history, Uncategorized

 Meet the Teitelmans

This one is my favorite so far, and I have no clue what it says.

It is addressed to a Miss M. Tietelman of New Haven, Connecticut in 1912.

Minnie Teitelman was a Jewish girl born in Russia on September 15, 1888.  Things hadn’t been great for Jews is Russia for a while,  but when Alexander II came to power in 1894, things really blew up and violence intensified.  From 1903-1908 Russian Pogroms increased.  The Tsar at best, looked the other way as thousands of Jews were killed.  Many historical accounts put the Russian government behind the rising tensions.

Clearly, Russia was not a warm and friendly place for Jewish families at this point.  They (understandably) wanted to get the heck out of there.  The problem was, Russia wouldn’t let them leave.

This led to Jewish families having to sneak across borders, taking only what they could carry.  On foot and by train, these brave individuals traveled great distances in search of freedom.

Minnie’s Teitelman family was one of those who sought the freedom that America offered.  Her parents Meyer and Vitia (Vera) arrived along with their 7 children in 1907.

It wasn’t an easy transition.   They took what work they could get.  They lived in a tenement,  and worked in what is literally listed on the census as a “sweat shop”.  The kids worked there too.

The Teitelmans would have lived in a tenement house similar to this when first arriving in America.

A lot of immigrant families never made it out of these conditions.   The Teitelmans are not the norm and that is why I fell in love with them without even knowing who had sent the card or what they had said. It wasn’t even a second generation that got them out either.  Meyer?  Yeah,  he came over as a poor laborer.  A few years later?  He owned his own grocery store.  It was located where now a grassy park is.

Their kids?

Frank married a lady named Bessie and owned and operated a retail store selling fixtures.

Samuel married Ruth and became a successful CPA.

Minnie, the recipient of our card?  She never married,  but she did end up owning her own Children’s clothing store.  “Kiddie Shop” was located in the building below.  She died in 1985 at the ripe old age of 96 years old.  That is so awesome.

Ella (Helen) married well and lived in NYC happily ever after as far as the records show.

Edward had his own plumbing and heating business.

Max- oh Max.  He makes me so proud.   He attended Yale and got his law degree before marrying his sweetheart and founding Chapel Hill Construction and basically building a large portion of New Haven, Connecticut.   Hospitals, schools,  you name it.

Nathan was the baby and the saddest part of this story.   Nathan answered the call of World War I.   Unfortunately,  he was killed in actiom at Chateau Thierry on July 19, 1918.  Before leaving for war he had been a trolley operator.

This family enriched their communities in ways that many could only hope for.  I may never figure out what this card says (translations appreciated) but despite that, I am absolutely in awe of this family and how they epitomized the American Dream.

history, Uncategorized

Oh what a tangled web

Photo postcards are my very favorite because they bring us face to face with the author most times.

Meet Mr. Harvey Milo Barngrover

HM Barngrover

He signed his name “Harvey M. Barngrover, School boy” on the back.  It turns out this school boy was quite the guy!

He was born to a large family in Iowa in the Spring of 1864.  He married Lucille Lisle in 1893 and it sounds like he spend the next 40 years regretting that decision passionately.  Doesn’t she look like all warm and fuzzy in this picture?  Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

Lucy and Harvey

This guy Harvey was extremely successful.  He ran a large fruit farm in Southern California and had multiple ranches of his own as well, raising prized cattle.  He was considered one of the top Farm and Ranch Industry men of Southern California during the turn of the century.  He even has patents on multiple inventions that made fruit picking and canning way more efficient.  Here are a few of his inventions.


He owned a 800 acre Veramount Cattle farm in the Indian Valley and the Slough House Ranch in Santa Clara.  By all accounts, he was a really good guy and very well liked.  He had one problem though.  His wife.  In 1919, after 24 years of marriage and one daughter later, Harvey had enough.  He filed for divorce on grounds of “extreme cruelty by the defendant”.  Harvey brought in 16 (!!) witnesses who all said that this chick was MEAN.  She was constantly berating him, telling him he was a terrible businessman.  (Remember this dude was uber successful.) She held on to the purse strings with an iron fist, and wouldn’t even buy enough food to properly feed her husband and daughter because she was so stingy.  Harvey testified that he had not even had a comfortable chair to sit on in years because she would not allow him to purchase one even though they had more than enough money to do so.  The family pastor even testified!

