of a log cabin that features a red brick chimney. The grass is a verdant green, and two stout trees in full foliage round out this picturesque rural scene. in addition to black ink, the other colors of ink used to create this postcard appear to be brown, blue, red, and two shades of green. The entire perimeter is slightly embossed, as are the following features: The foreground bluebirds, the rustic wooden roost and the tufts of grass around the base of the roost, both trees, and the woman. The design is not artist signed.

This card is published and copyright by Stecher Lithographic Company, located in Rochester, New York. The small, circular Stecher logo is located in the lower left corner of the front of the post card. It reads: STECHER LITH. CO. ROCH. N. Y. around the circumference of a circle with a C in the middle of it:

Stecher Lithographic Company (623 D) - Detail of logo

Stecher Lithographic Company (623 D) – Detail of logo

A short company history of the Stecher Lithographic Company is found in volume XXXV (1982) of the University of Rochester LIbrary Bulletin, in an article entitled “Nineteenth Century Rochester Fruit and Flower Plates” by Karl Sanford Kabelac. The article is available online at the University of Rochester‘s River Campus Libraries website, posted by the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation. Scroll nearly halfway down the webpage for the section about The Stecher Lithographic Company. Although the focus of the article pertains to printers in the Rochester, New York area who made plates (prints) of fruits and flowers to illustrate the catalogues of the botanical offerings of local nurseries, the Stecher Lithographic Company also printed numerous postcards during the golden age of postcards. Wikipedia mentions that Frances Brundage illustrated for the Stecher Lithographic Company, although the entry does not specifically state that she illustrated postcards for Stecher, which also printed illutrated books.

On the reverse of this bluebirds greetings postcard, we find out that this is Stecher’s postcard Series 623 D (lower left corner). The ‘D’ indicates that this postcard is the fourth design in series 623. In addition to being sold individually, postcards often were sold in packets, and the postcards in a thematic packet would bear the same series number, but each unique postcard design within the packet would have its own letter designation. For example, if a packet contained twelve postcards, each with a unique design, then the postcards typically would have letter designations from ‘A’ through ‘L’ following the series number.

The back of this postcard has the phrase “MADE IN U. S. A.” located about a third of the way from the top of the message side. The phrases “FOR CORRESPONDENCE” and “FOR ADDRESS ONLY” (each underlined) are symmetrically located at the top of the vertical divider line, on the left side and the right side, respectively. The stamp box in the upper right corner of the reverse is defined by two, nested thin lines, and is nearly square, being only slightly higher than wide. Inside the stampbox are three lines of text:

PLACE STAMP

DOMESTIC 1¢

FOREIGN 2¢

The words “POST CARD” are centrally featured across the top of the back of the postcard. The letters have slight serifs, and the serifs at the ends of the horizontal bar of the “T” both point out (away from the central, vertical bar of the “T”).. The “C” of CARD has lots of curvilinear flourishes emanating from it.

The card is postally unused, but there is a name written in pencil, toward the top of the address side of the postcard. The name is crudely scrawled, and written over an erasure, but appears to be “Mr. A. Teribery”. Having never passed through the United States Post Office, there is no postmark date to use as a temporal guide. However, since the postcard has a vertical divider line, allowing for a message to be placed on the back of the card, then the card must have been printed after March 1, 1907, which is the date that the U. S. Post Office allowed a message to be written on the side of the postcard that had previously been reserved for the address only.  Based on the physical characteristics of the card, as well as the postmarks of other Stecher Lithographic Company postcards in my collection, a reasonable estimate of publication date for this particular postcard is in the range of 1907 to around 1925.

“For your Happiness”, here is another Stecher postcard featuring bluebirds:

For your Happiness - Stecher Series 683 D - obverse

For your Happiness – Stecher Series 683 D – obverse

For your Happiness - Stecher Series 683 D - reverse

For your Happiness – Stecher Series 683 D – reverse

The above postcard is in the Stecher Series 683, and also just happens to be the ‘D’ design of the series. The front of the postcard features a four-line verse in the upper-right quadrant:

I’m sending these Bluebirds

As a merry sign

Of the Joy I’m wishing

A friend of mine.

