I’ve collected postcards since I was a kid. Friends and family gave me postcards, I scrutinized every card , then organized them in myriad ways. They were a glimpse at a world beyond my own.
On a rainy day, it’s a wonderful pastime to explore the world in my postcards. Today they show history. Here are some cards of familiar Baltimore sites, from a souvenir portfolio from Union News Company.
The Baltimore Post Office, built in the 1890s, was a towering presence, but an unbearable workplace. James H. Bruns, in Great American Post Offices (1998), notes that when the windows were open, drafts sickened the postal workers, and when the windows were closed, clouds of dust choked them. (The dust in these post offices contained dried manure from horse-drawn postal wagons, carried in on the mail sacks, with the odor of the stable. In post offices with overhead conveyors, a steady dusting of manure from the sacks fell upon the workers all day.) The Baltimore office’s main tower, although a landmark, was used only as a place to store old ledgers. [I believe the building was demolished about 1930.]
The Korean War began June 25, 1950 in response to North Korea’s launch of a full-scale invasion across the 38th Parallel into South Korea. My father, William Harry Schwarz of Baltimore MD, had just graduated on June 10th from Virginia Polytechnic Institute with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. He married my mother (Jane Frances Imbach) on June 17th.
On August 14, 1950, Dad was called to active duty as a 2nd Lieutenant and assigned to the 376th Engineer Construction Battalion, 2nd Army, Ft. Meade MD.
My grandparents, John and Marie Schwarz, were Baltimore antique dealers from at least 1925, until my grandmother liquidated the business around 1980. John took over the family business when he was about 25, located on Antique Row, 827 N. Howard Street, and moved it some years later to 2013/2015 N. Charles Street. My grandfather was known throughout the Mid Atlantic and New England as a leading expert in the decorative arts and assisted in the development of that portion of the American collection at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Papa John and Dede brought together all of our extended family, and I grew up having great times hanging at their antique store. So many magical and fascinating googahs and places to hide for small people. I honored my grandparents for their business savvy and was counted on to help with accounting at times. I delivered Holiday orders one December when I was 20, learned my way around Baltimore, and was introduced to some of its wealthiest neighborhoods. I was even with them at times as they traveled New England, buying antiques at small shops and auctions.
My grandmother continued managing the business after Papa John died in 1966, with the help of their daughter, Anne Keene. Antique furniture has infused all of our family. It enriches my artistic sense.