243. Postcards from Charles Peterson, 1917-1919

Happy System Day, 2021! One hundred and thirty-one years ago today Charles Peterson’s System pipe received the first of its three patents. I encourage all Pete Geeks to celebrate the day with a favorite System pipe, light up and give thanks for the genius and geniality of one of the great pipemen of all time and the pipes he created with his colleagues at Kapp & Peterson.

Back in June of 2019, on one of the most memorable days of my life, I was invited into the home of the Brady family in Dublin. They had been custodians of some of Charles Peterson’s personal effects—the famous pipe replicated as the 140th Anniversary Pipe, photographs, passports and other items—for many years through the friendship of their mother with Peterson’s daughter, Isolda Peterson, who was their godmother. Much of the success of the early chapters in The Peterson Pipe is due to their friendship with Latvian journalist Sandra Bondarevska and their willingness to honor the memory of their godmother and her famous father by taking a great deal of time scanning photographs for inclusion in the book. 1

When we arrived for lunch, all of Charles Peterson’s effects (aside from the pipes, which had been donated to K&P several years before) were on display on a large dining table. It was terribly difficult not to run over there, sit down and ask to be left alone for several hours, preferably with a camera and scanner. That didn’t happen, of course, but as a family they were the kind of unbelievable Irish hosts that give the country its character of warmth, charm and hospitality.

After lunch and more or less on the way out the door, I did manage to break away and look a bit at the materials, and spotting an album of postcards, asked what they were. They turned out to have been sent by Charles Peterson while on business travels in Europe to his daughter Isolda between 1917 and 1919. Isolde was born in 1911 and was between six and eight years old when her father sent her these postcards. According to the Brady family, “Soldie” not only loved receiving the postcards but wanted to collect the stamps, which she tore off with varying degrees of success.

When I got back to the States, I asked if the cards might be scanned for use in further documenting Kapp & Peterson and its founder, and of course they did, giving me permission to use them as I saw fit.

So here they are, all eighteen, with some scanty annotations. I will let you draw your own conclusions as you read these often hastily-written notes from a loving Father to the child he adored. As the blog is read by some very erudite folk in all parts of the world, if any of you can add any insights or information about any of the cards—whether historical references, background information, language or  assistance in deciphering some of the words—please let me know, either directly or in the comments section, as it will help in the next book in the Kapp & Peterson saga.

Annie, Isolda, Charles and Conrad

-1917-

 

July 13, 1917: Saint-Claude

Miss Isolda Peterson
144 Leinster Road
Rathmines
Dublin
Ireland

Friday, 13/7/17
St. Claude 10.30a.m.

The weather is just fine, I am leaving for Paris, if all goes well shall be at 9a.m. in Paris. I hope that you and brother are not giving any trouble to your Mother.
XXXXX Father

Peterson has concluded business in Saint-Claude and is getting ready to return to Paris and hence to Dublin. Today you can drive between Saint-Claude and Paris in a little over five hours. For Peterson, it was much more difficult involving overnight train travel.

This first post card in the sequence is my favorite, not only with its spectacular view of the world center of briar pipe manufacture, but because it offers supplemental documentary evidence to Peterson’s passport (seen in the Peterson book on p.74) that he made visits to St. Claude to buy briar. 2

 144 Leinster Road: The red door marks the home of Petersons

 

July 14, 1917: Paris

Miss Isolda Peterson
144 Leinster Road
Rathmines
Dublin
Ireland

Paris
14/7/17
Hotel Cailleuse

I arrived in paris 10.3 a.m. had to stay in station for 1 ½ [hours] impossible to get taxi or cab after 22 ½ hours railway, and also walk all day in Paris, it is a National Holiday, the place is alife. I am going to bed at 9.30. XXXXX Father

Poor Peterson! He arrived in Paris on Bastille Day after an overnight trip from Saint-Claude and owing to the crowds couldn’t get a taxi at the station.

