Thursday, October 11, 2012

Postcards From Marcie


Ninety-nine years ago, on Saint John's Day (or Midsummer's Day to those more inclined to pagan ways), a young woman named Marcie sent word to a gentleman living in central Louisiana that she was spending her last full day in Munich.  Her intention was to travel on to Innsbruck...

Marcie was enjoying herself, she wrote Robert, but had tired of almost constant rain.  She hoped Austria offered sunnier skies.  She informed him (somewhat boldly) that she'd gone to a public bath in Munich.  And there she swam without "a single stitch of clothing" in deference to local custom!  I suspect Marcie wore a devilish smile as she penned her comments, expecting they might drive Robert to the brink of madness he thought about Marcie swimming nude.  She confessed she'd probably sinned but had never before felt quite so free...
Friedensdenkmal Peace Monument, Munich

The postcard Marcie sent from Munich on June 24, 1913, is labeled Friedensdenkmal.  It depicts the Angel of Peace rising above Maximilian Park in a suburb of Munich known as Bogenhausen.  Begun in 1896 but not unveiled until 1899, the statue celebrates a quarter century peace following the Franco-Prussian war.  A brief conflict (1870-1871), the war dramatically altered Europe's political dynamics by making a unified German Empire possible.  Its architect was Otto von Bismarck, an aristocrat and Prime Minister of Prussia, whose goal was to forge a nation from the scattered Teutonic states using "blood and iron" if necessary.  The result of the Franco-Prussian War was to essentially shatter France as a military power capable of balancing German expansionism.  Its settlement provided for German annexation of the formerly French province of Alsace-Lorraine...

[One wonders if Marcie ever encountered an itinerant water-colorist who had moved to Munich roughly a month before she sent the postcard to Robert.  He'd fled his native Hapsburg Austria to avoid arrest for evading military service obligations.  Ironically, when the peace celebrated by the Angel in Maximilian Park died in 1914 thanks to the First World War, the artist enlisted in the German Army.  After hostilities ended, he continued his work for the military, infiltrating meetings held by radical nationalists.  He found their insane and hate-filled rants answered his own insane, hate-filled questions.  The failed artist would go on to become dictator of Germany and start his own World War.]
Was Mueller's Public Bathhouse, Munich, completed in 1901,
the locale of Marcie's nude aquatic frolicking?

Marcie had traveled through New Orleans on her way to Europe.  A postcard to Robert from the Crescent City shows the famous Margaret Statue at the park located at Camp and Prytania.  Her brief note tells him it is the first statue ever to a woman anywhere in the United States...

[Historians, sometimes a humorless and dry lot, dispute this popular Louisiana article of faith.  They say a monument to Hannah Dustin in the town of Haverhill, Massachusetts, predates Alexander Doyle's sculpture to NOLA's Margaret Gaffney Haughery, erstwhile laundress who died a wealthy baker and philanthropist despite being born into poverty in Ireland and orphaned by a yellow fever epidemic.
Margaret Statue, New Orleans

The statue to Hannah Dustin first graced Haverhill in 1879 and commemorates her 1679 actions in response to an attack on the settlement by Abenaki Indians.  Taken prisoner along with roughly a dozen other people, Dustin formulated an escape plan that left most of her captors dead.  She scalped as many Indians as she could since Massachusetts' General Court offered a bounty for proof an Indian had been killed.  Hannah received a £25 reward for killing nine Native Americans, two of whom were women and six of whom were children.  Dustin, regarded by some as a folk hero, has been called "the mother of the American tradition of scalp hunting".
Hannah Dustin and companions slaying their captors: an 1846
vision of the scalphunter at work by artist Junius Brutus Stearns

Our Puritan forefathers, as industrious as they were ignorant, took a generally dim view of Native Americans.  The roots of their attitudes are complex and had to do in part with a suspicion that Nature herself is under the dominion of Satan.  Since Native Americans were particularly close to the natural world, it followed they were prone to devil worship and sorceries.  Many Puritans believed the Prince of Evil had led the ancestors of North America's aboriginal people to the New World to prevent them from hearing the Gospel of Christ.  Sin was seen as so ingrained in the Indians that attempts to "save their souls" were usually considered a waste of time.  Sadly, too, many Puritans viewed epidemics among native peoples as a gift from God-- His way of cleansing the New World to make it worthy for the labors of His new Chosen People.]  

Margaret used most of the profits of her business to build and finance poor houses and orphanages during her lifetime.  When she left this life in 1882, she still had a fortune of $30,000 left-- a figure equating in today's dollars to an "economic status value" of about $6,280,000.  Mrs Haughery was greatly loved by her adopted city.  Her many charitable works included feeding those who couldn't afford to buy the bread she sold.  The mayor of New Orleans led her funeral procession...
Marcie's postcard to Robert from Chicago:
perhaps a hint that he would enjoy some good
luck when he next saw her?

For readers who are curious, I know what little I do about Robert and Marcie thanks to coming across her postcards in a collection of postal memorabilia I acquired several years back.  He (and possibly she) lived in a small town in Avoyelles Parish called Bunkie.  Avoyelles Parish adjoins Rapides Parish where I grew up in the Red River city of Alexandria.  In yet another of those odd coincidences life has to offer, an early Avoyelles settlement was a now defunct town, Irion-- a name given to the county along the western border of Tom Green County in Texas where I now live...
Artist Junius Brutus Stearns, illustrator of Hannah Dustin's bloody
but financial rewarding escape from the Abenaki, is best known
today for his patriotic illustrations such as the 1856 heroic rendering
of George Washington at the Constitutional Convention

Bunkie, according to The Jewish Almanac (Richard Siegel and Carl Rheins, 1980), is one of 87 locations in the United States named for a connection to the Jewish people... 

In this case, the link would be the father of Mary Maccie Haas.  Born in Alsace when it was still a part of France, he crossed the Atlantic and came to the United States about 1845.  Local lore has it that Mr Haas returned from a business trip to New Orleans and brought with him a toy monkey for the amusement of his young daughter.  Maccie adorably called it a "bunkie".  Haas reportedly granted a right of way across his family's plantation to the Texas and Pacific Railroad, reserving the right to name the settlement growing up around the depot.  Maccie being the apple of his eye...
Bunkie native Zutty Singleton (on drums) with his Creole Band

Bunkie, to the serious jazz buff, stands out as the birthplace of drummer Zutty Singleton who was born there in 1898.  Singleton can be heard working his percussive magic on Louis Armstrong's "Hot Five" recordings-- considered to be essential listening for a true appreciation of early jazz.  He did sessions and toured with the likes of Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, and Fats Waller...

Returning to Marcie and Robert, we have another postcard.  It was mailed from Chicago where she had a grand time shopping and promised to be home soon.  It is a rather interesting card with its gambler's paraphernalia and hint of vice.  Perhaps it was Marcie's way of telling Robert he just might find himself a rather lucky chap when she returned from her travels...

The Puritans would likely not have approved of this
Native American themed publicity photo of actress
Alix Talton, co-star of 1957's The Deadly Mantis



Prints and greeting cards by Louis R Nugent available through Fine Art America.  Choose from nearly two hundred unique ideas for home and office decor or holiday and birthday cards for someone who deserves something out of the ordinary.  Individual cards can be purchased for under $5.  High quality print prices start at $22.


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Note: All photographs for this essay were located through Google Images or Wikipedia, without authoritative source or ownership information except as noted: Friedensdenkmal Margaret Statue and Good Luck postcards from the author's collection

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