Messaging 125 years ago

Remember when messaging was not a verb?

A few years ago I scanned almost all of my photos and threw away the originals. I kept a few to make hands-on albums and I also ended up with some post cards that I had had for years. Several of them I had pinned on bulletin boards because I thought they were funny or appropriate. Recently I decided to scan those and as I looked at them more closely, I realized that this is how people ‘messaged’ so many years ago. A couple of the post cards are from my grandmother, a few I bought in Istanbul, and several are addressed to various people at the various addresses in Toronto. Those last post cards were in an old drop front desk that my mother bought many years ago. I remember it had been painted an awful shade of pink but it was full of these old post cards. At the time I collected stamps, so I steamed off some of the stamps and kept some of the cards. I imagine the postal service was much better then so that the messages would arrive sooner than later. I could also see the sense of humour in the often unknown sender. I want to share them here. Since they are hard to read,  I will also type in what they say.

cairo 2027The oldest card is from 1902. It wishes this person happy new year. At the time I believe Egypt was still under the Ottoman Empire. Since it was sent to Sister Jeffcott at the military hospital, I wonder if she was a nun or a nurse or both and of course I wonder if the sender was a man (I tend to think so) and if he was a friend, colleague, soldier, patient. This is one of the cards I bought in Istanbul some years ago.


ceylon shave 2037Another one I bought there was this one from Ceylon. Ironically, I ended up knowing several people from what is now known as Sri Lanka. This card was sent in 1907 and the sender at the end joked about having to go for a shave.


The next few post cards were in the desk. The first one is from 1907. It was sent from Fergus, Ontario, a small town in Southern Ontario. Now it probably takes an hour to get there from Toronto, but I am guessing that at that time it took several hours or more. This is what is says, as best I can make it out:

fool at 40 2036

Dear sister

a line to let you know that we are all well and hope you are the same I have see those picture and think they are fine I want one of them when you get them love from Laura and Stanley

ladies 2029The follow-up post card says

Dear sister I got your letter to night and picture to


The next post cards are to people in the Bond family, including James Bond. Little did he know…

triplets 2035This one says only Speak quick L.Z.C Of course I wonder if it was because someone just had a baby (babies) or is getting married, or what. This is to Will Bond.

hands across the sea 2034Bond, James Bond, received this card at work. Perhaps the sender was his colleague. It says

Quebec. Thursday. Royal George Delayed. Fogg + snow. Fine + dandy. Have one. WCBullock

I actually really like this card and have used it on my facebook page because I have many old friends across the sea.

elect 2032The next card must be to James Bond’s wife. Sent from Toronto in 1911. Notice that it is Bell telephone linemen. I wonder if that was a hint for mother to get a phone.

Dear Mother

Just a line. I will not go down to Will’s on Sunday as I have several things to get for babe + do not want to spend the time to go down town.


Presumably the above-mentioned Will is her brother.

full up 2028I also liked this card a lot, as I often had guests staying with me. Also, this past summer I went over the French River in Muskoka. It says

French River Muskoka

having some very pleasant sailing up the Muskoka Lakes. G.M

church 2031The last one from this family is the longest one.

Prince Albert Ont. June 1 1914

Dear Aunt Jane + Uncle Jim:

I am sending a few lines to let you know that Mrs Neal is here and dangerously ill with “Inflammatory Rheumatism”. The doctor says it will be sometime before she is able to start on her journey. He took her ticket to see about having it extended. She came back from Cartright last Wednesday and had been sick all the time over there. Has been in bed ever since she came back. We were doing the best we can to get her well again. Are you coming to the “Old Boys Reunion”? Sincerely yours– Effie Bond

Poor Mrs. Neal! I am sure they have all succumbed by now…

bunnies 2033The last post card I have had for years and had never read the message. This one is from my grandmother to my aunt.

Tues. am.


(Letter to-morrow)

Dear Rossie– So glad to get your note. Poor child you must be dead. It is simply lovely of Mrs. Start to have you there. Joyce and Allan dropped by for ten minutes at noon + had a quick lunch. Please phone Mrs. Reid + ask her to note (?) Peter. + have the H.S. Come for him. I will give her the $1.00. Mother

Now I know there were phones then, but old habits must have died hard. Strange to see my dear grandmother’s writing here.

This was a pretty interesting history lesson for me.  I can see how we overlook familiar things but when we look more closely we can see how they tell a story.  There is nothing earth-shaking here, but interesting nevertheless.

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