postcard courtesy Lily Witham
Broad Avenue in 1911. Despite the caption, the view is actually looking east.
In our April issue, I wrote about the old Kearney Brothers Saloon that was a fixture on Broad Avenue in the early 1900s. I also gave a brief history of Binghampton, the community centered around Broad and Bingham that was its own little town until it was annexed in 1915 or so.
If you read the story, and were paying any attention at all, you should have come away with the impression that this area was considerably rustic in the early 1900s.
Well, my pal Lily Witham (a former Memphian now living in Oregon) has provided great materials for this column before, and she’s done it again by turning up this really wonderful postcard. Postmarked 1911, the card has a caption reading “BROAD ST. LOOKING SOUTH” AND “BINGHAMTON, TENN.”
You want rustic? Just look at the dirt road, the rather ramshackle buildings, and good grief, there’s even a butchered hog hanging outside the grocery at the far right. I wonder if that’s the butcher’s wagon, pulled by a horse, who has just delivered that hog. It’s hard to see, but I think it says “Meat Market” on the open doors of that wagon. Or did that big hog just hang outside, with no ice or refrigeration, all day?
Obviously, that postcard caption is a mistake, since Broad, then and now, doesn’t run north and south. Instead, the view is looking east down Broad, and that first street crossing is apparently Merton. I say this because I was able to squint at the image and make out the name of the two-story building standing on the far corner. The sign says W. Hanover & Son, a dry goods store located at the southeast corner of Broad and Merton.
I wonder what time of year this picture was taken? A banner outside Hanover’s store announces “Special Holiday Offerings — All Goods Reduced During This Sale.” There are no leaves on that tree in the background, so maybe it was around Christmas, and it was cold enough to let a hog hang outside for a while. (I can’t get my mind off that hog!) I can’t read any of the other signs visible in the old photo.
Streetcar tracks for the Memphis Street Railway Company run down the middle of the photo, and to the left are the buildings and smokestacks of the American Car and Foundry Company, a sprawling business that built those streetcars. Lily writes, “There was a factory that made streetcars, and that’s how my great-grandparents ended up in Tennessee. [My great-grandfather] got a job there and they moved from Allegheny, Pennsylvania.”
I love the picture, but what I also like about the postcard is the address (below). In those days, that’s all it took for the postman to deliver the mail.
So who was “Miss Francis Jones”? Well, “Francis” is usually the way a man spells his name, so I’m going to assume they (whoever sent the card) meant to mail it to Miss “Frances” Jones, though I realize it’s unlikely they wouldn’t know how to spell their friend’s own name. But in 1911, sure enough, a “Miss Frances Jones” is living at 234 Princeton in the Binghampton community. She worked downtown for the Cumberland Telephone and Telegraph Company. I wish I could tell you more, but whoever sent the postcard didn’t bother to include a message. These old “divided-back” postcards, as you can see, included a tiny amount of space for “correspondence here” (the other side was the photo of Broad), and nobody wrote anything.
And why would anyone send Frances Jones a photo of her own community? Well, that’s just one of life’s little mysteries, isn’t it?
(By the way, don’t even get me started on that whole Binghamton / Binghampton spelling controversy, okay?)