Every so often, we come across a mystery in the library. Typically, they’re the Sherlock Holmes type, but this time, we found our own puzzle in need of investigation. Just last week, a curious little postcard was found that didn’t seem to belong with any particular book or with any collection. It was old, faded, and beautifully decorated, quickly catching the imagination and interest of those who saw it. It was definitely a mystery just waiting to be solved.
Inter-Library Loan student employees found the vintage postcard on a book cart when they were shelving in the stacks. There was no indication of where it might have fallen from or how it appeared on the cart. Because the writing and postmark were so faded, it was difficult to garner any information about the card from first glance. The best solution to help reveal the possible stories behind the card seemed to be to photograph it with our macro lens, allowing for magnification of the tiny print.
Once we photographed both sides of the card, we were able to see, in fine detail, important features like the postmark, partial address, and the script on the back. When the postmark was magnified and rotated, we could read that the date was most likely printed as “17-11-59,” or November 17th, 1959, with a specific time of 9:45 AM. We also saw some letters inside the outer ring of the postmark that began with “MEKLIG…” The rest of the letters were faded enough that, even with the magnification, we couldn’t decipher them. Since the postage stamp was labeled “India,” though, we did a quick Google search for locations in India beginning with the six letters on the postmark and found one possibility: Mekliganj – a city in the Indian state of West Bengal.
So, from photographing the card, we were able to discover two important pieces of information – the date and probable location from where the postcard was sent.
Our curiosity didn’t stop there, though! With the help and interest of various staff members, we discovered that the script on the back of the card is likely Hindi, and that the partial address on the front reads “Mills Agency.” Furthermore, some basic Googling informed us that this type of card is not super unique and, in fact, there are quite a few of these cards from the early decades of the 20th century floating around. Several descriptions of the cards online suggested that they were mailed among grain merchants to provide updates on pricing. We don’t know if that is true or not for our mysterious postcard, but it is an interesting theory and could possibly explain why the postcards were easily used for artwork later.
We would love to know more about the postcard – such as where it came from, what it says, why it was painted on, where it might belong, etc. If you think you might have any information on this – please leave a comment below or contact us – we would be happy to hear from you! We will keep searching, as well, and will provide any updates that we find on this mystery item.