Telescope in The Lookout, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.
This is the second Fred Harvey/Grand Canyon/Telescope postcard. The Library of Love Letters, has a post entitled, Sometimes It’s Art, Sometimes It’s Whiskey. This picture is taken in Lookout Tower – the same place, from another angle, similarly composed.
A woman is looking to the North Rim, while a gentleman stands beside in both postcards.
Fred Harvey, the man and his legacy, the company, made hospitality a fine art. Many of the most beautiful postcards of the era are courtesy of Fred Harvey. The Sometimes It’s Art card is postmarked 1921, however, that woman’s clothing seems earlier than 1921, while this woman is dressed in the independent, liberated, female of the Jazz Age attire.
The caption explains, “The telescope in this tower is not the usual type of single-barreled machine. It is constructed exactly like an opera glass, and the layman experiences no difficulty in seeing through it, as it needs no more adjustment than any ordinary opera glass and the field of vision is ten to twenty times greater than through the ordinary single-barrel machine.
“The north rim of the Canyon, thirteen miles away, with its forest of pines, appears only a half mile away through the telescope.
“This machine has been installed for the benefit of all visitors to the Canyon and no charge is made to anyone.”
While the telescope itself appears identical to the telescope on the earlier card, the stands are different. The dress in the two cards, are very different. It seems like decades between the two cards, when in reality it was probably just a few years.
When I look at this flapper, I think about her trip to the Grand Canyon. Did she come from the east coast? Who is the man near her in the picture? Were they on a cross country trip, or more local and just visiting the somewhat local Grand Canyon?
The famous Fred Harvey and his company made rail travel, hotel stays and food service in the American West a much more civilized adventure than it had been. Fred Harvey combined food, adventure, scenery, to make travel entertaining, enlightening and fun. Long before we started talking about experiences, rather than things, Fred Harvey set up an entire company to provide just that experience, with post cards, instead of posts on social media included. The social media of the day was more social, consisting of a dozen people or more handling these cards to get them from writer to recipient.
As I look at this picture, I return to Mary Colter, the woman who designed this and other buildings at the Grand Canyon. The Lookout, as this building was originally named, was designed to provide several experiences for Grand Canyon visitors. First, as a space from which to view the Grand Canyon, no matter the weather. It is located on the edge of the Canyon, providing great photo opportunities for those travelers with cameras. Secondly, the room had Indian rugs, comfortable chairs, a lovely fireplace, inviting the traveler to pause and contemplate. One Fred Harvey brochure includes a picture of a women writing a postcard in the Lookout, thus completing our circle of postcards, experience and memory.
I wish this card had been sent. Somehow, these cards feel incomplete, missing context without a writer. Someone bought this card, close to 100 years ago, cared enough to keep it and then passed it down a generation or two, speaks to the idea of place and time. Someone was there, interacted with a Fred Harvey employee, and kept the card. Perhaps in a box, not in an album. Perhaps it was a treasured memory of a young woman, much like our friend in the photo. She may have told her story, her visit, to a daughter, son, niece, grandson, who kept and treasured the card and story, finally ending up in a garage or estate sale, eventually posted on my blog.
I love postcards. The humanness of the actual card, written, sent, received and treasured tells a story greater than a post in the cloud. It is less immediate, and more of a complete human artifact to live in time.
To our next travel experience through time, place and person.