A Chestnut for Edward – Cornwall, New York (1910)

There were an estimated four billion chestnut trees in the US at the turn of the 20th century.

The nut was a source of food for millions, and the harvesting of chestnuts was the focus of community celebrations in many places.

(Chestnuts will sprout quickly if left on the ground – they have no protective coating, so they must be gathered when ripe.)

Edward Owens lived in Cornwall, a lovely town along the Hudson River about 50 miles north of New York City.

In November of 1910, he received a postcard greeting from his cousin.

The cousin lived in East Orange (?), New Jersey – a city on the Passayak River adjacent to Newark.

It is difficult to tell if Edward is celebrating a birthday, on vacation, making a trip, or engaging in some special occupation.

The cousin writes, “I hope you are having a good time…”.

The face of the postcard celebrates the Chestnut.

A medallion surrounds a young woman holding a basket of chestnuts; below, a branch of the chestnut tree and a lone chestnut.

(I like the girl’s cheery, red beret).

By 1910, millions of chestnut trees were already dying of a blight discovered in 1904.

Within another twenty years, almost all of the tall, stately trees were gone.

Most American cities on the East Coast still have a “Chestnut Street”, which attests to the former ubiquitous presence of these marvelous trees.

One hopes that Edward appreciated the thoughtfulness of his cousin and was pleased to preserve this reminder of the chestnut tree.


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