“Pay or Swim” – Dayton, Ohio (1910)

This is the first of two postcards illustrating a brazen attempt at romantic extortion.

The face of the postcard shows two well-dressed young ladies crossing a small stream on a narrow plank.

At the bank on the far side, a young man, wearing a light blue suit, demands “payment” for an unrestricted passage.

It is clear that the girls are not endangered by the placid stream -there is insufficient water to submerge them.

But, their elaborate dresses would suffer severely in a fall.

The comic scene would not be amusing if the young women appeared reluctant or afraid.

Instead, the two seem to be laughing at the preposterous challenge.

The romantic scene was mailed to Miss Antoinette Helldoerfer of Dayton, the city in the Miami Valley of southwest Ohio.


An earlier postcard story discussed the Great Flood of Dayton in 1913.

The sender, identified by initials C. M. B. (?), mailed the postcard from West Alexandria, an historic village in southwest Ohio.


West Alexandria is about 20 miles from Dayton.

The recipient’s unusual name made it possible to find her on-line:

Antoinette Helldoerfer was born in 1884 to Anton and Caroline Helldoerfer – I could not find the maiden name of Caroline.

Both parents were immigrants to Dayton -Anton was from Wurttemberg, Germany and Caroline was born in France.

Antoinette, 25 or 26 years old when she received the postcard, later married Charles Bohlman.

I do not believe that the couple had any children.

Antoinette lived until her 97th year, dying in Dayton in 1981.


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