Sepia Bedlam

I was all ready to put up a miscellaneous handful of literally sepia postcards from my father's old collection, when I got rerailed by the voluminous amount of Internet information I found pertaining to one of the postcard's subjects, the Insane Asylum in Pontiac, Michigan.

Here's my starting point:

An odd enough card for anyone to send, but odder still given the innocuous message it contains. A "bread and butter letter," it's written to my eponymous father's dad George Nelson Bentley on December 6, 1909, when he was teaching in Cripple Creek, Colorado. Not exactly a picture to make him homesick, I would think.

The letter's riveting climax: "Suppose you heard Myrtell is now Mrs. Steavens [? sic] - was married last Saturday. They have a house in Dearborn where they will live for the winter. They did not have any [over] wedding at all."

Shocker! I assume this refers to a Myrtell Grace Foster and John Howard Stevens, married two days earlier. But I have no idea what the relationship to my grandfather was.

It also mentions his father (John) and the store run with George's brother Clyde in the village of Elm, Michigan (now subsumed by Livonia, a suburb of Detroit).

Anyway, all unsuspecting, I discovered a trove of info about the asylum. The following are borrowed from them...

Inmates, 1950


  1. Strange juxtaposition of message and postcard selection. Was it the only one available or a sign of a warped sense of humor?

  2. Pretty frightening. Those poor men "sitting" in a room. The photo looks staged.

  3. Not a postcard I would have chosen. Pretty frightening scenes from not that long ago.

  4. It looks so good from the outside that it's almost inviting. The room with the seated men doesn't look so cheerful though. Thanks for posting this. very interesting.

  5. The odd message combined with the subject makes this a great card. So much better than a letter with the same note or an unused postcard of the asylum.