Collector shares his eBay postcard auction prizes

Anyone who collects RPPCs, short for “real photo post cards,” knows that while they may offer some of the most unusual and rare views, we often come up empty-handed at the end of bidding. So it is with special gratitude to our friend of the HSR, Harlan Radford, we offer these scans of Camden postcards along with his annotations.

We also acknowledge the contribution of historian Paul W. Schopp for his expertise and advice which resulted in this expanded commentary.Click on images for enlarged views.

CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #10 1909
CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #10 1909

CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #10 1909: This 1909 unmailed real photo post card depicts the Pennsylvania Railroad Terminal at Federal and Market Streets in downtown Camden.  Built in 1899, it consists of an overhead covered train shed enclosing all railroad tracks, two Public Service Electric Railway (trolley) loops, and four ferry-boat slips to connect with Philadelphia on the other side of the Delaware River.  The prominent structure in the lower right foreground is the West Jersey Hotel. Constructed in 1850, and designed by Walt Whitman’s next-door neighbor, Stephen Decatur Button and his brother-in-law, Joseph C. Hoxie, it survived into the twentieth century, becoming the Hotel Ridgway.

 

This is one of a series of 11 postcards captured by Medford post card photographer William B. Cooper from the top of the Victor Talking Machine Company’s smokestack in the summer or fall of 1908 and copyrighted in 1909.

CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #5 1909
CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #5 1909

CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #5 1909: This real photo post card, copyright 1909, postmarked Feb. 26, 1909,  looks towards Coopers Point, the site of the Camden & Atlantic Railroad’s ferry and train terminal and numerous shipyards. Close examination reveals a neighborhood with row houses, small businesses, and churches. Sailing ships with three, four, and six masts anchored on the Delaware River wait to receive or discharge cargo. Toward the center left of the image is an Italianate house known as Cooper’s Folly, which was unceremoniously razed in 1924.

CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #6 1909
CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #6 1909

CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #6 1909: For this real photo post card view, copyright 1909, mailed and postmarked at Camden on Feb. 15, 1909, Cooper swung the camera a little bit more east from view #5, showing more of North Camden. It illustrates part of East Camden, N.J. and looking northeast to Cramer Hill. The church spire on the right is the First Presbyterian Church at 5th and Penn Streets. Cramer Hill was one of Camden’s several up and coming housing developments. Builder Alfred Cramer was known for his construction of single-family dwellings, stores, as well as tidy brick row houses, which were more affordable for Camden’s growing workforce. In the background towards the left is the Camden Woolen Mills, completed in 1866.

CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #11 1909
CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #11 1909

CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #11 1909: Another in the remarkable series of W.B. Cooper aerial views of Camden, this unmailed real photo post card view shows a part of downtown Camden, N.J. This image looks north/northwest toward Cooper’s Point Ferry with a Campbell Soup warehouse and various factories in the foreground and the Delaware River in the background. This sweeping outlook includes several sailing ships, many businesses, factories, warehouses, and wharves. Many large and noted manufacturing companies began to call Camden their home at this time. These panoramic aerial photos give unobstructed views of the then-thriving City of Camden from several directions.

 

Camden Carnival RPPC 1908
Camden Carnival RPPC 1908

RPPC CAMDEN CARNIVAL RPPC 1908: The subject of this real photo post card is a Camden Carnival on a residential street occurring Sept. 29, 1908. Sponsored by the Camden Business Improvement Association, the four-day celebration was held September 29, 30, and October 1, 1908. The decorated 3-horse-drawn wagon in the foreground is the center of attention. Patriotic bunting and an abundance of American flags adorn the homes. Many spectators bedecked in their finery view the parade and enjoy this celebratory occasion back in the first decade of the twentieth century!

 

 

CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #1 1909
CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #1 1909

Next follow three more Camden images, and while they are already in the Camden Images Gallery, these have descriptions and are displayed in higher resolution here.

CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #1 1909: Looking north from center Camden, note the dome of the North Baptist Church on the far right; Tabernacle M.E. Church is the large structure near the center; in the Delaware River in the distance lies 292-acre Petty Island (commonly called Petty’s Island).

 

CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #7 1909
CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #7 1909

CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #7 1909 : This real photo post card depicts the business center of Camden. The sender of this post card has marked four specific buildings and numbered them as 1, 2, 3, & 4. The domed building on the left marked as #1 is the County Court House, erected in 1905-06, at a cost of $800,000. Building #2 is the Third Regiment Armory. Structure #3 is Camden High and Manual Training School City Hall on Haddon Avenue is #4. In addition, the building in the left foreground is the Security Trust Company building, designed by local architect Arthur Truscott, which sits at southeast corner of Third and Market streets. At the extreme left center is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, built in 1866 and designed by ecclesiastical architect Jeremiah O’Rourke who later became the architect of the Capitol. According to the sender of this card, “This is a view of part of Camden taken from the New Victor Chimney.”

CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #8 1909
CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #8 1909

CAMDEN, NJ RPPC #8 1909: The U.S. Post Office at Third and Arch Streets, which also served as the federal courthouse, stands in the left foreground of this view of downtown Camden. Running through the center of this image is the recently completed elevated trackage of the West Jersey & Seashore’s third-rail electric line to Millville and to Atlantic City. High-speed rail at its finest! In the center right is the old Third Street Methodist Church that later became the PRR YMCA. During Walt Whitman’s time in Camden, he would frequently complain about the choir from this church! On the extreme left center, you can see the South Jersey Gas, Electric & Traction Company office building, which still stands today along Federal Street. It is a wonderful example of a Beaux Arts office building. In the distance is the steeple of First Methodist Church, which Cooper Hospital demolished within the last ten years. This image certainly captures the vitality and the steady growth that Camden experienced in the beginning of the last century.

