“Dearest Girl : –
Mother sent your letter on to me to Winnipeg Canada : – Just got into Seattle Wash. last night. Next week play Portland, week after San Francisco, then Los Angeles.
Love – Fern
Ruth Maycliffe, c/o Charles Cherry, “Bachelor Co.” will reach me”
Deltiology is the study and collection of postcards, the third most popular hobby in the world after collecting stamps and coins/banknotes. Postcards and vintage photographs have been turning up all over the place recently, along with vintage clothing, barbershops and all things hand-made. It’s not hard to understand the appeal of reconnecting with our past.
The Winnipeg Public Library recently launched the Martin Berman Postcard Collection on our PastForward website. This is one of the postcards collected by Martin Berman and generously donated to the City of Winnipeg by his family. It was scanned, along with over 5000 other Winnipeg and Manitoba postcards which now reside with the City of Winnipeg Archives and Records Control Branch. I am delighted to help provide digital access to this amazing collection by adding metadata and describing each card.
My first question when I see a new view on a postcard is often, “Where is this?” usually followed by, “Shouldn’t I recognize it? I live here!” Sometimes the buildings have barely changed and I get excited that I can toggle seamlessly back and forth with Google Street View. (We include links to these views whenever possible to save you a bit of detective work!) Other times an entire city block may have disappeared.
Let’s have another look at the postcard image of Main Street above. We’re looking north over Portage and Main; recognize anything? The former Union Bank Tower in the distance on the left (completed in 1904, now the Paterson Globalfoods Institute) is the oldest skyscraper still standing in Canada. The Canadian Northern Building in the foreground and the large McIntyre Block were demolished to make way for 201 Portage (originally TD Centre) and a parking lot. On the right side you’ll notice the ornate Merchants Bank/Lombard Building and the old Post Office which have not survived but the Confederation Building and Union Trust Tower have been added to our current view.
Also, what were all those people doing on the street? This is what Labour Day crowds looked like in the early 1900’s (this postcard is ca. 1907); everyone came down for the parade. Note the streetcar on the right labelled “Happy Land” (Winnipeg’s amusement park at the time). Main Street had room for two rail lines and two-way traffic at all times. Judging by the comments on the backs of many postcards, visitors were consistently impressed by Winnipeg’s wide streets and intersections.
Now back to the writing on this postcard. What could a quick internet search turn up on the sender -was it Fern or Ruth? I expected she was a musician or actress but since the best way to reach her was through Charles Cherry I looked him up first. He was a British born actor who appeared in many American plays and even a couple of movies. “The Bachelor” was a Broadway play that featured both Ruth Maycliffe and Charles Cherry.
An image search led me to more details about Ruth Maycliffe. She was born Fern Krehbiel and lived in Winfield and Coffeyville, Kansas before moving to Kansas City with her mother in about 1906. Fern attended drama school and became a well-known Broadway actress under her stage name, Ruth Maycliffe, after her performance in the play “Girls” in 1908 – the year before this postcard was sent! She even got to meet President Roosevelt who had read that she was a skilled horsewoman and wanted to see for himself if she could rope and tie a steer in three minutes.
I was intrigued by the life this small-town girl had carved out for herself even before I found an article about her time in France where she met Prince Braganza d’Avellar of Portugal. The two were married but unfortunately the new Princess was quickly widowed as her Prince was killed in a revolutionary battle. Having returned to New York to carry on with her acting career, she met and married a French officer who had come to provide expertise on trench warfare During the First World War. In another interesting twist, when he brought her home to meet his family in Brittany, Fern discovered she was now a Countess as her Georges turned out to be Count Georges Benetan du Buat.
Fern’s story goes on but I’m trying not to get too carried away. It’s amazing in how many directions a single postcard can take us. Who knows what a search on the recipient might bring up? Or one of the signs in the photo? If this is the sort of thing that interests you, check out the rest of the Martin Berman Postcard Collection or one of the other collections on our PastForward website: The Rob McInnes Postcard Collection and Public Historic Postcards. Comment below with any stories you uncover!