Harvey was granted a divorce and was probably just taking that sigh of relief when Ol’ Lucy struck again.  She appealed the divorce!!  I didn’t even know this was a thing!!  The appeal was granted, but wait until you hear the slant she used in the second divorce proceedings.  Due to the over 1,000 pages of testimony from the original trial, she couldn’t really deny that she “had developed a most peculiar case of nagging”.  What she argued, was that Harvey should not be granted a divorce because it was nothing against him personally.  In fact, as stated by the many witnesses, she was horrible to everyone!!  Not only her husband, but her daughter, her “tradespeople”, friends and even acquaintances!  She really couldn’t help this little character trait- her nagging grew out of her “ultra puralistic character” because she was an “earnest Christian”.  I mean really.  All I could think as I read the case files was poor, poor Harvey.  This drug out quite some time.  in 1925 and 1926 Lucy traveled to Honolulu for holidays (I guess she had money for that!) and was still listed as married.  Maybe she was in denial?  Either way, by 1930 she was living on her own and going by the title of divorcee.  In August of 1930 Lucy passed away living in San Jose.

Harvey, being the enterprising man he was, took a second stab at love.  In 1931 he traveled to Indiana and married a distant cousin who was 20+ years his junior and on her 5th marriage.  Unfortunately, he didn’t have long with his new gal, as he died suddenly on September 11, 1933.  His new wife auctioned off his property and remarried.

While not the most lucky in love, Harvey was extremely well loved and held in very high esteem by his friends and colleagues.  Newspapers all over the area ran the story of his death and every one of them mentioned how missed he would be.

Vera, Harvey’s daughter, the one who was also supposedly “peculiarly nagged” by her mother, may not have had the most loving mother, but she did find a loving husband.  She married Judge Phillip Charles Farman who has a pretty amazing story himself.

Charles was born in Napa in 1899 to Swedish immigrants.  He served in World War 1, played rugby and became a linebacker for USC and then a judge.  He went on to become two time Gold Medal winner in the 90 and older Senior Olympics, competing in Javelin and Discus throwing.  When asked what his secret was, he said he simply outlived those he couldn’t out throw.  Judge Farman was still walking a minimum of 3 miles per day up through his 95th year.

Vera Lucile Barngrover
Vera Lucile Barngrover Farman 
Phillip Farman
Judge Phillip Charles Farman


I absolutely love the adventures these postcards take me on when researching.  Who would have known this “school boy” would have such an interesting story!

history, Uncategorized

Rogelio Sierra- International man of mystery?  

I recently came into possession of nearly 20 postcards all addressed to a Mr. Rogelio Sierra of Ybor City, Florida.

What intrigued me about this particular set was that these cards, sent from 1908-1911 were sent from all over the world and in many different languages.

A few of the cards were signed by what seemed to be a code. “Affectionately Yours,  4298” and “Dear 4598, I received your correspondence….”

I began to translate the non-English cards (Thanks to my bilingual friends and Google Translate).  There were quite a few references to “The Globe” and mentions of the senders’ pleasure that Mr. Sierra was joining the Berlin branch of said Globe.

Naturally,  my mind working the way it does, it made the logical conclusion that I was now in possession of Top Secret spy correspondence.

I decided to look into Mr. Sierra and his international ring of friends a little closer.

Rogelio Sierra was born in Havana, Cuba in September of 1882 to Ramon and Maricella Sierra, who had immigrated from Spain as young adults.

In 1897 Ramon Sierra made the decision to leave Havana for a newly founded “company town” in a burrough of Tampa, Florida.   Ybor City was founded by a group of cigar manufacturers in 1886 who had moved their cigar operations to the area.  Ramon is listed as a “cigar packer” in the city directories and censuses.   Rogelio and the rest of his family followed in 1899.

Ybor City provided home ownership opportunities and a wonderful,  vibrant community for the cigar workers and their families.  Rogelio and his family would have lived in a casita similar to one of these.


