Postal History vs Advertising

Postal History vs Advertising
By Charles Fricke

The many aspects of postally used 1c postal cards oftentimes raises a question: Is it of more interest because of its postal markings and the handling of it or its potential as an advertising (discount/giveaway) 1c postal card.

Back in the 1880s (and actually, well into the 20th century), commercial firms would offer postal cards to their customers free orat discounted prices—as a promotional gambit. Being very popular, postal cards were widely used and, when a consumer used a postal card with a business ad on the “message” side, the business got some very low-cost advertising.

The address side of the 1c postal card (Scott UX5) shows it was mailed from Lynn, Mass., On Jun. 7 (1880) to Mrs. Grace Oliver at 128 Marlton St., Boston, Mass. With a Boston carrier marking of Jun 7, 4:30PM for delivery to Mrs. Oliver, but she was no longer at that address.

Next it was being FORWARDED and a second Boston marking of Jun 7, 5PM is applied as the address has been corrected to Chestnut Hill (Mass.) in care of Mrs. C.G. Page. So it went from Lynn to Boston to Chestnut Hill.

Then, when the message is considered, there seems to be a possibility the 1c postal card was either discounted (sold for less than 1c but not so indicated) or as a giveaway to customers. The problem stems from the fact that the advertisement around the (4) sides of the 1c postal card and the message are two totally different businesses.

The (4) sides of the advertisement in red:

“The VEGETABLE RESTORATIVE BITTERS cure Jaundice, Headache, Loss of Appetite-/-Drowsiness, Weakness of the Stomach-/-Indigestion, and all kindred complaints – Prepared and Sold by BENJ. PROCTER, Apothecary, No. 6 Healey’s Arcade, Lynn.”

Undoubtedly the 1c postal card was an advertisement for Vegetable Restorative Bitters, however the message is all about Mrs. Oliver wanting chairs as evident by the request of Mr. Otis.

“Can you let me know if you have decided about the Arnold Chairs or whether you would be likely to want all of them, if any, as there are parties who would like one of them if you doe not care for them all.

“Yours truly
“G. W. Otis
“June 6, 1880

Now we can see there is quite a difference between selling Bitters and selling Chairs one by Proctor and the other by Otis. Now the question becomes whether Proctor sold the cards at a discount (less that 1c) to his customers including Otis or did he offer them as a giveaway to promote Bitters?

No matter which might be the case it is quite apparent that the discounted or giveaway 1c postal card advertising the Bitters was the primary advertisement and the business of selling the chairs being second.

Now taking into account the many discounted 1c postal cards being promoted and distributed by many companies in the area during this period it is an extremely good possibility the Proctor Bitters 1c postal cards were sold at a discount over the counter at his Apothecary in Lynn, Mass. Even though it is not so noted in the advertisement.