Saturday, November 10th, 2012...5:01 pm
You’ve Got Mail: Gruss aus Gross-New-York!
“I am having a great time down hear in the city”
Last week’s Superstorm Sandy has the New York metropolitan region on the minds and in the hearts of many these days. Thus, a little trip down memory lane to times that – at least on the surface – appeared rosier. Houghton has in its stacks massive numbers of postcards. (This is not to suggest we are unique – for highlights of another formidable local collection, visit the MFA’s current exhibition, The Postcard Age: Selections from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection). The Gustave Körner Memorial Collection of German-American Paper Ephemera (Typ 970.00.4945) contains thousands. The collection was assembled by Louis Williams (Harvard ’45) and honors his great-grandfather, Gustave Körner. Born in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, in 1809, Körner received a law degree from the University of Heidelberg, participated in the 1833 student uprisings, fled to the United States that same year, and settled in Belleville, Illinois. He was influential in the founding of the Republican Party and served as ambassador to Spain under Lincoln.
The collection illustrates German-American culture in the United States, the American presence and influence in Germany, and the great goodwill shared between Germany and the United States before World War I. This affinity is displayed again and again in the colorful, often patriotic postcards manufactured for German-speaking audiences and exchanged enthusiastically between loved ones across the globe.
BC exclaims admiringly of the Heinrich Heine monument in the Bronx, “Oh, this is beautiful – all white!”
A peach and blue lithographed picture of Coney Island boasts “Gruss aus Gross – New – York!”
Franz Huld, a well-known publisher of postcards, graces a New York skyline with a zeppelin and the warm wishes “ein Luftschiff über’s Meer gesandt – Ein Gruss vom alten Vaterland – Erprobt im Sturm bei Tag und Nacht – Verkündet’s Deutsche Geistesmacht”
Striking images of the Brooklyn Bridge, the brainchild of a family of German immigrants, are plentiful.
And evoking the eponymous postcard series but more importantly the inspiration of Liberty’s torch, John calls from the distant past to the current future, “Hold to the light”
This post is part of a weekly feature on the Houghton Library blog, “You’ve Got Mail,” based on letters in Houghton Library. Every Friday this year a Houghton staff member will select a letter from the diverse collections in the Library and put that letter into context. All posts associated with this series may be viewed by clicking on the You’veGotMail tag.
[Thanks to Karen Nipps, Head of the Rare Book Team, for contributing this post.]