Fannie Receives a Postcard from Naples – Philadelphia, PA (1906)

In the summer of 1906, Miss Fannie Clevenger was In Philadelphia.

There, she received a postcard greeting from her friend, Ell, who had visited Pompeii – one of the ancient cities buried in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Although some excavations of this ancient city had been made since the 16th century, the 19th century saw intense archeological activity there and Pompeii became a major tourist attraction.

The postcard sent to Fannie shows a portion of a painted wall and frieze excavated from the ashes of Pompeii.

This particular bit of well-preserved art was depicted on thousands of postcards during the early 20th century.

(Many other cards have a much sharper image of this, and other parts, of the frieze.)

This postcard was printed in Italy by a publisher in Naples.

The frieze depicts the work of fullers, the makers (and launderers) of clothing and bedding for upper-class citizens.

Fullers performed the messy work of taking raw woven cloth (especially wool) vigorously working it to remove oil, dirt, and impurities and then to shrink it with friction and pressure.

Fullers might use hands and feet in the process.

Urine, from humans or animals was used in the scouring, the ammonia nitrates were essential to the fuller’s work.

It was dirty, low-status work, although the ruins of Pompeii showed that some fullers had amassed wealth.

Ell wrote a brief message on the face; the reverse was used only for the postcard address until later in the year.

Fannie learns that her friend will soon depart for home, and that Ell plans to see her in about two weeks.

One hopes that Fannie enjoyed the artifact from Pompeii and that she heard many interesting tales when Ell returned.


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