Confederate Rest and Monument, Mobile Ala.
March 18, 1906
3/18 arrived ok. 5.00, Luke P.
First comes love, then comes marriage. On March 18, 1906 our lothario Luke began a flurry of post cards to Miss Bessie Bogan who lived in Alabama City, Alabama. Alabama City was an unremarkable small town six miles from Gadsden in Etowah County – north of Birmingham and west of Atlanta – and a long, long way from Luke’s home in Fort Morgan at the southernmost point of the state beyond Mobile. The distance measured 350 miles to be exact and it begged the question of their meeting. While one in five relationships in March, 2012 begins through match.com, according to match.com, and distance is a Skype away today, finding the love of your life a hundred years ago wasn’t done on a computer dating site.
How did Luke and Bessie meet? Maybe it was the old-fashioned way. A friend of a friend. Or maybe it was a friend’s second cousin who came to Alabama City for Christmas and they met at a Christmas Eve service in a small church. When Luke came to see his cousin and saw Bessie again the following March, sparks flew in all directions. Let the games begin.
Paul de Longprae’s Residence, Hollywood, Cal.
March 24, 1906
When the roses bloom again. with best reg.
Luke’s interest in architecture was evident from the earliest post cards he sent to Bessie. The Confederate Monument in Mobile was a local landmark for him, but the card itself has a subtle layer of still visible glitter lightly sprinkled on the black and white images. The barely twinkling glitter outlines a line of trees in the background and what appears to be a wreath wrapped around the monument. Classy… and sure to impress a country girl from Alabama City. The second card was more colorful and not from around those parts. It was a picture of Paul de Longprae’s home in Hollywood which at that time had achieved some notoriety. The successful French flower painter built the mansion in 1901 and the house was magnificent with gardens to match that gave him ready subjects for his work year round. The cryptic message When the roses bloom again was a hint of romance from Luke and most likely a reference to a shared moment from his recent visit.
The next two cards Luke sent to Bessie were from the “Oilette” series of post cards produced by Raphael Tuck & Sons and printed in England beginning in 1903. The Tuck cards were among the most popular post cards during the late 1800s and early 1900s during the picture penny card boom years. In small print on the address side of these cards were the words Art Publishers to Their Majesties The King & Queen.
Belfast Cave Hill
May 05, 2906
With best Reg. L.P.M.
St. James Park From The Monument
June 02, 1906
In July, 1906 Luke sends another “local” post card from Mobile with a message saying he is leaving soon for another place that Bessie clearly already knows about. Not surprisingly, his last card from Mobile is a street with imposing architecture.
Royal St. Looking North From Conti St., Mobile, Ala.
July 10, 1906
In city on business. will leave soon. With Best Regards from Yours Truly.
Indeed, the following two post cards sent by Luke to Bessie in August, 1906 were postmarked Hot Springs, Arkansas. Why the trip to Arkansas? Perhaps job related? Perhaps to visit other family?
Eastman Hotel. Hot Springs, Ark.
August 11, 1906
This is all one hotel quite a nice structure.
I hope to get a letter soon. Coming down about the 17th., Luke
By August of 1906 the young couple must’ve been hot and heavy in their correspondence because Luke was in the stage of racing to the mailbox to look for a letter from Bessie. When one wasn’t there, his high spirits sank and he had to let Bessie know his disappointment with the passive aggressive tone I hope to get a letter soon. Hah. Translation: Please write to me or I will kill myself.
The Eastman Hotel had over 500 rooms and was one of the largest in Hot Springs at the turn of the twentieth century. The town was home to several major league baseball training camps and it wouldn’t have been unusual for Luke to see Babe Ruth walking from the hotel to the racetrack after practice. He might not have noticed if he were on the way to the post office, though.
Falls and Big Horn River, Thermopolis in Distance
August 16, 1906
With Best Respect from Luke
The final post card postmarked in Hot Springs was a breathtaking view of the falls pouring into the Big Horn River in Hot Springs County, Wyoming with the town of Thermopolis snuggled in the valley next to the river. Quite a different tune in this card as if to halfway apologize for the brusqueness of the previous one. With best respect from Luke. Sweet.
Next stop: College!
Georgia School of Technology, Atlanta, Ga.
August 31, 1906
I expect a letter Real Soon, L.P.M.
The Georgia School of Technology which later came to be known as the Georgia Institute of Technology or Georgia Tech was started in 1885 and offered one degree in mechanical engineering. By the time Luke enrolled in the fall of 1906, degrees in civil, electrical and chemical engineering had been added to the curriculum. Going to school in Atlanta meant being closer to Miss Bessie Bogan of Alabama City, but letters and post cards were still the only ways to keep in touch. Passive aggressive I hope to get a letter at the first of August was now a much bolder I expect a letter Real Soon by the end of the month.
What a difference six months makes in the lives of young love and lovers! Bessie kept these picture post cards from Luke to remember their early stories, and I can feel his passion growing with each picture for these are not random post cards but ones carefully chosen to send a message to his beloved. He wanted her to know that beauty and art and freshness and flowers and flowing rivers reminded him of her and how much he cared for her.
I think I’ll leave him at school today. He needs to study this week so he can make the trip to Alabama City this weekend.