The font of the verse is an italic, sans-serif font, printed in black ink. Underneath the verse are two large bluebirds in flight, with wings intersecting, as well as a smaller bluebird in flight near the bottom of the postcard. The other major design element of the postcard front is a vignette of a rural farm scene, with a stylized birch tree in the foreground, just to the left of a winding dirt path that leads to a farm house and barn in the background. There is a flag flying on a flagpole to the right of the barn, and a tall, conical structure behind the farm house, which might be meant to represent a silo. The left side of the design is bordered with eight daisy-like flowers, on green stems of varying lengths. Underneath the farm vignette is printed in black ink: FOR YOUR HAPPINESS, with flourishes on the ‘F’, ‘R’, ‘H’ and “N’. The entire edge of the postcard is bordered in light blue, and the Stecher Lithographic Company logo (identical to the Stecher logo in the first postcard) is printed in black ink in the lower-left corner. The bluebirds and the daisies (stems included) are lightly embossed. As with many, if not the majority, of the postcards that feature a small vignette as the primary design element, this postcard is not artist signed.

The printing on the “For your Happiness” postcard back is identical to the printing on the reverse of the first Stecher postcard. This postcard, however, bears a stamp, although it is not postally used. The inscription, is written in black ink with a fountain pen:

“Many happy returns of the Day, is the wish of your friend”

is signed by Alwine Buth, and addressed to:

Miss Tena Memken.

1459 Bates Ave.

City.

Using only online search engine queries (without recourse to databases available through special library-only access), I was able to determine that the “City” is Springfield, Illinois. Please comment below if you figure out what search terms were used in the online search to identify the name of the city. Arriving at a credible estimate of the date that the postcard was printed or used is a bit more challenging, since the postcard, although stamped, was probably hand-delivered by Alwine Buth to Tena Memken, or was included in a letter written by Alwine Buth to Tena Memken, and thus was never postmarked by the U. S. Post Office.* However, the stamp itself reveals at least an earliest date that the postcard could have existed. This one cent, green stamp bearing the likeness of George Washington is similar to the style of postage stamp that was affixed to untold thousands of vintage postcards. Stamps that all look pretty much identical to the postage stamp on this postcard were issued for nearly eleven years, from February 12, 1912 tthrough January 16, 1923. Without close examination, these one cent stamps all look the same. However, there are subtle differences in the stamp as it was released and rereleased by the Post Office Department. This particular stamp happens to be “Perf 11″, both horizontally and vertically, meaning that there are eleven perforations per each two millimeter length. The perf 11 version of this one-cent was issued on March 23, 1917, so this postcard was produced by Stecher (and then used by Alwine Buth) sometime after that date. Since (according to familysearch.org) Alwine Buth was born in 1900, and Tena Memken was born in or about that same year, that would make Alwine seventeen years old or older at the time of penning this happy thought, and would explain why Tena was still a “Miss”, being in her late teens or early twenties.

*I favor the theory that, after wrting the postcard and placing a postage stamp on it, Alwine decided to write a longer message in the form of a letter to Tena, and thus included the postcard inside of the envelope that contained the letter, even though she had already put a postage stamp on the postcard. I base this theory on the evidence of two small (about one-qurter inch deep) tears in the top edge of the postcard, separated by approximately one and three-eigths of an inch, with semi-circular stress marks between the tears. I surmise that these might have developed when the postcard was (accidentally) mishandled while being removed from the envelope, the recipient not expecting there to be an enclosure other than the letter.

Let us now examine a non-Stecher vintage postcard featuring bluebirds:

The Bluebirds for Happiness - Obverse

The Bluebirds for Happiness – Obverse

The Bluebirds for Happiness - Reverse

The Bluebirds for Happiness – Reverse

This postcard features a four-line poem, entitled “The Bluebird for Happiness”

This merry little feathered friend,

So cheery, bright and blue,

Because he brings true happiness,

I’m sending him to you.

The postcard has been mailed, with a postmark cancellation from Swanton, Vermont, postmarked February 27, 1920. The postcard has been used as a birthday greeting, with this undated inscription, written in black ink using a fountain pen:

“Hello Dad, Many Happy Returns for your Birthday. You’ll soon be as old as I. Also wishing you many more Birthdays. Dorothy.”

