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Home of the Cliff Dwellers. I don’t know enough to figure out where this photo was taken, but, these kinds of cliff dwellings are all over the Southwest. Their construction is remarkable, high, rugged crevices in cliffs, where apartment buildings lived, soaring high above the canyons below and ridges to the horizon. Much has been written about the people who built and lived in these structures. I can’t begin to talk about the cultures, what drove them to these nests far above ground and why they left.

If you are familiar with anything about the ancient history of the southwest, you know that around 1450 CE, most of the ancient settlements were abandoned and the residents moved on. Why remains a question that may never be answered. When I was recently visiting Hopi Land, my guide told me that I could look across the Southwest to see the Hopi ancestors and their migration to Three Mesas. She said that the stone houses traced the path of their migration.

I find these cliff dwellings spectacularly beautiful and I understand the desire to live high on hills. The view to forever inspires my imagination.

The picture on this card may or may not be in Arizona, but certainly, Arizona has a number of these cliff dwellings, one of the most famous being Montezuma’s Castle. When Europeans arrived and traveled the Southwest, I cannot imagine what they must have thought – coming around a bend in the arroyo and happening upon a multi-story, clearly many roomed, structure, with no way up but a ladder. I would have thought I’d come upon another world entirely. Even today, knowing what these buildings are, some history and knowing that I am going to Montezuma’s Castle, I am awed coming around the corner and looking up. These people were clever, imaginative and resilient.

The card has its own story to tell, from the typo of “copygriht” to the notice on the back “Authorized by Act of Congress on May 19th1898.” The idea of a post card was new, there was much to be addressed and all was quite formal. The card carries instruction that “THIS SIDE IS EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE ADDRESS.” I suppose if one strayed and wrote correspondence on this side that they would be forever barred by Congress and the US Postal Service from ever sending post cards again.

The writer says, “Dear Sister We arrived safe and all right at Phoenix. It’s a beautiful place as warm as 90°during the day cool night and morning. Write us. Add.Phoenix Arizona. General delivery. Love to all Mamma Mother

Tel. Fred our address. General delivery.”

Clearly, the writer wanted mail and soon!! The comment that they arrived safe and all right was a feat. If this writer and companion drove, their map and route was convoluted and quite an adventure.  A great Ken Burns film, Horatio’s Drive: America’s First Road Trip is a wonderful documentary, with film of the time about how one traveled across America.

Miss Mamie Michael of St. Louis MO received this card. I wonder what she thought about these ruins and her sister in the great wild of Arizona. As the scanner does its work, I see two missing corners and surmise that this card lived in an album, with two photo corners holding it in place. I wonder what other treasures were in Mamie’s album!

Collecting post cards in an album was a popular hobby during this time period in the US. The automobile had been born, travel was possible and Americans had money. America gave birth to the road trip and these are the beginnings documented as a complete artifact. Card, sender, recipient and post marks.

Signing off – until the next road trip!  Sherry

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