I’m going through a stack of letter from all over the world. The letters are all postmarked 1919 or 1920. This was just after WW-I ended, and it was a good time for the Gearhart Knitting Machine Company. They had been involved in the war effort by supplying machines to the war relief organizations, including the Red Cross, and were therefore becoming a well-known company outside the United States.
I suspect that Emory Gearhart, the General Manager of the Gearhart Knitting Machine Company, kept these hundreds of letters for their stamp value. He was a stamp collector who amassed volumes of stamps from all over the world, all the way up to his death in 1969.
As I go through the letters, I can’t help but notice that the quality of the handwriting increases the further away you get from the United States. In 1919, many people overseas used typewriters for their letters. But it looks like in many parts of the world back then, hand-written letters were also common. Even for corporations, it is not uncommon to run across a hand-written letter among the stack of letters. The Gearhart Knitting Machine Company would have received far more letters than I have in this stack, but Emory saved a particular set of letters which really do have some nice looking stamps – clipper ships, world leaders, airplanes, zepplins, all kinds of current events for the time.
The Bulgarians by far have the best handwriting. Here are two of the envelopes. One is from Varna, and the other is from Roustchouk (now called Rousse). Needless to say, many of the letters have the word Translate written on the front. This is especially true for the Latin-American countries and the Nordic-countries. The European countries, however, are almost always in English. Because of this consideration for the country of business, I’d say that in general it must have been easier doing business in Europe than in either Latin America or the Nordic countries.
Also, oddly enough, almost all the letters from Mexico had been opened and censored. I know this because they were taped shut with a piece of tape with the words Censored. So, what was going on in Mexico in 1919? There are a few censored letters from italy and some of the other mediterranean countries, but not to the same extent as Mexico.