This week’s Historic Postcard is a Real Photo Postcard published by the North American Postcard Company of Kansas City, Mo., showing the handsome, new three-story Morse Elementary School at 22nd and Charlotte. Built of dark vitrified brick, the school opened at the beginning of the school year in September 1906.
It replaced the original Morse School that was located a block north at 20th and Charlotte, which had been named for the inventor of the new telegraph system, Samuel F.B. Morse. The earlier school opened in October 1870 in a cornfield with only a few houses nearby.
Farm children who lived south and east of it attended Morse, and the pupils in the northern part of the district had trouble, at times, crossing the muddy waters of O.K. Creek.
Under school Superintendent I.I. Cammack, Morse School was specified as an all-Black school beginning with the fall session of 1927. At the same time, the name of the school was changed to Charles Sumner School in honor of the Massachusetts senator who served in the U.S. Senate from 1851 through 1874. Sumner was a staunch Abolitionist and strong supporter of equal rights for all Freedmen.
A fire of unknown origin destroyed the school building on April 24, 1964. News articles written at the time expressed the grief of the community over the loss of the school.
“Sumner as an entity is no more,” said school Principal Mrs. Lillian Orme in a local newspaper story. “But its spirit lives on in the hearts and memories of its pupils and its teachers,” she continued, as tears streamed down her face.
The postcard’s publisher, North American Postcard Company, was owned by two Ottawa, Kan., natives, William Fallis and William Jones, who purchased the company from noted exaggeration postcard publisher W. H. Martin.
W. H. “Dad” Martin was considered the father of exaggeration postcards that featured huge vegetables or animals and miniscule human beings in the same picture. Martin was born in Illinois in 1865. Ottawa city directories list him as a photographer with E. H. Corwin in 1886. Martin bought out Corwin in 1894 and in 1908 published his first exaggeration postcard, closing the cabinet photograph studio a year later in 1909 to focus on what had become a booming postcard business, printing upwards of 10,000 postcards per day out of the small studio on Main Street in Ottawa.
Some of Martin’s better work featured huge ears of corn, giant apples and peaches, stalks of wheat taller than any man, and massive pumpkins uprooting a farmstead. Such cards were hugely popular throughout the Great Plains states where agriculture was the lifeblood of rural America.
Martin sold the business in 1912 to Fallis and Jones, who moved it to Kansas City under the name of the North American Postcard Company, specializing in Real Photo picture postcards.