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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dear Lizzie Schlager...

The museum's Lizzie Schlager Postcard Collection includes over 900 postcards collected between 1899 to 1912 by Lizzie Schlager.

Elise Walters Schlager Wandel (1878 - 1928) was known to her friends as Lizzie. She was born in Switzerland, and immigrated with her parents to Elgin in 1883. Lizzie married Will Schlager in 1899, and her postcard collecting began that same year. Will passed away in 1901 from pneumonia. Will and Lizzie, 1899.

Lizzie was collecting cards during the height of the postcard craze. The postcards were sent from European and U.S. destinations, including local towns such as Elgin, St. Charles, Chicago and Waukegan, and also include holiday postal cards. They were sent by family and friends, and some were purchased and went unused.

The messages on the postcards include "wish you were here" sentiments, gossip about office news, and one refers to the "dear old watch factory" (Elgin Watch Factory) where Lizzie worked before marrying Will.

In 1910, Lizzie moved to Waukegan where she lived with relations Fred and Edith Walsh Buck. Fred Buck was mayor of Waukegan from 1909 to 1911. Lizzie worked at the Bairstow Coal Company, and in 1912 married William Wandel, owner of a stationery company.

The Bairstows sent Lizzie cards when they traveled. George Bairstow in particular liked to have a bit of fun with Lizzie and would address the postal cards to Lizzie "Schlagerhammer" or in the case of the card pictured above Lizzie "Schlagerharferengen."

The postcards also reveal that Lizzie did a good deal of traveling, especially during her widowhood between 1901 and 1912. She went camping in Livingston, Montana, took a summer cottage at Fox Lake, and visited New York State. In 1909, she took a Thomas Cook & Sons European tour. A group of Lizzie's friends in downtown Waukegan, circa 1910.

The collection offers unique insight into the life of a young widowed woman at the turn of the 20th century. The messages on the back illustrate that her circle of friends and family were lively, clever, literate and well-traveled.

Sadly, in 1928, her automobile was struck by a train at the 22nd Street crossing in North Chicago.

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