A Keyhole Dictionary

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A keyhole dictionary is not what you may think. It is more a tool that measures what you learn compared to what you want to know. The curious individual (most often the male of our species) is forced to learn by looking through a keyhole instead of turning the pages of a book. If his search involves “sympathy,” it is often unavailable and it is denied for good reasons. The adage, The only place you will find sympathy is in the dictionary, fairly describes a set of eight postcards published around 1905 by The Rose Company of Philadelphia.

Many early sets of postcards manufactured by the Rose Company are really not much to look at, but there were a few series in their inventory that literally screamed, “Sex Sells.” Today, out of a sense of decorum, many people (especially those researching family histories) believe their ancestors were too uptight over sex that they never thought about it, and only on rare occasions participated in the delights of sex.

The set dubbed The Keyhole Dictionary features a young miss who by many men of the era would have been called “homely” appears on each card in various stages of putting on and taking off her underwear. She is a textbook “tease” or “flirt” who is seen through a keyhole that has a somewhat squirrely young man on the other side, doing his best to be a Peeping Tom. He is determined and throughout the set he is bent at the waist to keyhole level and peeking through to “see what he could see.”

The young Peeping Tom is so anxious to keep his eye close to the keyhole that his hands move, in an obvious display of nerves, from his face to his waist and then his knees, simply to keep his balance. What he sees through the keyhole is very little, measured by many standards of displaying the attributes of the female body, in use now more than a century “down-the-road.” If Tom has a face, hands, knees, or bare feet fetish, he certainly is well rewarded.

The object of the lad’s affectation seems totally oblivious to his presence outside her door, but if she really is unaware, she is the worst mirror-mime of all time. For sure, since the next most interesting character in her boudoir is the paw of a bearskin rug.

Six of the cards are titled with one word of four or five syllables, except the last two: Help and Surprise. The first six titles are Admiration, Anticipation, Astonishment, Congratulation, Curiosity, and Embarrassment. Neither the lad nor the lass does anything that in any way personifies any of the titles. And, there is no suggestion which title would apply to “he” or “she.”

The set is not fresh from the package, but all eight are generally in fine condition. None have been used. The backs are undivided and carry the same publishers credit seen on many other postcards – The Rose Company, Philadelphia, Pa.

Admiration: To regard with high esteem.
Admiration comes with age and knowledge, the lad
 is getting older by the minute and still knows nothing.
Anticipation: To look forward.
To what? When? Now or never!
Astonishment: Great wonder.
The wonder is, “What’s happening?”
Congratulation: To express pleasure on success.
So far, no success, to speak of.

Curiosity: A desire to investigate.
What’s under this slip?
Embarrassment: The state of personal distress.
The bear rug is learning more than the “Peeper.”

Help (with an exclamation point): An urgent request for assistance.
Is she seeking help to pull on that stocking?
Surprise: To cause astonishment. Oh, my. An elbow!

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I am ASTONISHED that you found eight cards in the collection! They are indeed a CURIOSITY. It does not seem the lass suffers much EMBARRASSMENT and enjoys the lad’s ADMIRATION. I guess this is no SURPRISE. She is not calling for HELP. I suppose the Peeping Tom must wait with ANTICIPATION. CONGRATULATION(S) to the Rose Company of Philadelphia!

This guy was born a hundred years too early — he could see a lot more today on the street or in the grocery store than he caught a glimpse of through that keyhole.

Past Article

Editor’s Staff


Pantomime starring the Pierrot and the Pierrette is a universally popular entertainment. It is likely that we all see ourselves in those roles. Postcards of the Pantomime and its characters are fun to collect, beautiful to see, and expensive.

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