While by all accounts, the Sierra family was a vibrant and loving family, wealthy it appears they were not.  So how did Rogelio come to have friends and correspondents from all over the world?

I decided to take a look at the senders.

Wilfred W. Wright from Leeds, England.   Surely,  old Wilfred was going to turn out to be some James Bond sort right?  Not exactly.   Wilfred was a single man born in 1862 to Sam and Frances Wright.   He worked as a Toy Manufacturer’s agent before joining the family biz of making confections.   That’s right, he was a candy maker.  So far we have Cuban Cigars and English candies.

Not exactly the route I thought I would be going with this one. 

What connected Rogelio the Cuban American to Wilfred the English candy maker?  Not to mention the Philippino gentleman, the German bookseller,  the Colombian, Argentinian,  Frenchman and Mexican?

I finally figuered out the common thread that ran between each one of these people.  They were dreamers.  They knew there was more to the world than the small little section they inhabited.  Most of them did not have the means to travel.  They lived in modest homes on modest incomes.  They didn’t have the Internet of course.  They didn’t even have access to “worldly” people for the most part.  What they did have was “The Globe”.  A postcard penpal club that was formed to share the world with its members.  Each member was given a membership number and each number had a list of specific interests that the senders could take into consideration when choosing which card to send them.  Rogelio liked maps and city views.

While it turns out I didn’t stumble across an international intrigue ring, I have to say I think what I did find is even better.  A group of men who discovered a way to see the world regardless of the fact that their circumstances didn’t alot them to do it in person at that point in their lives.

And Rogelio?  He did get to see the world.   He died in Portugal in 1958.  Something tells me he wouldn’t have had it any other way.  That makes him a pretty cool guy to me.

history, Uncategorized

The mystery of Cliff and John

This particular card caught my eye because of this adorable illustration on the front.  When I turned it over and read what was written, I was hooked and had to know more.

It is addressed to a Mr. Clifford *So and So (I am withholding his last name for reasons you will soon find out) who was vacationing at the Arcadia House in Port Carling,  Ontario.  It was August of 1925.

It says:

“Dear Skeezix,

This is to let you know that I have not forgotten you.  I have had no time to write to you but I will not forget you.   I am like the picture.   Have some good snaps to show you.   I may go to Niagara Falls on Labor Day.  Hope you would like to abscond away with me as I am going to take my camera along!  Think it over.  -John”

A man writing to another man in 1925, telling him he is always dreaming of him.  I needed to know what happened between these guys!  I hoped they had their Happily Ever After but knew it wasn’t likely given the era they lived in.  I dove right into the records to see what I could find.

Our Clifford was born in June of 1905, putting him at barely 20 years old when this was written.

The name he was addressed with had me confused.  I had never heard of Skeezix before.  A Google search of Skeezix and 1925 shed a little light.  There was a comic strip called Gasoline Alley that featured a character named Skeezix.   In 1925, a spinoff comic called “Walt and Skeezix” was published.   The Skeezix character is a baby who Walt finds and keeps.  Could this be hidden code for the endearment “Baby”??

Clifford’s family was very well off according to census records.   His dad was a farmer, but his income indicates he was an extremely successful one.  This explains Cliff summering at the popular Canadian resort.  I found a photograph of the resort area Cliff was at taken the very same time he was there.  I wonder if he is in this picture?

The postal stamp cancellation is from the New Market post office, the suburb of Toronto where Cliff lived.  John must have lived there too.

While we know nothing about John, we know that Cliff was from an upper class family, who I suspect may have been pretty conservative.   Both of his siblings became Preachers.  Clifford took another route and became a salesman.

He didn’t get to live happily ever after with John,  though he did marry a woman in the 1930’s and had one daughter.  He lived out his short life with them at this house before passing away in 1951 at the young age of barely 46 years old.  I haven’t been able to bring myself to look up his cause of death, it makes me too sad.

Although we will never know the true nature of the relationship between John and Clifford,  I like to think that they did have a secret romance and that for at least the summer of 1925, they were happy. I just know that John’s film from Niagara on Labor Day 1925 is out there somewhere and will back my theory up!