Friday, May 13, 2011

A postcard for Miss Baldwin

Elaine Luck, a collector and dealer of vintage postcards, sent me this delightful image and asked me a question about it that I could not answer.

Elaine wants to know the meaning of the card and the significance of "Miss Baldwin." She says the card, which was mailed in 1914, was part of a printed set of Halloween postcards.

It is not, she says, rendered by hand, which rules out my first thought that this could be a kind of Halloween valentine to a young woman named Baldwin.

In 1914 the Baldwin apple was still the most popular variety in the Northeast, and possible all of North America. By Halloween, the crisp, slightly tart Baldwins would be picked and ready to enjoy.

So perhaps it is a sort of valentine, but to the apple, celebrating the fruit of the harvest.

Does anyone have another idea? And any guess about who that debonair fellow might be, he of the striped suit and the yellow complexion?

If you have a theory, please share it in the comments!

Meanwhile, Elaine has many other charming apple-themed cards at her online store, Luck Postcards, where this card and others are for sale.


  1. Probably the best clue to help understand "the meaning of the card" is to examine the other works of the artist in an effort to see if there is a pattern showing how the artist treated different topics.

    Not knowing that, and knowing only about the popularity of the Baldwin apple during that era, that they were ripe and available at Halloween, and that there are red and yellow apple varieties, here is what I take from the card.

    For me it is a simple homage to the Baldwin apple. The yellow apple is likely representative of a contemporary popular yellow apple, probably a russet from the drawing. It is yellow to emphasize and distinguish between the male and the female figures in the drawing. The female had to be red because the Baldwin is red, so that left yellow to represent the male figure. The male could have been represented as a green apple, but for artistic reasons that would not have worked as well.

    In sum, it is I suspect little more than a "cute" card using the popularity of the Baldwin apple as the "hook". I seriously doubt there is any deep meaning to the card.

  2. Mark, I believe you are right, especially about dapper Mr. Russet.

    The gentleman's suede-colored suit is a dead giveaway.

  3. I'll forward this link to some of my Apple expert colleagues. It could inspired from the fact that Baldwin was THE number one Apple cultivar of that time period, until 1934 when many trees in the northeast were killed from fluctuating low and high temperatures.

    From the 1850s on the Baldwin was the most popular Apple in the north east, and was highly reccomended for large plantings at that time.

    Unfortunately for Miss Baldwin, she may have been more a marketing idea than a playful postcard. According to Maine agricultural records, and New York, and other states, the year 1914 produced the largest Apple crops on record. Many of the farms had a good portion of their orchard devoted to Baldwin. This postcard could easily have been to help promote the huge harvest, there were even railroads in Maine devoted to shipping apples to and fro to processors and distributors alike. No doubt along the way there was a lot of Baldwin to be sold.

  4. This is an excerpt from Farmers bulletin published by USDA in 1914

    The apple crop of 1914 is probably the largest ever produced in the United States, being estimated at 259,000,000 bushels, as compared with 145,000,000 bushels in 1913; about 235,000,000 bushels in 1912; 214,000,000 in 1911; 142,000,000 in 1910; and 146,000,000 in 1909, as reported by the census. These figures represent the total "agricultural" crop and should not be confused with figures representing estimates of the "commercial" crop, which comprises only the marketed portion of the total production. In 1913 tho commercial crop was estimated at 40 per cent of the total agricultural production. The census report of 146,000,000 bushels in 1909 is the basis of yearly estimates of total production, being used in connection with crop reporters' estimates of percentage of a full crop produced each year.

  5. I really hope that Elaine is monitoring these comments, because you all are doing a great job of filling in the blanks about her postcard!

  6. John bunker, founder of FEDCO TREES and maines renound ruit explorer/pomologist. Agrees with my explanation of miss, but we should not completely close the case....I'm sure there's more to be found. John also added in his reply that he has another vaguely similar postcard from the same time period, but is promoting a cider Apple, rather than a fresh eater....he and I suspects it could be the same artist....but it needs to be examined side by side.

    The mystery continues.


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