AN AMERICAN in MELBOURNE: LETTER to HIS SCHOOLGIRL, SISTER
This cover was bought on E-bay for sentimental reasons only, and when I received it I was surprised to find a letter in it. The contents were not historically exciting, but it did provide information that was of interest. The reason for buying it was for the Menzies Hotel Melbourne insignia on the reverse of the cover, as it provided memories of the second night of our honeymoon, when we stayed there on November 12, 1954. The size of the bathroom was huge enough to accommodate a ping-pong table, something we will never forget!
The cover was postmarked with a Melbourne duplex, MELBOURNE/ 7 O/ JA 24/ 88 on the pale dull blue 6d Fergusson & Mitchell design stamp of 1886, and it was routed by the 'S.S. Alameda' to Miss Olive Kingsland, 474 Ninth St. Oakland, Alameda Co(unty), Cal(ifornia), USA (Figure 1).
On the reverse, in addition to the insignia of the hotel, there were 2 postmarks, a red transit SAN FRANCISCO/ FEB 19/ PAID ALL and a reception OAKLAND. CAL/ FEB 20/ 7 AM/ RECD (Figure 2).
The letter was penned on yellow paper, with the same red 'belt and buckle' insignia of the 'MENZIES HOTEL/ MELBOURNE', dated 16 January (18)88, written to a younger schoolgirl sister:
Dear Sister: I suppose you are hard at work again - and looking anxiously forward to the graduating exercise. How fast the time is slipping away - It is nearly six months since I bid you all goodbye - Twelve months more and I shall be thinking quite seriously about returning - I suppose I will find you in New York then, as Margaret writes me they hope to have you visit Mabel soon after you finish school.
We had a good warm day yesterday, the thermometer marked 104 degrees- put me quite in mind of some of those pleasant July days we experienced in New York last summer. They are playing 'Erminie' here now - and I am going to-night. I don't expect a performance like the last time I saw that piece.
We are having such splendid peaches now - I am sure you would like them very much - not perhaps as large & fine as these (sic) in California, but certainly a very fine fruit.
I came down to Melbourne in the new steamer 'Brittania' (sic) - a perfect floating palace - one of the finest steamers I ever travelled on - quite different from the old 'Zealandia'.
Trusting that you are well - & not over-working yourself
Your loving brother
(Scribbled in pencil) Did not enjoy 'Erminie' last night
'Erminie' (London 1885, New York Casino Theatre, May 10, 1886): musical operetta, a tale of two thieves who kidnap a young bride in hopes of a ransom, inadvertently liberating her from a marriage she dreads. This lighthearted silliness ran for over 500 performances in London, and was revived often on Broadway so that it racked up more than 1,200 performances there by 1900. As the timorous thief Cadeaux, Francis Wilson, 1854 - 1935, achieved lasting stardom (Figure 3).
Unlike most of the stage clowns of his time, Wilson did not rely on physical mugging to win laughs - "Wilson's comedy and farce were rooted in his sense of characterization. He played many roles over his long career, but he starred in a Broadway revival of it as late as the 1930's. Music by Ed Jacobowski; lyrics by Harry Paulton.
So the cover held more than a sentimental value.