Four Men—a Postcard

Do you like postcards? I must admit that I haven’t sent one in decades—even before the days of email and social media. And I can’t recall the last time I received one, either.

Here’s a postcard that was never mailed.

“From right to left: Uncle Lawrence, Mr Williams, Father, Uncle Charley”; courtesy of Claudia Vokoun (Click on images to enlarge)

Who are the men in the photo? Fortunately for us, instead of being mailed, the postcard was labeled with the names and identities of the subjects. Surnames aren’t given, but there is enough information to know who all the individuals are except for “Mr. Williams.”

“Uncle Lawrence” and “Uncle Charley” are Lawrence Leslie (1865–1950) and Charles Parkfield (1872–1949) Casbon. This tells us that the postcard was labeled by a nephew or niece of the two men. Therefore, “Father” must be one of their brothers. That narrows him down to either Thomas Sylvester (1870–1955) or George Washington
(1874–1944) Casbon. I’m familiar enough with the appearance of both men that I can identify him as Thomas Sylvester. Besides that, we can see that the photo was taken in Michigan City, La Porte County Indiana, just across the border from Porter County. This makes it less likely for George to be the subject of the photo, since he lived in Iowa.

Mr. Williams is obviously a friend of the brothers and known to the person who labeled the card, but beyond that I have no idea about his identity.

I really like the photograph. The men appear relaxed and informal. Thomas is the only one who seems to be smiling. The others appear a bit bored or disinterested. The background seems to show a sports field or possibly a racetrack. The men must have gone to Michigan City for an outing or special event. They might have stepped into the studio or perhaps there was an outdoor photo booth or tent. The relaxed postures and informality of their clothing makes me think it was a spur of the moment decision.

The person who labeled the postcard would have to be one of Thomas’s three children: Mable Ruth (1893–1989), Sylvester Hugh (1895–1922), or George Perry (1897–1976) Casbon. My guess would be that it was Mable, but there is no way to know for sure.

When was the photo taken? I can only venture a broad guess, based on the apparent ages of the men and on some features of the postcard. Compare the postcard to this photo taken in about 1905.

Sylvester Casbon and his descendants, Valparaiso, Indiana, about 1905; author’s collection

Clearly, the men in the postcard are several years older.

Here are comparison photos of Lawrence and Charles, taken about 1920 and 1915, respectively.

Left: Lawrence Leslie Casbon, from a family portrait, author’s collection; Right: Charles Parkfield Casbon, from a family portrait, courtesy of Ilaine Church

 I don’t have a comparison photo of Thomas. However, to my eye, the men in the postcard look roughly the same age as these two comparison photos. Based on this, I would guess that the photo was taken sometime between the late 1910s and the 1920s.

There are some additional clues about the date based on the appearance of the postcard. The website OldPostcards.com describes features that can help to identify the ages of postcards. The first feature is the fact that the back of the postcard is divided into two sections, one for the message and one for the address. According to OldPostcards.com, divided backs did not come into use until March 1, 1907.[1] The second is the fact that there is a white border around the photograph. White borders came into use about 1915.[2] The plain paper that this postcard is printed on was replaced by linen-like paper beginning in 1930.[3] These features support a date between 1915 and 1930.

The clothing worn by the men also supports a date from the late teens to the early 1920s.

I’ve tried to find out more information about The Peak Studios in Michigan City, but couldn’t find anything.

This is literally a “snapshot in time.” It captures a moment, an era, and a brief glimpse into the lives of the three Casbon brothers and their friend Mr. Williams.

Do you have any favorite postcards?


[1] “Identifying the Age of Postcards,” OldPostcards.com (https://www.oldpostcards.com/Oldpostcards-History-of-Postcards-Page.html : accessed 4 May 2020).
[2] “Identifying the Age of Postcards.”
[3] “Identifying the Age of Postcards.”

4 thoughts on “Four Men—a Postcard”

  1. I think also it is Mabel Ruth that wrote the names on the back of the postcard. My Mom, Emma Casbon Eldridge, always called her Ruth. I am so glad that people are enjoying the postcard. I knew I kept it for some reason. Claudia
    Eldridge Vokoun

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