A 'Swenglish' journey through family photos, notes and postcards from the early 20th century.

2013-06-28

G.019.3 Norrköping, Järnbron

… and Secret Stamp Position Codes …
Linked to Sepia Saturday 183

G.019.3_0001-001

G.019.3_0001

Parti af Motala ström och Järnbron, Norrköping
Esping & Lundell, Import 559

G.019.3_0002

To: Herr Gustaf Ekman, Storegd, Fristad
From: Gerda
Date: (probably 6 June 1902)

Congratulations to Gustaf on the Name Day from Gerda.
I suppose I’m expected home soon, I think I’ll probably come on Monday a week from now.

The card was sent from Gerda to her brother Gustaf as a Name Day greeting (see Celebrations). This helps establish the date, as the name Gustaf was (and still is) celebrated on 6 June. The year was most likely 1902, i.e the summer before they both emigrated. 6 June that year was a Friday.

The view is from Norrköping, situated by the mouth of the river Motala ström at an inlet of the Baltic Sea (East Coast of Sweden). This does not necessarily mean that was where the card was sent from, as the family seems to have had a stock of postcards with views from all over the country. 

Although the stamp on this card was removed, it can be seen that it was tilted sideways. In 1902 it was popular to send secret messages by way of the position of the stamp. Gerda’s stamp does not exactly match any of the positions in the code key below, but most likely (placed in the upper right hand corner) it was supposed to mean “write immediately” (even if tilted the wrong way compared to the key). The alternative “burn my letters” seems a bit drastic. But of course the sister and brother could also have agreed on some secret code of their own – who knows!

(click on the image above to go to the website I copied it from)
(and click on the one below to go to Sepia Saturday)


På svenska

Hjärtliga gratulationer sändes Gustaf från Gerda.
Jag väntas väl hem nu snart, tänker jag kommer nog på måndag 8 dar. Kära hälsningar

Att vykortet sändes som namnsdagshälsning hjälper till att datera det. 6 juni 1902 var en fredag. Uttrycket “åttadar” tror jag allmänt användes förr i betydelsen “om en vecka”.

Frimärket har uppenbarligen suttit på snedden på detta kort. År 1902 var det populärt att sända kodade meddelanden genom hur man satte frimärket på kortet. Gerdas placering stämmer inte exakt med någon av bilderna i “frimärksspråksnyckeln” ovan men troligen menade hon “Skrif genast!” (Alternativet “bränn mina brev” verkar lite väl drastiskt.)

 

29 comments:

  1. I love the stamp position idea, I am not aware that it was ever a trend in the UK. Great post. Du har bestått profvet.

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  2. Fascinating. I suppose people use codes in their internet correspondence to hide certain information from curious eyes. Do people still celebrate their name day?

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    1. Yes Helen, we still have name-days in the Swedish calendar. Two names for each day now and some have been changed over the years, but Gustaf is still celebrated on 6 June. It's an old name which is still in use and it is also an old royal name. Our present king is Carl XVI Gustaf; before him it was his grandfather Gustaf VI Adolf, and back in 1902 it was his father Gustaf V who reigned (1898-1950). - The actual celebration of name days vary a lot between families, though.

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  3. What beautiful handwriting Gerda had. I'm intrigued by the stamp position code.

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    1. It's not always easy to decipher, though, Nell!

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  4. I'd never heard of secret stamp position codes - I wonder how widespread they were? Something akin to the acronyms written on the back of envelopes containing love letters: S.W.A.L.K. etc.

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    1. I have no idea how widespread the stamp position codes were, Brett. I have seen images of two different (but similar) postcards with them from 1902. I can't recall having seen or heard of them used in my own lifetime.

      I'm not familiar with the acronyms - I have to confess I can't even figure out what S.W.A.L.K. stands for.

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    2. Sealed with a loving kiss.

