Gertrude and the Cathedral – Neffsville, PA (1905)

Gertrude Hackman lived in Neffsville, a village north of Lancaster, PA.,_Pennsylvania

(In the early 20th century, Neffsville was a charming community clustered around two churches, a school, a large general store that featured an auditorium n the third floor, a hotel, and other small businesses.)

In August of 1905, Gertrude received a postcard from a friend who was accompanying a couple on a long trip to Canada.

The friend is identified only by initials, M. S. B.

Mr. and Mrs. Landis had invited the friend to join them for the excursion.

The custom of a travel companion, sometimes paid, was often observed – especially by older travelers.

This postcard features an uncolored photograph of L’Eglise de Notre Dame in Montreal.

Interestingly, the postcard was published in Canada or Great Britain.

The enormous nave, with unusual double balconies like an opera house, remains a landmark in the Francophone city.

The very rich decoration of the interior cannot be captured in this photo.

At it’s completion, the Cathedral, later Basilica, was the largest church in North America.


(I visited the Church many years ago and loved the vast blue vaults with gold stars.

I could not ignore, however,  the supercilious objection that this is an ersatz architectural construction.  

Like St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, these “Neo-Gothic” edifices lack the thrilling accomplishment of self-supporting stone vaults defying gravity.

Such is the compromise that architects must make for the added width and lower cost.

This niggling thought does not disturb those with better mental discipline.)

On the reverse, Gertrude learns that her friend has had a had a wonderful trip – touring the “grand” scenery of the St. Lawrence River valley.

Unlike many more recent years, the August “climate is delightful”.

The Landis party visited the Thousand Islands, Quebec and Montreal, and had now reached Plattsburgh, New York.

Plattsburgh is the northern-most city in New York State, at the northern end of Lake Champlain.,_New_York

One hopes that Gertrude was thrilled with the postcard and enjoyed hearing more tales when her friend returned.

Note: This postcard was clearly postmarked in 1905, yet it has space for a written message on the reverse.

I went searching through reference sites to discover that there were several exceptions to the ban on the “divided back” before the USPS authorized permission for the same in 1907.


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