Tag Archive for postcards

Rally Day is on the way!

It’s September, which means that Rally Day will soon be here! I have a fondness for antique Rally Day and Sunday School postcards, so I’ll break my long silence by bringing out a few I’ve picked up in the past year.

Rally Day Invitation 1923 crop rsz

This Rally Day Invitation was addressed to “Master Francis Warnock” (does anyone still call little boys “Master?”) and postmarked September 22, 1923. The girl in the blue coat must be passing out the “Rally Day Herald,” given the message on the back.

Rally Day Herald 1923 back rsz adj

I believe this gentle scene is a companion to a Rally Day card with crystal radio headsets that I posted last year.


The next postcard in my ephemera haul was addressed to “Misses Elva and Florence Waggy” of Baltimore. I was quite taken with the juxtaposition of the Gothic-style cathedral and the man riding the red girder up into the sky. I’m not sure who the artist is, though I’ve seen at least one other Rally Day postcard with the same monogram (see the lower right corner).

Rally Day FEP building church crop rsz

Many work in many ways / some great edifice to raise…

Each to help — and none to shirk / Rally to the best of works!

Elva and Florence apparently stayed active in the Church of the Brethren long past this Rally Day. They would later be responsible for building Nettie Memorial Chapel on Upper Reeds Creek (near Franklin, WV) in honor of a woman who I believe was their sister, Nettie.

The last postcard I have to share with you was sent from the Evangelical Lutheran Sunday School in Frederick, MD. The historic Evangelical Lutheran Church, now over 275 years old, was a pioneer in the Sunday School Movement.

This card, sent in September 1916 is noteworthy for several reasons. You can see that the message on the back was printed especially for this occasion. Most churches would fill in the particulars of their location, date, and time on a pre-printed message.

The postcard itself is an embossed design by Ellen H. Clapsaddle, the most prolific postcard and greeting card artist of her day. It has a nostalgic feel for 1916 — looking back to the late 19th century, perhaps. The woman at right looks over her shoulder to where we must be standing, as if she wonders whether we’ll follow her into the church.

Rally Day 1916 crop rsz


Rally Day 1916 back crop alt rsz

All this speaks to a well-established and well-funded Sunday School at a church that in 1916 was already over 175 years old. I wonder about the 1:45 p.m. time. Perhaps morning worship was followed by a fellowship luncheon and then the big Rally Day assembly.

So many of these early Rally Day cards speak to me of a time when parades and rallies, revivals and chautauquas were a much bigger part of American life. A time when marching bands and fiery speeches were good entertainment and a source of inspiration. While sometimes the invitation is gentle, and the spirit is warm or humorous, often Rally Day postcards’ vision is grander than “back-to-school.” Then I sense the call for Christian folk to mobilize, to Rally! and pledge themselves to the work ahead.

Special Invitation

I’ve been looking at postcards again.

Here’s one sent by Mrs. Gridley in 1912



and a lovely, delicate drawing of children listening to a Rally Day greeting over crystal radio headsets.



And then I found this invitation to a youth group outing with Peter Max-inspired fireworks.





A few traces of the Church’s imagination and practice that happened to catch my eye.


Church on Wheels – Motor Chapels and Gospel Autos

Printed on reverse: "Special Invitation" Code 4334 No. 31 /Broadman Supplies/ Nashville, Tenn

Printed on reverse: “Special Invitation”
Code 4334 No. 31 /Broadman Supplies/ Nashville, Tenn


It was the color that first drew me to this vintage postcard, but soon the Church Bus carried me down a road of missionary history. The Church has always been about carrying the gospel to those who haven’t yet heard, and also about using new technologies to further that mission. People really shouldn’t be surprised by iPads in worship or online prayer groups. Christian history is filled with people adopting new tools for reaching out to touch hearts and imaginations.

Church bus ministry typically reaches out to children whose parents don’t come to church. It’s relationship-intensive, high-energy, and definitely not for the faint of heart. There are songs and games as soon as you step on the bus, then programming at the church, perhaps a meal, and then more fun on the ride home.

Some other examples of vehicular mission work can be found on vintage postcards. Meeting people where they live has taken clergy out to remote or rural areas where population is sparse and there are no established congregations. One of these missions was carried out in the summertime by the Missionary Fathers of Richmond, Virginia. I suspect the postcard was both promotional and commemorative.


Diocesan Missionary Fathers, Richmond, VA St. Mary of the Highways I & II Genuine Curteich Chicago 'C.T. Art Colortone'

Diocesan Missionary Fathers, Richmond, VA 
St. Mary of the Highways I & II
Genuine Curteich Chicago ‘C.T. Art Colortone’ Image via VCU Libraries Digital Collections “Rarely Seen Richmond”

Caption on reverse:

‘Saint Mary of the Highways’ I & II are names of two trailer chapels operated by the Catholic Diocese of Richmond. Designed by George F. Chaplain, one was built in 1938 and the second in 1948. They were dedicated by Bishop Ireton. Purchased by the donations of the people at the cost of $10,000 each, they contain church equipment, public address system and living accommodations for two priests. During the summer, programs of Scripture, music, prayer, question answering, sermons, movies and literature are presented daily. You are invited to visit the Chapel on the road, or at our home in Richmond.