      Talk about coincidences. I watched an episode of Antiques Roadshaw on TV last night, and they talked about exactly this topic. Extraordinary.

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    3. Ah, thanks! I did guess the last two letters might stand for love and kisses, but I could not figure out the whole phrase.

      I know we get the British Antiques Road Show here on some channel. Unfortunately I have no idea how far behind we might be in seasons/episodes, or I'd have tried to make sure to watch that episode!

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    4. They asked Fiona Bruce to sort three postcards according to what value she thought they had, low-medium-high. Well, she got it completely wrong, but then the chap who always does ephemera - I forget his name - pulled out another from his jacket pocket, and said "This kind of postcard is what interests me," and it was one with the stamp on sideways. He said it meant, "I love you," but he obviously hadn't read all those alternatives.

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  5. I think that I will start sending out letters with secret stamp codes. I guess I will have to enclose a copy of what they mean first. My children used to celebrate their name days.

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  6. Thr sdtamp position weas used in the UK but I've never come across opne on old poastcards. I believe it was especially popular during the First World War. As Bret mentions there were also acronyms like Swalk and these were especially popular during the Second World War. Some of the acronyms were exceptionally rude! Norwich (standing for 'knickers off ready when I come home') was one of the milder ones.

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    1. I don't think I've ever heard of those acronyms Scriptor, but I can well imagine secret messages being especially popular in war-time. As Sweden remained neutral in both world wars, not as many young men here separated from their loved ones though.

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  7. Perhaps it is because I have been away for a few weeks, but the posts this week seem exceptionally fascinating - and this with its great card and its extraordinary stamp code - is one of the most fascinating. Thanks.

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    1. Thanks Alan. I so wish the stamps had been left intact in the collection of old postcards that I inherited... But alas nearly all of the stamps were removed by some eager stamp-collector in the past. Whether the recipient or someone else, I guess I'll never know.

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  8. Wow I really like the idea of the code with the stamp position. I used to love writing letters with lemon juice when I was a kid and then ironing them to read them :)

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    1. Oh, I remember trying that too, Alex... And chiphers!

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  9. The only stamp code I've ever heard of is placing the stamp upside down to say "I love you."

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    1. Wendy, that would cause some confusion compared to the Swedish key above, which says an upside down stamp in the upper right hand corner means "don't write any more"!

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  10. I think most people were trying to say "I love you." The codes were not consistent. The codes were called "Language of Stamps" on postcards published with keys, and the number of positions and meanings varied quite a bit on different cards.

    Some examples here:
    http://postcardcollector.org/forum/index.php?p=/discussion/329/the-language-of-stamps

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    1. Thanks for the additional link, Postcardy. Indeed it seems that the language of stamps was not universal even if the idea may have been widely spread; which means it must have been essential for the sender and recipient to have had access to the same key. As in this case they were sister and brother in rather frequent card-correspondence I think a simple "write immediately" is the most likely interpretation.

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  11. I had never heard of the stamp codes previously. Interesting.

    My grandmother put codes on the back of some of her photos. She has a photo which shows the location of her first kiss. It did take me a while to work it out though.

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    1. How intriguing. I'm afraid most of my old family photos come with no notes at all as to who, when or where. I come across a clue here and there though and sometimes one thing throws light on another!

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  12. A stamp code! I had never encountered that before! A fine post. Always learn something new every day.

    Also interesting how families corresponded with post cards then. An almost non-existent practice now.

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    1. Their postcards were like our emails and text messages, Anyjazz! Most of the cards from 1902 in my album were sent between villages ~60 km apart along the same railway line. I think they may sometimes even have been delivered the same day they were sent!

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  13. Not only were the postcards a treat, the comments and your responses added way more.

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  14. This was very interesting and I seem to remember learning about this some time ago, and now I'll have to research this a bit more!

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  15. The stamp code is new to me also, But I went off codes when I worked in cipher centres in the Army.

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  16. Fascinating post. Love the postcards.

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