Picturing Ancestors’ Life with Vintage Postcards

If  you are a regular reader of my blog, you’ve probably noticed that I loved vintage postcards. I’ve actually built up a fairly good sized collection and most of them are pre-World War I. That means they are well before the 1923 copyright cutoff date.

Why do I like those old, usually used, postcards? Because they are a glimpse into the lives of my ancestors who are long gone. My family has never been much of big city dwellers. My childhood in Passaic is about as close to big city as we’ve gotten (50,000 or so), but even Passaic has changed through the years and has been documented through postcards.

By the start of the 20th century, traveling photographers were everywhere, bringing the ability to own a photograph to anyone who cared to own one.

What was life like for my 2X great grandparents, Calvin Segee Adams (1843-1921) and Nellie F. Tarbox (1856-1927), living in Calais, Maine or for son, Charles Edwin Adams or Annie Maude Stuart (1874-1940), their daughter-in-law, who grew up in the village of Meddybemps, on the outskirts of Calais?

Postcards help tell the story. Calvin was a boat builder and his boatyard was down along the shore.

It’s certainly possible that at least one of these boats was built by him. Even if he didn’t build them, this is a great view of the bustling shipping traffic in Calais.

Charles Adams attended Calais Academy, which later was called Calais High School.

The old school burned down many years ago.

Charles worked in the local shoe factory for many years.

This building is also long gone.

As Calvin and Nellie got a bit older, they were able to afford a home on “The Avenue,” or Calais Avenue, which was the Beverly Hills neighborhood of its day.

This is a photo of the them on their porch:

Notice the ladies in their visiting finery! Here is “The Avenue” at that time:

I’ve found some treasures from Meddybemps, too, which was where the Stuart family lived.

I found this card on EBay. It’s the Stuarts’ camp on Meddybemps Lake! This house belonged to Annie’s brother, Harry, and it’s my most treasured vintage postcard.

How did the town of Meddybemps look back then?

That church is still standing, as is the house in the middle picture.

I can see my great grandmother visiting with her friends and relatives. Can you?

Old postcards aren’t usually very expensive – well below $10 most of the time. I splurged on the Stuart picture, though. I won’t say how much I spent on it, but that was unique. What are the odds I even came across it at the right moment?

If you haven’t checked online for vintage postcards and want to set your family in a social and visual context, you are missing out on some great resources.


2 thoughts on “Picturing Ancestors’ Life with Vintage Postcards”

  1. I love the postcards from Calais since that’s where my Copeland and Lowell ancestors lived for a couple of generations in the 1800s into the very early 1900s. Thanks for sharing (and now I’ll be on the lookout for them, too!)

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