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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Where the Heck is Ashtabula?

This post card shows a train crossing the bridge (not the bridge in the story immediately following) over the Ashtabula River at Ashtabula, Ohio, a city in Ohio northeast of Cleveland. The name Ashtabula comes from ashtepihele, which means 'always enough fish to be shared around' in the Lenape language. (You can find out more about the Lanape Indians here:
It was a major location on the Underground Railroad in the middle 19th century. There is an article about one of the houses in Ashtabula at this website:

It was also the sight of the Ashtabula River Railroad Disaster. This was a derailment caused by the failure of a bridge (not the one pictured in the post card, and not this railroad company) over the Ashtabula River about 1,000 feet from the railroad station.

On December 29, 1876, at about 7:30 pm, two locomotives hauling, in tandem, 11 railcars of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway carrying 159 passengers plunged into the river in deep snow when the bridge gave way beneath them. The wooden cars were set alight by their heating stoves. The accident killed ninety-two people and was the worst rail accident in the U.S. until the Great Train Wreck of 1918. The coroner's report found that the bridge, designed by the railroad company president (William Henry Vanderbilt), had been improperly designed and inadequately inspected. As a result of the accident a hospital was built in the town and a federal system set up to formally investigate fatal railroad accidents.

The train travelling across the bridge belonged to the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad, more commonly known as The Nickel Plate Road. It existed from 1881 to 1964, when it was absorbed into the Norfolk Western Railroad, just before it was merged into the Norfolk Southern Railroad in 1982. Numerous legends have grown about when and how the name "Nickel Plate" was first applied. The accepted version is that it appeared first in an article in the Norwalk, Ohio, Chronicle of March 10, 1881. On that date the Chronicle reported the arrival of a party of engineers to make a survey for the "great New York and St. Louis double track, nickel plated railroad." Later, while attempting to induce the company to build the line through Norwalk instead of Bellevue, Ohio, the Chronicle again referred to the road as "nickel plated" - a term regarded as indicative of the project's glittering prospects and substantial financial backing. In 1882, the Nickel Plate recognized F.R. Loomis, owner and editor of the Norwalk Chronicle, as originator of the term and issued him Complimentary Pass No. 1. Thus Norwalk named the road - but Bellevue finally got it. The preceding came from Wikipedia.
The post card was printed by one of my favorite post card printers. This man and his company were innovative and prolific in the production of post cards. I have written about Curt Otto Teich a few times in the past blogs. The best description is in the blog dated November 13, 2012. I go into quite a bit of detail about him and his company. The Curt Teich logo on this post card appears here to the bottom right of these words:
The number on the post card is R-90907. It appears just above the P in POST CARD. Given what we know about his numbering system, this would place the printing of this post card in the first quarter of the year 1918. He used the R or an A with a number from 1 to 124180 between the years 1908 to 1922. Using a bit of mathematics we arrive at the time line above for the printing of this particular post card. It also places the printing of the post card in the White Border Era; so, I feel good dating the card about 1918 or thereabouts.

The post card was published by Harry H. Hamm of Toledo, Ohio - the other side of the state from Ashtabula. I could not find anything about Harry Hamm of Toledo, Ohio, but the Metropolitan Postcard Club shows us that there was a Harry Harmm of Erie, Pennsylvania. Here is the great logo that appeared on the cards he printed from Erie.
He published from there in the years 1907 - 1923. I wonder out loud if he didn't have a branch office in Toledo... This post card is from the White Border Era (1915 - 1930). It is quite possible that he moved from Erie to Toledo for the last seven years of this era, too. This is the logo that the Harry H. Hamm of Toledo used on his post cards.
I think I prefer the creativity and fun in the first logo!!

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If you know anything about the history of the cards, the trains or the locations, please add them.