So, perusing eBay and looking for items that might be interesting from my home county, I typed "Van Wert" into the search engine and found what might be the most interesting piece I've never heard of.
The best information I could find on these online comes from a blog on the Hammer Museum website:
"Leather postcards came into being in 1903. They were made out of deer hide. Images were burned and inked into them. These postcards were novelties: sent to relatives and laced together as pillow coverings or wall hangings. Successful cards tended to be based on period stereotypes and play with puns.
"The leather postcards ... didn’t last long. Unlike current postcards, which have space for private messages, leather postcards had only space for address, postmark, and stamp. If you attempted to squeeze a personalized message, it was considered a letter and cost more. How much more seemed to confuse folks."
As one might think, the leather postcard also was gumming up sorting machines for the U.S. Postal Service, which banned their use in 1907, according to the museum blog. But, they continued to sell in novelty shops until about 1915.
So, from this you can fairly easily date one, if there is no cancellation stamp on it. Mine was sent by a young woman named Jane to her friend, Miss Elsie Cebernick, in Hamilton, Ohio. I may never know who Jane was, but she obviously was a VWHS Girl and didn't want to be forgotten. How they knew each other is a mystery, as I did not find the Cebernick name in Van Wert County at all. Another mystery is exactly when this was mailed. I thought at first it was dated 1906, but looking at an enlarged image, the top cancellation looks like it says 1908.
Elsie, on the other hand, was fairly easy to find. In the 1910 census, she is 21 years old, teaching in the public schools. and living at the same address as on the card. She is there with her mother, Rose, 46; brother, Earl, 19, who is an apprentice working for an architect; her uncle, William Haller, 51. Rose and William's sister, Lillie, 40, also is living in the home. William, a widower, is working as a pottery maker in a factory.
A quick search on Google maps, and here is a nice photo of the house the Hallers and Cebernicks were sharing, at right.
I love the 1910 census because it asks how long a couple has been married and how many children a woman has had, along with how many are still living. Sadly, Rose appears to have had three children, but only Elsie and Earl survive. The census states that she's married and has been for 25 years. I have a feeling they were estranged.
There is a Charles Cebernick living in the Lakeview Hotel in 1900. The next time he shows up, he is in a boarding house in Canton, Ohio. I'm willing to guess he is the husband; there are almost no other Cebernicks in the U.S., according to my search on Ancestry. Only one family tree lists anyone in the family, Earl, and it says Charles is his father, but it's not well-documented.
Rose Cebernick died in 1915 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Butler County. William and Lillie also are buried there, having died in 1916 and 1939, respectively. According to FindAGrave.com, their parents were Martin and Anna, and they had at least two other brothers, Jacob and Albert. Mother Anna and Albert died a day apart in 1877; it'd be a safe bet she died in childbirth and he shortly thereafter.
Earl legally changed his last name to Carleton and married Gertrude "Grace" Markland. They had two daughters, Judith Ann and Dorothea "Dossie."
Emily married Louis H. Frechtling, a 1903 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Medicine, in1912. In 1919, he became the first industrial physician at the Champion Coated Papers in Hamilton.
They had two children, Louis Earl and Jean Rose. Louis Earl married Mary Louise Porch; they are both interred in Arlington National Cemetery. Louis served in the U.S. Navy from 1943-73, according to FindAGrave. However, he apparently was a top official for many years in the State Department, serving in the 1960s as director of International Administration. He appears to have written several books on foreign policy before his death in 2000.
Who knew a little leather postcard could unveil such a fascinating family history?