“One of the Family” – Marion, Indiana (1912)

Mrs. James Houser lived in Port Trevorton, a census-designated place of northern Snyder County in central Pennsylvania.

Port Trevorton had once been a small city where coal arriving from a local rail line was shipped on the Pennsylvania Canal.  That operation was soon superseded by the development of the Anthracite region around Shamokin.

In March of 1912, Mrs. Houser received a postcard from her son, Frank.

Frank was in Marion, Indiana – once the site of an important battle of the War of 1812, now a city on the Mississinewa River and the county seat of Grant County.

The actor, James Dean, and the cartoonist, Jim Davis (Garfield), are from Marion.

Frank’s postcard featured a photograph of a young woman and a very docile cow.

The postcard, made in the United States, was “published expressly for S. H. Knox & Company”.

The printed legend, “One of the Family” speaks to the close association of family farmers and livestock.

Before factory farms and giant feed lots, essential animals were often prized and treated affectionately.

Primers, readers, children’s literature of the Victorian Age often celebrated friendship with animals and fostered kindness to them.

In this literature, cruelty was disparaged and condemned – the earliest animal welfare organizations began in the Victorian Age.

(One must acknowledge that these efforts were sorely needed – the casual mistreatment of beasts was widespread, despite the heart-warming tales of devoted friendship between horse and rider, cow and milkmaid, or of playful fowl following the children.)

Frank suggests to his mother that the scene “will remind you of your younger days”.

On this feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, perhaps we might see a vision of all Creation as an interdependent, mutually-sustaining, manifestation of Divine splendor, beauty, and joy.


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