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  • Jerry King Musser

Pushing the Envelope


The first thing I noticed on this envelope addressed to Lloyd Mifflin in 1901 was the lack of a street number. In fact, 'Norwood' seems to be the key locator. The addresser felt they should at least offer an idea where Norwood was by suggesting 'near Columbia.' But, the thought continued. "Maybe they've not heard of Columbia?" Fair enough, so 'Lancaster Co.' was added as a final hint. In any case, it must have reached its destination.


Admittedly, I've never read anything about Lloyd being a musician. Certainly, the entire family was well exposed to a thorough cultural life, but music didn't seem a category near and dear (so far as we know). The J.W. Jenkins Music Company wasn't your neighborhood music shop, so Lloyd bothered to deal with the top. Indeed, Jenkins was considered one of the most distinguished music publishers in the country. John Wesley, Sr. founded the company in Kansas City in 1878. When Senior died around 1890. His sons took over... John Wesley, Jr, Clifford, and Frederick. Considering the cancellation of 1901, it might explain why the company was, then, known as the J. W. Jenkins Sons Music Company. The company still holds an historic presence in Kansas City since the company's structure which was built in 1911 and enlarged in 1931. It was modernistic in its day—an amalgam of Late Gothic Revival and touches of Art Deco.


It would have been fascinating to read what contents the envelope held, but a simple hand-addressed envelope can still tell tales. Likely, it was a bill or invoice. Perhaps it was simply a response to an inquiry. We'll never know.


Let's consider another example.


From an engraver in Philadelphia, a year earlier, 1900. This example might be less of a mystery. As a well-published writer, communicating with engravers and printers would be reasonably commonplace. And, this particular engraver, Theodore Wagner, may have worked with Lloyd before. Mr. Wagner has no qualms about using only a name and the town. He knew it would reach him. Theodore may have been in a hurry and skipped over the redundant 'L' or, it was his way of tweaking the Welsh for their odd spelling. Another interesting quirk we might not understand today: abbreviations in the return address. Since typography was set by hand at this time, one had to pay 'per character.' People were more frugal then, so we can appreciate that Mr. Wagner didn't want to pay for "Southeast Corner of Sixth and Ludlow Streets."

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