There are no official A & P postcards!

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There are no official A & P postcards!

The title here is quite harsh or bleak and bitter. It may be or may not be. Read on and help make a decision. Is this title True or False?

Quite often it is something learned from a postcard that is a topic that never before entered my mind. It is safe to say, never once have I wondered if the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, the erstwhile grocery store chain known as the “A & P” used postcards in the daily operation of their business.

The likely answer is, “No, they did not.”

It may be difficult to believe, but the Internet was not invented to sell us socks, groceries, or pet food. It was invented as a serious scientific communications tool that would speed development in more than sixty sciences. So, who highjacked the internet and turned it into a money-grubbing enterprise dripping with corporate greet and dozens of other selfish interests?

The eBay auction website (and many other social-media Internet platforms) has changed the way Americans live – equally, if not more, than the invention of the computer or the cell telephone. I suggest no judgement should be brought upon any enthusiast of online auctions, websites, or social media, but since we suffer their intrusion, let’s make the best of it and use the statistical data they provide to advance our argument.

A few weeks ago, the postcard below was found in a box of unsorted gems from the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. The caption describes the image as The A & P Carnival.

The card is measurably different than the familiar ones published by Curt Teich. The publisher was the Arena Photo Post Card Company, Chicago. It is what may be termed a pre-linen. There is a caption that mentions the names Tony Sarg, Harry Horlick, and George Rector. Each of these men were well known and were household names in the late 1920s and ‘30s.

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Harry Horlick was the bandleader of the A & P Gypsies. When they first played together is uncertain, but it is assumed to be in 1923, when Horlick and the A & P Gypsies began broadcasting on WEAF radio in New York. The Gypsies was the first commercially sponsored musical group to perform for radio. Horlick was born in the Ukraine in 1896. He was educated as a classical violinist and before World War One played with a Moscow orchestra. He came to America in 1922. In addition to his work with A & P, he had his own orchestra and was a pioneer in song recordings. The performances of the Gypsies at the Chicago World’s Fair were landmark events. Often there were up to five shows each day in the A & P Carnival that used the beach of Lake Michigan as a backdrop. [Two of my favorites Horlick recordings are on – search for “Only the Girl,” from 1929 and “I Love Thee,” from 1940.] Horlick died in 1970.

Tony Sarg was a puppeteer. He was the son of the German ambassador to Guatemala. Born in Guatemala in 1880, he grew up in a household full of puppets. He later inherited his grandmother’s collection. He came to America in 1909 just prior to his marriage to Bertha McGowan, a native Ohioan he met while she was a tourist in Germany. They had one daughter and settled in New York City in 1915. He became a citizen in 1920. His work at the A & P Carnival in 1933 garnered him a national reputation. He and his Marionette Theatre played to more than three million people during the fair. He died in1942 from complications after surgery.

George Rector was a restaurateur and called himself a “food representative at large.” He authored several cookbooks in the 1920s and ’30s, and frequently appeared on a CBS radio program called Dine with George. A & P hired Rector to work the restaurant at the A & P Carnival. It was extremely popular, and his recipes were much in demand. After the fair he wrote an on-demand cookbook entitled, A la Rector, Unveiling the Culinary Mysteries of the World Famous George Rector. Like many of his other cookbooks, it sold more than a million copies.

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All this is fun to know, but back to the point. If you are an advanced user of the eBay auction website, you are aware that every eBay sale is databased with prices paid. Upon consulting the last 250 sales on eBay that resulted from a search for “A & P” the following items have been found: an A & P/Green Stamps window card, a coffee cup with the A & P logo, Tonkin Toy A & P trucks, lapel pins, matchbooks, an ice-cream bag, dozens of magazine ads torn from national magazines, A & P golf ball markers, a potato chip can, several tote bags, an A & P uniform smock (the kind butchers wore), tin serving trays, cancelled stock certificates, but, except for some poor quality real photos, not one single postcard is among the last 250 A & P items sold on eBay.

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So now, what do you think? Is it safe to say, “There are no official A & P postcards!”

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Further fascination is yours if you read the message on this card. See for yourself that the card was mailed by Edna Wiest using a 1¢ Chicago Century of Progress stamp on August 30, 1933. Mr. and Mrs. Wiest had three daughters and a son William. Edna was the eldest of the three daughters, so it is impossible to know who mailed the card, but the penmanship does not appear childlike. At any rate Edna was one of the thirty-nine million visitors to the fair between May 27 and October 31, 1933.

The message has a familiar tone, suggesting that the manager may well know Edna. In the Fourteenth Census of the United States Population in 1920, Harry Wiest and his wife, Edna, owned property in North Philadelphia only blocks from the corner of Leithgow & York streets.

Sadly, this ends on a sad note. The corner A & P store to which this card was mailed over 88 years ago is a weed infested empty lot in a not very nice section of town.

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Great postcard, as it seems so many World’s Fair cards must be being looked at recently, and this is good news. Sometimes topics like Covered Bridges, and Light Houses seem almost forgotten, and World’s Fairs are another topic that deserve additional sorting and discovery. Little gems like this one are sometimes found, and here on we have the perfect avenue to talk about these and to encourage us to “take another look” at what we have. Days of being with our collections again are happy ones. Continue to enjoy.

Childhood home of my first 18 years has immediate neighbor still residing there. Manager of the once mighty local A & P, called him to seek information on potential company postcard offerings. 88 and having sound memory, Charlie confirmed that during his 41 years of employment with this operation that no promotion postcards ever crossed his hands.

My late Aunt Karen was a secretary for A & P in Cleveland. I remember her bringing me several copies of the “Teaco Topics” employee newsletter, but never any company-issued postcards.

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