The card is addressed to a Mr. B. E. Stearns, Swanton, Vermont, #5. 24. (Probably meaning Rural Route 5, Box 24.). The actual date of Mr. Stearn’s birthday anniversary is not stated. I wonder if it might have been February 29th, since 1920 was a leap year? Aha!! His birthdate WAS most likely February 29th!! I had been puzzled about the inscription of his daughter, but it is quite clear now! Talk about a conundrum! I couldn’t figure out why Dorothy would write: “You’ll soon be as old as I.” The only way that a father can credibly be said to be younger than his daughter is if the father has only one birthday anniversary every four years! Since Dorothy’s handwriting appears to be well developed, she was probably older than elementary-school age. This would mean that on February 29, 1920, her father would have been one of these ages (actual age/leap-year age): 52/13; 56/14; 60/15. My guess is that Dorothy was born when her father was 44 years old. If that were the case, then, when Dorothy was sixteen years old, her father would be celebrating his fifteenth leap-year birthday (actual age: sixty years old), and the postcard would make the most sense. That was fun! If I get an opportunity, I will try to research archival records to determine if my theory is borne out (Apologies for the intentional pun). Update: Research using Ancestry.com Library Edition tells a different story. The Vermont death certificate for Burton E. Stearns gives a date of birth of February 19, 1857. Since 1857 is not a leap year, my solution to the puzzling birthday greeting message is disproven. By the way, Dorothy may have been named for her grandmother on her father’s side, since Burton E. Stearns was the son of Eldad A. Stearns and Dorothy Stearns (per the 1880 Federal Census), AKA Dolly Stearns (per the 1860 Federal Census).

Along the left edge of the reverse (back side of the postcard) is printed: Series 727, Messages — 24 Designs. Indeed, there is a very faint 727 in the lower left area of the obverse. I have not yet determined the printer or the publisher of this postcard, but the words “POST CARD” are distinctive, in that the angled descender of the letter R is a gentle arc that connects to the middle of the bottom of the letter D. Another distinguishing feature of POST CARD is the presence of a small dot in the center of the letter C. If anyone reading this post can shed light on the publisher, please comment below. The card is not embossed, but the front has what I term a pigskin surface, composed of fine, irregular indentations, probably to allow the ink to form a stronger bond with the surface of the card stock. Also of note is the white border around the front image, which indicates that this postcard was most likely printed in the United States rather than in Germany, probably sometime between 1914 and early 1920.

For some stunning photos of bluebirds in North Carolina, have a look at this post by Sweetbay, titled “Bluebirds in the Snow“.

bluebrid

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4 Responses to “Bluebird of Happiness — Happiness of Bluebirds”

  1. Dave Dubé Says:

    I have a thing for glass, and this is no exception. Beautiful cobalt blue, and Fostoria to boot.

    • Postcardiness Says:

      Hi Dave! Thank you for the comment. I discovered that I misspoke — er, what is the 21st-century word? “misblogged”? — when I stated that the Bluebird of Happiness was Fostoria Glass. The logo molded into the body of the glass bird is small and quite blurred, but I realize now that the bird is Fenton glass, a product of the Fenton Art Glass Company. I have edited the post, and hope that you like Fenton glass as much or more than your affinity for Fostoria glass. — Leo

  2. Susan E Says:

    Thanks for this ‘Bluebird of Happiness’ postcard – I’m happy to know these birds will be winging to my mailbox soon. This postcard has a lot going for it, in addition to the colorful birds, perhaps not the least of which is the Rochester connection! Here’s a link to Stecher letterheads by eBay seller dalebooks: http://cgi.ebay.com/1905-Stecher-Lithograph-Co-Rochester-NY-Letterhead-LOT-/300518583087 Lots of info here! Thanks again!

  3. Brian PaperSponge Says:

    What a great looking glass bird. I believe I’ve seen these before in one of my family member’s house. Hadn’t thought about them since and pretty sure they don’t have them anymore. What a great piece. Thanks for sharing!

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