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Balsam Just for You



Since the beginning of tourism on Mackinac Island, visitors have always sought out tokens to remember their experience. Trinkets, sweets, and images of the island helped to memorialize the trip, or were sent to friends and family to let them know they were thinking of them. One of these thoughtful souvenirs which exploded in popularity in the early 20th century was the postcard. With an image on one side, and a place for a personalized message on the other, a postcard can carry a visit anywhere in the world. Although postcards did not originate as a souvenir, but rather a convenient way to send a quick note through the mail, they nonetheless have found their place on visitors’ refrigerators and bulletin boards and in their scrapbooks.

Leather Post Card BackThe post office primarily produced early post cards and these cards had one side for messages and the other for addresses. However, because messages could not be written on the same side as the address information, messages and images competed for space on the front of the card. Images began to appear in the 1870’s by private companies and, due to government regulations, were instead titled “private mailing cards” and cost more to post. By 1907 regulations changed and permitted messages to be written on the same side as the address, as long as it was on the left half of the card. This allowed both messages and images to have their own space and resemble more what many think of postcards today. The study and the collection of postcards is now known as deltiology.

A subtype of postcard is referred to as a “novelty postcard” because it deviates from the norm. Other examples of novelty postcards include ‘copper cards’ from the upper peninsula of Michigan, coconut cards in tropical places, extra-large postcards, postcards printed on wood, leather, and bark. One example the park has in its collection is a small leather pillow filled with balsam needles. Sent as a token to a Miss Dorothy Born in Toledo, Ohio, it reads:

For Thee I pine

When I get blue

And Often

Balsam just for you.

Mailed from the Island sometime in the 1910’s, it serves as an example of the sentiment many visitors share when missing a friend or love one during their vacation.

The card could have been purchased at either William H. Gardiner or John Doud’s shop, as they were both known to sell them.Leather Postcard Front

Balsam fir trees are native to North America, and are commonly used for Christmas trees because the tree holds on to its needles, the color and the smell for a long period of time. The resin can be used for a variety of uses, ranging from glue to a cold remedy. In the wild, the tree is relied on extensively by animals for both food and shelter, especially moose and white tailed deer. Pillows filled with balsam needles are still used today around the holidays to invite their fragrance into the home.