(If you have information about Hotel Cailleuse, please let me know.)

 

July 16, 1917: Paris

Miss Isolda Peterson
144 Leinster Road
Rathmines
Dublin
Ireland

Hotel Cailleuse
Gard du Nord
Paris

I spent a very nice Sunday, the weather was very beautyful, met great many Russian solders also few English Tomies every thing looks well and lifely, hardly can believe that war is on, with love to you and all,
XXXXXX FatherThe Great War would not end for more than two years, but in the meantime Peterson had a business to run and briar to import. As Russian was his native language (and he was considered Russian in his own day, even though he was born in Latvia), it must have been an enjoyable experience to meet soldiers from the Russian Expeditionary Force seen in a postcard from the era who could converse with him in his native tongue.

 

 

October 23, 1917: London

Miss Isolda Peterson
144 Leinster Road
Rathmines
Dublin
Ireland

Tuesday
5.45p.m.

Just a line to let you know that we are all well, it is just starting to rain, Conrad is dining with me.
11.55 I am starting for [?] Daddy XXX
Thanks for mothers letter!

As Sandra Bondarevska’s biography of the Peterson family relates, Conrad (Konrad) was Charles’ nephew and had been living with Peterson since escaping from the Tsarists in Latvia in 1906. Not yet thirty at the time, he was working on an engineering degree in Dublin, and apparently traveling with and perhaps assisting Charles on this business trip. Peterson is headed for Droitwich (thanks Dixon Smith for deciphering that word!), an historic spa town in northern Worcestershire on the River Salwarpe.

 

 

 

-1918-

 

April 23, 1918: London

Miss Isolda Peterson
144 Leinster Road
Rathmines
Dublin
Ireland

Tuesday
23/4/18.

I am grand, it is very wet today. I hope you are a good girl and [looking?] after your mother. love to all  Daddy.

Front of card: No Bacon in my Bag.

A quick note, with a pang of love or loneliness, perhaps occasioning the additional comment on the front of the card. I wonder what Peterson was talking about?

 

July 10, 1918: Harrogate, England

Miss Isolda Peterson
144 Leinster Road
Rathmines
Dublin
Ireland

Monday. 2 30 pm
7/10/18

The Kensington Hotel: Harrogate

I am getting an A.I. with the sulphur water, drinking and bathing [?] few day’s more will do me a great deal of good. Today is fine but Windy. Just received mothers letter shall writer her to morrow, just going to have a 20 minute nap before going out for a long walk. With love to all, all, all. Your loving Dad.

Harrogate is a spa town in North Yorkshire, to which Charles seems to have gone explicitly for his health, as bathing in sulphur water relieves aches and pains. I saw his cane while at the Brady’s—not the type gentlemen carried to the office or to the opera, but a blonde wood affair with an egg-shaped handle obviously used as an aid for walking for someone with hip or leg problems. Charles was born in 1852 and so was 66 this year. He would die the following year on September 11, 1919, and by this time was doubtless feeling the aches and pains common to most of us around this age.

According to The London Gazette for 16th August 1968, the Kensington Hotel ceased operations and the company was dissolved that year. I have not been able to source any photographs or postcards. Notice the “BUY NATIONAL WAR BONDS NOW” on the postal cancelling.

(Doctors, what is an “A.I.?”)

 

Wednesday, December 4, 1918: London

Miss Isolda Peterson
144 Leinster Road
Rathmines
Dublin
Ireland

Dean Hotel
Wednesday

I am getting on grand. The weather is fine and warm. Mr. Joly is very poorly has all kinds of complaints. Mrs. Joly is well and jolly. love and compliments to all, many thanks for Mother’s letter. Please give loving kisses to them all. Daddy.

The color of ink, penmanship and pen match that of the December 8, 1918 postcard which follows. The postmark offers additional confirmation.

(Anybody in the UK know about the Dean Hotel in London?)

