Post cards from the past

Published 5:41 pm Friday, January 25, 2019

Several weeks ago, one of my columns devoted to post cards interested a few readers enough for reactions and suggestions. One or two remembered the penny post card from long ago!

A little encouragement led me to a collection of old post cards that was preserved by two members of my extended family. I was fortunate in finding a few cards that represent earlier times in Middlesboro.

Two of them are in black and white. One is of Cumberland Avenue with building signs of Montgomery Ward and Lee’s Drug Store prominently shown. No date, but judging by the automobiles shown, the card likely dates back about 75 years.

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The second card features what was then “Junior High School,” the building that now houses the administrative offices of the school system. Both black and white cards are identified as Cline Photos.

Then there are two cards that are in color, though there is not the brilliance of today’s color since these were produced years ago using a process developed in 1898 by the Curt Teich Company of Chicago.

One of these early color cards is of the First Baptist Church in Middlesboro. That card was distributed by Cumberland News Company of Middlesboro. It is labeled “Genuine Curt Teich-Chicago” and further as “C.T. Art-Colortones.” Senior members of the church may know approximate or exact dates when this card was a favorite of the church and its members.

A card depicting “Beautiful Fern Lake, near Middlesboro, KY” indicates that it was published exclusively by F&H News Company of Middlesboro. There is also, in small print, the recognition that this was Art Tone – Glo Var Finished “made only by Seals of Des Moines, Iowa.”

A more modern version of these cards, with a sharper color picture, is of Bel-Wood Motel on U.S. 25E, “two miles north of Cumberland Gap National Historic Park.” Information on the card reminds the viewer that the motel has 22 newly furnished air- conditioned units, television, an adjoining restaurant, and other modern features for the traveler.

Interesting too that the card shows that the motel is owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Chester N. Ridings, of Middlesboro.

I learned in this effort that collecting post cards is a hobby that continues to this day. And, I have a new appreciation for those who have collected through the years. They preserved for us an important part of life, particularly from the early 1900s.

William H. Baker, Claiborne County native and former Middlesboro resident, may be contacted at