PS: Links connect to other images in the collection, although not necessarily from the same era. For example, the postcard showing the RCA Building also shows the Delaware River Bridge, now re-named the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, which did not open until 1926.

Can you help us further to “connect the dots” by giving to the Society any scans for this or another category in our online image collection? Would not all eleven of William B. Cooper’s post cards shot from the top of the Victor Talking Machine Company’s smokestack be something to see in one place? It would be an expensive and time-consuming task for an individual, but certainly an achievable goal if others viewing this can contribute.

If you have any actual South Jersey or Jersey Shore postcards, photos, ephemera, or collectibles you would like to give to the Society please contact us. Either way, we are glad to add your collection to our virtual archive so all may enjoy and learn from them. – JMc

Walt Whitman – I finally heard him singing, thanks to Ed Centeno

Back in January, website visitor Ed Centeno wrote to us:

Many thanks for posting great postcards…. have several postcards not in your collection…. would love to share please email and will send….

postcard scans courtesy of Ed Centeno
postcard scans courtesy of Ed Centeno

This was remarkable since lots of people come by to view, but few actually stop back to drop off something. Ed sent a few scans of Camden postcards as email attachments, and I could see this serious collector had a theme right away – Walt Whitman.

There was his Camden home and his gravesite in Harleigh Cemetery plus statues and commemorative stamps.

Like other collectors I know, Centeno did not have just one version of the sought after image, but he had collected every iteration he could find.

(I suffer from that same collector’s addiction myself and always have room for another rendition of the RYC.)

Centeno Collection
Centeno Collection

Ultimately, Mr. Centeno sent in a few dozen scans and photos of the many items of philately, ephemera, commissioned art, collectibles, and commercial products related to the controversial and influential American poet, essayist and journalist.

Since then I have learned that admitted Whitmaniac, Mr. Centeno, has exhibited his still growing assemblage of Whitman artifacts at the Whitman Birthplace in Huntington Station, New York and elsewhere.

Here is a bit of Mr. Centeno’s massive collection displayed in a 45-page Walt Whitman Virtual Scrapbook and you don’t even need a ticket.WW scrapbook screenshot 01

(Click here for a 34MB PowerPoint or here for a 11MB PDF)

In related developments, Will Valentino of Palmyra Historical and Cultural Society sends us this timely and informative piece he wrote on the Whitman House in Camden (click here for PDF link) and reminds us that Mickle Street, a new drama inspired by a meeting between Oscar Wilde and Whitman, has opened at the Walnut Street Theater.

I confess that except for high school memories of Cliff-Noting my way through studying “I Hear America Singing” and recalling many crossings of the Walt Whitman Bridge to South Philly, I have taken little notice of the “father of free verse.”

I never really got it – the lack of rhyme.

Had I read decades ago his “Blab of the Pave,” a vibrant catalog of urban sights and sounds, I would not have missed the rhyme.

Today, however, for a man who received little public acclaim for his poems during his lifetime, it seems Whitman is everywhere.

Over a century since Whitman’s passing, countless books and articles interpret his life and work, and commercials invoke his name. Libraries, schools, roads, and parks across the USA plus a New Jersey Turnpike rest stop bear his designation, and frequent popular cultural references to him in movies, television,  music, and plays serve as proof of his  abiding appeal to today’s fans.

He’s been here all around me the whole time, but I wasn’t paying enough attention.

Even growing up in Camden, Whitman’s words were literally under my nose, or perhaps above it, on the south face of Camden’s City Hall tower which bears the engraving  “In a dream I saw a city invincible,”  an excerpt from his poem “I Dream’d in a Dream.”)

Years later I find it hard to believe these powerfully insightful nuggets were not just penned by a 21st century motivational guru.

“Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your soul.”

“Be curious, not judgmental.”

“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.”

“Either define the moment, or the moment will define you.”

No wonder his message resonates with so many today. Of course, there is waaaay more to Whitman than is teased at here. Enjoy Ed Centeno’s collection and possibly find more to explore in the links you find there. – JMc

 

A century old postcard is a visual treat on the eve of our Glorious Fourth

Welcome Pyne Poynt, Camden, NJ 1910When my friend sent me a scan of his latest eBay auction win I had to agree with him.

It doesn’t hardly get any better than this! This vintage real photo post card shows an early 20th century Camden neighborhood putting on an enthusiastic patriotic display.

You have to click on this, fill your screen, and take a virtual walk down Fifth Street, circa 1910.

A large banner flanked by huge American flags spans the street proclaiming, “Welcome To Pyne Poynt.” Numerous festive paper lanterns and more 48-star American Flags frame the entire street.

Is that a Sullivan’s storefront or a political campaign office?

The boys with their knee-length knickers, white shirts and ties, the girls with their lovely short-sleeve summer dresses and bows in their hair, and of course, the young men with their bow ties, hats, and skimmers all elicit an involuntary smile from the appreciative viewer.

Catch the brave character in the jeff cap at the roof line. Has he just completed attaching flags above that first second-floor window and tying off the line suspending the banner?

Perhaps the occasion recorded here was July 4, 1910. This mailed divided-back post card bears a Camden, N.J. postmark, stamped SEP 9, 1910. The message addressed to a recipient living on River Avenue in Camden reads, “Best Wishes from Edith.”

Photographer Wm. B. Cooper of Medford, N.J. captured this amazing moment a neighborhood’s history over a century ago.

Capture some amazing moments of your own this Glorious Fourth 2013, wherever you are. – John McCormick