In 1956, this motor chapel traveled to Petersburg, WV so that Catholics in the Tri-County area without a parish priest might receive communion.

But my favorite church on wheels postcard is this one of the Fulton Gospel Auto that traveled the east coast in the early 1920s.


Fulton Gospel Auto

Caption on postcard reverse

As near as I can tell, the Fulton Gospel Auto started out in politics. It was built for Dr. Edwin John Fithian, a Prohibition Party candidate for the governorship of Pennsylvania in 1918. Fithian was a medical doctor and industrialist, a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, and co-founder and President of the Bessemer Gas Engine Company–the same company which manufactured the chassis of this house and church on wheels.

An article in The Evening Independent (January 5, 1921) tells us about the time this “palatial campaign chariot: rolled into St. Petersburg” with John Fulton, a Presbyterian minister, his wife, and William Bedorf “a young man who is said to be a candidate for the ‘foreign field.'” Mr. Fulton and Mr. Bedorf handled the preaching, and Mrs. Fulton (“a noted singer,” according to her husband) lead the musical selections during the meetings they held in the streets of St. Petersburg.

The Church on Wheels was such a marvel that Popular Mechanics (v.36, 1921, p.874) ran a story about it. That brief article noted that Rev. Fulton and his wife would stop at convenient places along popular highways and conduct services off the platform at the rear of the vehicle. The services were attended by motorists and neighborhood residents who couldn’t easily get to regular churches.

Fulton Gospel Auto Popular Mechanics v36 p874

You have to love this kind of enthusiasm and ingenuity. The telephone, the movie projector, amplified sound, and the automobile were all recognized early on as tools that could support evangelism and formation.

Christians can be so inventive. There’s a job to do. Let’s get this show on the road.

Working for our daily bread

Lord's Prayer postcard printed by P. Sander, NY. 1908

Lord’s Prayer postcard
printed by P. Sander, NY.


Today is a snow day, but before I get suited up for shoveling the white stuff, I’ll share a bit of Christian material culture that I picked up last week.

This postcard is one of a series printed in 1908 by Philip Sander. Postcard sets of The Lord’s Prayer and The Ten Commandments were popular during the early 20th century. Each card would depict a different petition or commandment so that a person could collect or send the entire set.

Such cards are still fairly common out in the world of ephemera collectors, and you can pick them up for not too much money if you’re interested. I’m fascinated by the way they reveal the values and assumptions of religious people in an earlier age. With one foot in the world of religion and the other in the world of commerce, these cards may not show the church’s official positions, but as images that were marketed and purchased, they can tell us a lot. A successful postcard has an easily understood, high-impact image. A viewer ought to be able to take it all in quickly and feel something that makes them want to share (that is, buy and send) the postcard. They’re are a lot like today’s social media in that respect.

I was drawn to this particular postcard because, instead of showing us people eating, this one presents two different ways to earn our daily bread. It’s more complicated than just “provide us food.” There’s the farmer harvesting wheat, and the businessman talking on the phone with factories that are likely intended to represent flour mills in the background. It’s a country life/city life juxtaposition that speaks to the urbanization of America which had been taking place since the 19th century; and it unites the two men by depicting the farm-to-mill chain of production.

Unlike the pictures of people saying grace at the table (which are often quite lovely), or the sentimental images of angels feeding destitute children, this Lord’s Prayer postcard clearly shows people working for their daily bread. “Give us our daily bread” becomes “Reward our daily labors with bread.” The card doesn’t tug at the heart strings, but it does convey the ideas that “work is noble” and “work is important.” It all feels very American and very Protestant.

There’s a lot to like about this card, though I can’t really call it art. The curls on the dividing line are a nice touch that give an impression of time, and I like all the detailed office supplies on the desk. And then there are the roses on the windowsill adding a touch of beauty to that skyline of factory smoke!


Rally Day Doings

Whole Family Rally Day


Dont miss it Rally Day


The last in my series of vintage postcards: Rally Day invitations from the early 1900s, when birth control was illegal, and apparently no one worried about putting guns on a Sunday school advertisement.

“Special Exercises, singing, speaking, marching, etc.” A Rousing Rally indeed!

Happy Comradeship

Three more vintage postcards invite everyone to church: happy children, shy teens, and even those who fly in on Sunday mornings. (How convenient to have the runway so near the church!) Charming illustrations, full of light and affection.


Good landing place HiRes multi


Happy Commradeship2


Empty place 300ppi