 

Sunday, December 8, 1918: London

Miss Isolda Peterson
144 Leinster Road
Rathmines
Dublin
Ireland

Sunday

After a good rest, have finished my letters, just starting for Giulini to spend the afternoon. Be home Wednesday Hoping all well Love from Daddy

The postcard was cancelled at 2:15am on the 9th of December, 1918, which came on Monday that year and adds additional confirmation to the postmark.

Who as Guilini? Obviously someone or a business well-known to the Peterson family.

 

-1919-

By the first of 1919, the Petersons had moved into their residence at 53 Kenilworth Square
(the building with the black door is number 53).

 

January 9, 1919: Hamburg

Miss Isolda Peterson
53 Kenilworth Square
Rathmines
Dublin
Ireland

1/9/19.

Hotel Nuppnau
Holzdamm
Hamburg

Ich bin sehr gut in Hamburg an gekomen, have found every thing very nice, spend the Sunday on the Alster, Mr. Mase Gleiche [?] (our workman), has just arrived to meet me, he looks well.

Love and kisses to you all. loving
Father

Isolde is eight years old, and apparently German is spoken at home, or else why would Charles begin his post card to her in (elementary) German? The previous Sunday (the 9th being Thursday), Charles spent the day either on the Alster River  or up and down it.
(I can’t make out who “Mr. Mase Gleiche” is, but as he is qualified as “our workman,” he must have had something to do with the manufacturing of pipe materials. As for the Hotel Nuppnau, it is listed in the Deutscher Bühnen-Almanach, Volume 38, but beyond that I cannot say—friends in Deutschland, ever heard of it?)

 

August 11, 1919: London

Miss Isolda Peterson
53 Kenilworth Square
Rathgar
Dublin
Ireland

Dean Hotel

I am starting for Holland to night. my address
Ch. P Herr
c/o R. PeuKert
60 Spuistraat
The Hague

loving Father XXX

I wonder what the teapots the flappers are carrying are all about. We tend to think of the flapper era as something from the 1920s, although it had actually had its beginnings at the turn of the century.

 

August 12, 1919: The Hague

Miss Isolda Peterson
53 Kenilworth Square
Rathgar
Dublin
Ireland

12/8/19

60 Spuistraat
Hague
Holland

I had most beautyful crossing. Arrived 4.30 p.m. after five hours looking about found a room in a Bookmakers house, it is very good. The Place is overcrowded. it is very hot. Love and many kisses to all. all XXXX your loving Father

 

August 13, 1919: The Hague

Miss Isolda Peterson
53 Kenilworth Square
Rathgar
Dublin
Ireland

13th August
60 Spuistraat
The Hague
Holland

I am keeping grand. The weather very hot, food plenty full, game prices [?] like in Ireland, all the people look strong and healthy, hoping you are all well at home. Love and kisses to all all. Yours Father

 

Friday [August 15,] 1919: The Hague

 

Miss Isolda Peterson
53 Kenilworth Square
Rathgar
Dublin
Ireland

Friday. 2.30 p.m.

I may not be able to leave the Hague befor end of neset week, it is a nice place to be stook in. The weather is stil nice and warm, the Lo[d]gings very good, play 66 every evening, eight-points for 1d  I am about 21 in.

with love to all all XXX your loving
Father

This undated postcard, postmarked for 1919, is from the same series as the Monday, August 18, 1919 card. And of course, Friday precedes the following fully-dated card. Notice the soft cut edges, similar scene on the front, and same printer. It is from the same sequence, as the numbers in the right lower hand show.

From Wikipedia: “Sixty-Six or 66 (German: Sechsundsechzig), sometimes known as Paderbörnern,is a fast 5- or 6-card point-trick game of the marriage type for 2–4 players, played with 24 cards. It is an Ace-Ten game where Aces are high and Tens rank second. It has been described as ‘one of the best two-handers ever devised.’

