Michael Bushnell

Risqué postcards, like the one shown here, have been around for as long as postcards themselves.

Prior to the advent of postcards as a private communication medium, those looking for such thrilling views as this could easily steal away to a “participating” general store for some racy stereo-views of ladies performing exotic dances — usually involving veils and loose-fitting clothing.

Though the still images were black and white, an active imagination was the devil’s playground in many cases.

The Townley Metal and Hardware Company of Kansas City published this postcard as a calling card for salesmen traveling to remote parts of the Midwest.

Mailed to Copple Bros. of Cushing, Okla., the handwritten message from “Bess” on the front asks seductively “Will you keep your date with me?”

Surely if it fell into the wrong hands — say, Mr. Copple’s wife — it could have spelled disaster.

The message on the back, however, is as harmless as ever, announcing to the Copple Bros. firm that Mr. Downing, a Townley Metal and Hardware salesman, will be in the Cushing area on Thursday to see them. The card was mailed from Guthrie, Okla, on April 14, 1909.

Townley Metal and Hardware was founded in 1884 by James P. Townley and for many years was located at 2nd Street and Walnut.

The firm later moved to Third and Delaware Streets and grew exponentially over the years.

In 1901, Mr. Townley followed Kansas City’s elite and moved to fashionable Gladstone Boulevard to a Mission-style home just west of where R. A Long would build his 72-room mansion. Townley’s home at 3400 Gladstone Blvd. was also just across the street from another prominent entrepreneur, Mr. Herman Schmelzer, president of the Schmelzer Arms and Sporting Goods store downtown. Townley had access to some of the finest lumber and fixtures on the market and the home was a veritable showplace.

The Townley family stayed in the home until 1928, long after Northeast had lost its luster among Kansas City’s power broker families. The imposing arched stone edifice remains and is one of the jewels of the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood, having been featured in their Historic Homes Tour on a number of occasions.

The home retains many of the stunning original architectural features that Townley built into the home over 100 years ago.