Curwensville, Winter 1910

Wish You Were Here reflects the value of postcards as tools for learning about the past, with images drawn from Manuscript Group 213, Postcard Collection, Pennsylvania State Archives.

A postcard titled “Winter 1910” lacks a postmark, addressee, and signature, but the image of children enjoying the aftermath of a snowstorm freezes a frame in small-town America a century ago. “Do you know who we are?” the correspondent asks. “We are all well and hope you are, too.” The identity of the writer is lost, but the photograph preserves a glimpse of everyday life in Curwensville, Clearfield County’s second oldest community. (The county seat of Clearfield is the oldest municipality.)

In 1798, John Curwen Sr. of Montgomery County obtained a land patent for 351 acres along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River at the mouth of Anderson Creek. Blacksmith Paul Glover was the community’s first settler. Construction of buildings in Curwensville began in 1812, and the community was incorporated in 1851. The region was known for its wooden masts for ships, coal, and stone for building. Stone was also ground and used by the Curwensville Fire Brick Company, touted as the “largest fire brick company in the world under one roof.” Other early industries included tanneries, a match factory, and a blouse factory.

In October 1879, a fire on State Street destroyed the Curwensville Bank and the public library. In 1889, the year of the Johnstown Flood, flood waters wiped out Curwensville’s Walnut Street Bridge and heavily damaged the Filbert Street Bridge. A flood on Saint Patrick’s Day in 1936, caused by an early spring thaw, inundated Curwensville. Today, a dam helps tame the Susquehanna River, creating the 790-acre Curwensville Lake which offers numerous recreational opportunities.

Depicted in the background of the photograph is the steeple of the United Methodist Church, built in 1893 from locally quarried stone. A number of substantial buildings lined State Street, including the Draucker House Hotel, built in 1820 and razed in 1915; the Park Hotel, erected 1881 and demolished in 1989; an opera house, torn down in 1946; and the Patton School, in use from 1908 to 1955. State Street was also home to Way’s Stationary Store, opened in 1896 by Reeder K. Way, which housed the local Western Union telegraph station and dispensed photographic supplies, candy, newspapers, and souvenirs. The store, continuing in business into the 1970s as Buzzard’s Stationary Store, also sold postcards similar to “Winter 1910.”