Closely related games for various numbers of players are popular all over Europe and include Austria’s national card game, Schnapsen, the Czech/Slovak Mariáš, Hungarian Ulti, Finnish Marjapussi and French Bezique. The game is also similar to American Pinochle.”

 

August 18, 1919: Amsterdam

Miss Isolda Peterson
53. Kenilworth Square
Rathgar
Dublin
Ireland

18/8/19
Amsterdam

I am having a fine time in Amsterdam. The people nice & the weather is fine, hot and will have to come bak on Friday or Saturday, my samples which left Dublin before me have not arrived, hoping you and all all are keeping well. Father

Ch Peterson
60 Spuistraat Haag

August 18th fell on a Monday in 1919. Peterson and Alfred Kapp divided up their marketing territories by language: Kapp took England, the UK and Canada, while Peterson took the European continent. This made sense, since Peterson could speak German (as well as Russian, English and Latvian).

 

August 20, 1919: The Hague

Miss Isolda Peterson
53. Kenilworth Square
Rathgar
Dublin
Ireland

20/8/19.
Scheveningen

I am just sitting at the See front and enjoying the nice breeze. I am feeling grand, and taking things very easy because Samples I am waiting for not come. love and loving XXX to you and all all.

Father

Scheveningen was and is a seaside resort and one of the eight districts of The Hague.

 

 

August 28, 1919: The Hague

 

Miss Isolda Peterson
53 Kenilworth Square
Rathgar
Dublin
Ireland

28th August

Den Haag.

I am starting direct for Hamburg on Friday morning 6.59. am.  By doing so I shall safe two weeks. It was a strock of good Luck I came across the right man. I hope you are all keeping well with love and many XXX to you and all all

your loving
Father

 

August 30, 1919: Hamburg

Miss Isolda Peterson
53 Kenilworth Square
Rathgar
Dublin
Ireland

Hamburg 30/8/19.

Arrived well & safe after 32 hours’ journey, am sitting in a very nice Park and enjoying the fresh air.

hoping you and all are well at home.
your loving
Father

The Winterhuder was an institution in Hamburg, having been built in 1854 by coal merchant Carl Friedrich Jacobs. The 1890 Art Nouveau hall can be seen in the background and was built to host dances and other meetings and celebrations.

This final postcard in the sequence was never mailed, and Charles Peterson never returned to Dublin. As Sandra Bondarevska relates in The Petersons in Ireland, Charles had intended to leave for Dublin on September 26th, but he died on the 11th following an illness of a few days’ duration. The day before his death he told his good friend Jan Boušek (of A. Boušek, K&P’s Prague distributor), who was nursing him,”To-morrow I shall write a card and a letter to my wife and daughter and son.” His last words were in German:  “Meine liebe Frau, meine liebe Frau, meine liebe Frau.”—”My dear wife, my dear wife, my dear wife.”

Charles was buried in Hamburg’s Ohlsdorf Cemetery. When Annie received the news, she and Con immediately left for Germany, crossing the Netherlands-German border at Oldenzaal by the 16th of September and arriving in Hamburg the next day. I can’t help but believe that the smudges on the postcard are from Annie’s tears when she discovered the postcard in Charles’s effects.

 

Once again with many, many thanks
to the Brady Family (Deirdre, Sin
éad, Fergus and Sorche)
and to Sandra B.,
whose combined love & generosity has brought
a great deal of joy to Peterson pipe smokers
from all over the globe.

1 See pp. 80-81 of The Peterson Pipe: the Story of Kapp & Peterson for more information about Isolda Peterson.

2 While K&P turned most all of its bowls at this time, owing to the fact that demand kept outpacing the factory’s ability to turn bowls, they did outsource some bowls. They even opened a small sub-factory, dubbed “the French,” next to the side of the St. Stephen’s Green factory where they employed a handful of French immigrants in bowl-turning.

 

 

Continue Reading 243. Postcards from Charles Peterson, 1917-1919