From its appearance, we can also gather a number of clues about the time period of this old photo post card, even though this particular card was never mailed, and thus had no postmark to provide a date for this scene.
The small amount of blank space on the right-hand edge of this card is all the space that was allowed for writing a message on the card during the era in which it was produced. It was just enough space to write a brief salutation or message to the recipient, literally just a few words, or for the signature of the sender. By law, no message or greeting was allowed to be written on the back of the card in this day. The back sides of post cards were not divided into separate sections for the address and a message until 1907, and writing a message on the backs of cards before that time was prohibited by postal laws, so the undivided back of this post card tells us it was printed before 1907.
|Provincetown volunteer fireman|
John D. Hilliard, 1876
Many post cards have been made using paintings, etchings and other images by Provincetown artists, and we can sometimes find dates for these works of art through auction listings and other records kept by sources such as the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. There is a remarkable collection of artifacts and human knowledge to be found at the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum, where staff members like Curator of Education Laurel Guadazno are walking encyclopedias of the town's history.
Family photos will often have handwritten notes on the back, or depict events that can be traced to a specific date, or are found in a box with other mementos from a specific time period. The image above came from a cabinet photo published by Nickerson Photography Studio in Provincetown. A note on the back, written in pencil, reads "John D. Hilliard 1876." The photo shows the Provincetown volunteer fireman posed in full dress, including hat and horn. According to Simeon L. Deyo's book History of Barnstable County, Massachusetts, 1620 - 1890, around this time Hilliard was running a store selling general merchandise. The store, along with a wholesale fish business, had been started by Stephen Hilliard in 1836, the year John D. had been born. Hilliard's wharf was erected in 1840, when John was a small child. It was near the spot where Lands End Hardware stands today, and it evolved into the town's main lumber wharf by the late 1800s.
There were a number of Hilliards in town during that period, and numerous Hilliards had run these businesses for more than fifty years, at times with other business partners. And although I've read Deyo's account of all of the incarnations of these various businesses and partnerships about a dozen times, it still isn't clear to me how, or if, all of these Hilliards may have been related. I'm still hoping to find more information from another source or two.
I have a collection of a few thousand photo and post card images relating to the history, artwork, culture and inhabitants of PTown over the years, and I'll be posting many of them here at one point or another. I hope you'll enjoy them, and sorting through Provincetown's rich history, as much as I do.