During a delightful winter vacation evening with my family, I kicked back with a cream puff and did some privileged listening-in on some of Aunt Sue’s of This Old Paper and Uncle Lee’s of Postcardiness's Blog postcard chit-chat. Their stories of investigation, discovery, their laughter, and talk of a mysterious place called The Miracle Zone piqued my curiosity. I then found myself in a trance sifting through shoeboxes of ephemera at the Treasure Mart, anticipating a transcendental postcard encounter. I had to share in this Festival of Postcards magic.
I chose this lighthouse photo postcard composed of two delicate pieces of paper held together only by a tiny blob of old glue in one corner. The left edge is perforated but has been cut just before the perforation instead of being torn along it. Perhaps it was part of an Egyptian themed postcard booklet pack and this philatelic database postcard find one of its brothers. (I see more perforation!)
On the front, lower right is printed: "ALEXANDRIA.-The light-house." The scene is an Alexandrian port with rocky shore and sailing vessels in the foreground, a cylindrical lighthouse in the background.
Also visible on front is a small portion of the Gibraltar postmark stamp impression.
On the back is printed:
POSTCARD - EGYPT
L.C.-389 (I couldn’t attribute L.C. to any editor/publisher abbreviation using French or American online databases, maybe stands for 'Lettre-Carte?')
Jan 14, 1916.
Dear Mother & Father
Will drop you a line and say that I am U.S. bound.
Will mail this at Gibraltar England as we pass by.
The letter is addressed to
Mrs Dora Hopkins
755 W. Walnut St.
(A search for the W. Walnut Street home in Google gives a view of a barren car lot.)
The stamp is a one penny stamp reading: "Postages & Revenue Gibraltar" with the head of king Edward VII. It is postmarked 26 Jan 1916.
(Composed by Frank 14 Jan 1916, posted 12 sailing days later.)
So, my first question was: is this the lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world? But it became really quickly evident that the legendary lighthouse is no longer standing, probably the victim of earthquakes a long time ago. So then I thought maybe the one on my postcard was constructed in the ancient one's image. But that was until I found a BBC article with a description of the ancient lighthouse by Strabo in 20 BCE who called the lighthouse '...a rock, which is washed all round by the sea and has upon it a tower that is admirably constructed of white marble with many stories…' And by the Arab explorer Yusuf Ibn al-Shaikh, who saw it first hand in the year 1166 CE and described it as 'square and steeply inclined like the side of a mountain.' I also got a fresh glimpse of its former splendor from an ancient Greek Imperial coin minted in Roman Egypt from 30 BCE-312 CE.
A medieval artist’s interpretation of the 'Pharos' is also intriguing, as is a full-blown reconstruction of it found in the cultural park in Changsha, China.
And how this fabled beacon functioned is another story. Was it with fire and the sun’s rays and enormous reflective mirrors, or with carbon arc lights and battery jars that Larry Brian Radka describes in his book The Electric Mirror on the Pharos Lighthouse and Other Ancient Lighting?
Watch the preview (and map the treasures!) of Nova's Treasures of the Sunken City program that chronicles the excavation of the lighthouse remains.
See the island of Pharos where the ancient marvel proudly stood from this Nasa satellite shot.
Does anyone know anything about the puny one featured on this postcard?