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Old postcards offer glimpses into Jefferson County's past

November 19, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - You would hardly notice them if you didn't know they were there.

The postcards tucked into a display stand near the entrance to Stuck & Alger Pharmacy in downtown Charles Town are not the new type that you would typically find in a pharmacy.

These date as far as the 1940s.

The postcards offer glimpses of historic structures in Jefferson County, like the Charles Town Turf Club, now known as Charles Town Races & Slots, the Jefferson County Courthouse and Claymont Court, a stately mansion south of Charles Town that was built in 1820 by Bushrod Washington, a great nephew of first U.S. President George Washington.

The postcards also feature natural scenes, like the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers at Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Paul Manzuk, chief pharmacist at Stuck & Alger Pharmacy, said he first saw the postcards when he started working at the pharmacy in 1963.

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There were boxes and boxes of them, signaling back to an era when postcards were a popular way of communicating, said Manzuk.

But with postal rates the way they are today, the one-cent postcards are not as popular as they once were, Manzuk said.

Manzuk said about half of the postcards have been sold, but thousands are stored in about 100 boxes in the basement of the pharmacy.

Although Manzuk said postcards like the ones he sells go for up to $4 apiece on the Internet, he sells them for 25 cents apiece. A special "souvenir folder" containing 18 images sells for 75 cents.

When asked why he does not sell them for more, Manzuk said he is "just trying to get rid of them."

When many visitors come to town and want a postcard of a local landmark like Charles Town Races & Slots, they want a modern image, Manzuk said.

"The young people aren't interested in history too much anymore," Manzuk said.

The postcards have a distinctly older look and printed on the back is "Tichnor Quality Views," a type of postcard that is marketed on the Internet.

Manzuk said he was told the postcards are made of linen.

Other images on the postcards include Charles Washington Hall, which sits at one of the four corners at the intersection of George and Washington streets.

Charles Washington, the founder of Charles Town and George Washington's brother, decreed that the four corners at the intersection would be set aside for public use. Charles Washington Hall has been used as a meeting hall, market house and a theater over the years, city officials said.

Images in the "souvenir folder" include John Brown's fort in Harpers Ferry, an "Airplane View of Harper's Ferry, W.Va." and a fireplace at the historic Harewood mansion along W.Va. 51 west of Charles Town.

Harewood was built by Samuel Washington, another brother of George Washington, and the stone home is where James Madison, the fourth U.S. president, married his wife, Dolley.

The postcards also have "Nichols & Stuck, Pharmacists" printed on the back.

The pharmacy started as Nichols Pharmacy. Mr. Nichols later brought on Bill Stuck as a pharmacist, Manzuk said. When Nichols was killed in a car accident, Stuck asked Fred Alger to join him, Manzuk said.

Stuck and Alger ran the pharmacy until the early 1970s, and Manzuk eventually purchased the business from them.

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