Friday, March 25, 2016

Thanksgiving Postcard, 1910

Thanksgiving Postcard, 1910                                                           by Alan Borer


            Thanksgiving cards were once as common as Christmas cards.  Usually postcards, they conveyed holiday greetings while taking advantage of the post offices once cent postcard rate..  Combined with inexpensive color printed postcards manufactured in Germany, the one cent rate created a blizzard of post cards numbering in the hundreds of millions between, roughly, 1900 and 1914.


            Yet every major phenomenon has its individual stories.  When I first looked at this postcard, I saw what the sender saw, a doomed turkey bound for the Thanksgiving table.  A theme which was reproduced in thousands of ways:  Pilgrims, corn, pumpkins, Indians, and even a few tardy jack-o-lanterns were reproduced on Thanksgiving cards.  But the turkey, doomed or not, was and is the ultimate Thanksgiving symbol. 


            But then I glanced at the back.  No message, just an address, but in Bowling Green, Ohio, my hometown.  I decided to find out what I could about the person receiving this postcard, and thus enter into a Thanksgiving celebration of more than one hundred years ago.


            The name on the card was “Miss Coral Nelson.”  Miss Nelson was easily indentified through the United States Census and various genealogical services.  To summarize, Coral was born March 19, 1895, the daughter of Elmer Nelson, a farmer, and Della Stacy Nelson.  She had two brothers, one older and one younger.  Her father, Elmer Nelson, was in turn the son of William Nelson (1821-1908), who had come to Wood County from Ashtabula, Ohio. 


            William had been raised on a farm, and farmed most of his life.  In his teen years, he worked as a peddler, and briefly tried living is Missouri before coming back to Wood County for good.  In the flowery language of the 1890s. William Nelson was remembered as ”a thorough and skilled agriculturist [and] a business man of more than ordinary capacity…”


Coral Nelson was William’s granddaughter.  In 1900, she was living on a farm in Center Township, east of Bowling Green.  By 1920, she was living in Plain Township, west of the village.  She had one year of college.  In 1925, at age 30, she married Russell Kramer, a 32-year-old farmer.  It does not appear that Russell and Cora had children, although in 1930 they had two “lodgers,” who may have been farmhands.  Coral died in 1957, about three weeks before her 62nd birthday.  Her husband Russell remarried, and died in Bowling Green in 1979.


            Something sounded familiar about Cora’s married name, Kramer.  I grew up only a mile from Kramer Road, south of Bowling Green.  A check of a 1954 plat map of Wood County confirmed my hunch – Russell and Coral Kramer owned about 315 acres of prime Wood County farmland.


            Coral was only 61 when she died.  I wonder if she ever though in later years about the Thanksgiving card she received back when she was 14.  I hope that Coral, and everyone else, had happy memories of Thanksgivings of happy times good food  - and turkeys.

[I used the website  The quotation comes from Commemorative and Biographical Record of Wood County, Ohio, v2, p.731.]