Sending postcards was a very important method of communication for my Schmidt family living in Marathon County, Wisconsin around the turn of the century. Fortunately for me, some of these postcards have been preserved by various family members. I am also fortunate because it was apparently a fairly common occurrence at that time and place for roving photographers to take photos of everyday people, then make postcards to sell back to them. My family purchased and used these postcards on many occasions.
Here are two important postcards that were in the archives of my cousin Jayne Schmidt Robinson. The first was written by my great-great-grandfather Wilhelm Schmidt. The message it conveys is banal, unfortunately, but the larger context makes this absolutely priceless to me.
The postcard was written on 12 Oct 1913, which was a rather dramatic period of time for my family. As I documented elsewhere, George Kramer was shot by a gun set in the family orchard on 24 Aug 1913, and he died on 4 Nov 1913. So this postcard was sent in the period between those two events. My grandfather Wilhelm Schmidt seems to have tried to get away from the pressure at home by going north to Tomahawk Lake, which is near Minoqua, Wisconsin. The script is in his hand, and is written in German with several English words used, but written in German spelling. For example “Gut bei” for good-bye, “fichun” for fishing, and “laeck” for lake. That little detail makes me feel much closer to my grandfather. Here is the translation:
From Tomahawk Lake, WI
Mr. Louis Schmidt
Marathon Co. Wis
Oct 12 1913
How are things with all of you? Things here are the same.
Bad fishing, too much wind on the lake.
The postcard itself shows my great-great-grandfather standing in the back row at the far right (bald with mustache) and a group of unknown men in what seems to be a semi-permanent tent with a heating stove. I’m assuming this was taken at some kind of lake resort for hunting and fishing in Minoqua near Lake Tomahawk.
The second postcard, just as poignant in terms of its timing, was written by Wilhelm’s son Louis on 11 Apr 1914. His father had just been sent to prison a couple of weeks earlier and Louis is writing to Wilhelm at the men’s penitentiary in Waupun, WI. Louis was 24 years old at the time.
Box C S 28
22 Apr 1914
Hello Pa, how are you? I’ll you you the new 9 inch[es] of snow this morning. I got a job. 100 cord slabs [of wood] to cut for [the] ice and fuel co[mpany]. He was after me yesterday so I can go, and not tomorrow either. D.C. Everest wonce [wants] me to take the team [of horses] out to town hall tomorrow. He wonce [wants] Ferd Laut too. Get in well Pa, so good-bye. [Hope] to hear from you soon. Your son, L. Schmidt
The photo is one of the professional photos shot of the Schmidt Family the previous Summer in front of Louis Schmidt’s home. You can see more of these photos with identifications here.