Monday, March 9, 2020

Song of the Postcard and Denver's J.D. Dillenback

Staying in the esoteric Colorado music-related ephemera vein, few blog readers know that I'm also a postcard collector. Of course, I'm always on the lookout for any state music-related ephemera, but I love it when two of my collecting interests meet up, and I can find a postcard with a Colorado music graphic or photo. Let me tell you, they are pretty rare to find.

So I attended my first meeting of the Denver Postcard Club, yesterday. Nice group of folks, with a mutual appreciation of deltiology (the study and collection of postcards). After introducing myself, and telling everyone about my own collecting interests, one of the members asked me if I knew about "The Song of the Postcard," a 1908 composition, written by a Denver resident. I hadn't, but was excited to learn more.

After obtaining a photo of the sheet music card (thanks to club member Preston Driggers), I began my search to learn more about the composer, J.D. Dillenback.

Jackson D. Dillenback was born in Vermont, in 1841. He resided in Michigan for sometime, and enlisted in the Civil War, as part of the state's 4th Calvary. When he returned from duty, he took up the printing trade, working for the Grand Rapids Eagle, and later becoming its editor. In 1872 he authored History and Directory of Ionia County, Michigan.

According to an interview with Dillenback, for Reminisences of Editors and Reporters of Grand Rapids, "My health in the fall of 1869 became so bad that I could no longer do justice to the work."

In 1874, due to his declining health, he moved to Denver. He and his wife resided in University Park (2175 S. St. Paul).

Moving to Colorado appeared to be the medicine he needed, as I found many references to his very active involvement in Denver civic and social groups, while employed with the Denver Daily Times and later the Denver Mercury.

In 1885, Dillenback served as member of the local board of education. He became active in the Grand Army of the Republic Farragut Post Chapter (for Civil War veterans), and served as its commander. Later he would become the president of the Colorado State Editorial Association, and one of the founders of the Colorado Press Association.

He continued his printing career, publishing the Colorado School Journal.  He would later serve as an editorial writer for the Western Newspaper Union, and authored several publications, including The Ernest and Cranmer Building and Tenants: Corner Seventeenth and Curtis Streets, Denver Colorado.  In 1898 he authored Facts About Empire, a book on the Denver and Gulf Railway Company.

As if Mr. Dillenback didn't have enough on his plate, he was also a poet.

In 1891 the Colorado Sun held a contest for the best poems in the state. He took first prize, for his poem, "Colorado."

Thou hast thine eyrie in the lifted lands,
O Colorado, mountain born and free;
Unvexed by terrors of the far-off see,
On earth's high creset thy favored realm expands.
Nature bestowed thy dower with lavish hands - The richest gifts within her treasury,
Which from creation she reserved for thee,
They ore veined mountains and thy golden sands.
Far eastward, ocean-vast, thy plains extends;
Westward thy snow-crowned mountains meet the sky;
Heavens of unclouded blue above thee bend,
And the bright sun looks on thee lovingly.
To what God as so wrought, may great souls lend
The fadeless luster of achievements high.

By the start of the 1900s, Mr. Dillenback began his retirement years, but he hardly slowed down. He continued writing lyrics and poems.

Apparently, after his newspaper career ended, he morphed his love of prose into the later-life career as a postcard publisher.

1907 Dillenback-published postcard for Modern Woodmen of America Insurance

The first reference I found on "The Song of the Postcard," was a 1907 copyright entry, with music by Joe Newman (sadly, I can find nothing on him). The short song appears more like an advertising jingle, than an actual song composition. No idea if it was ever recorded, or performed.

“There is a song in my heart today, Let this Post Card sing it to you, I pray: “I’m thinking of you today, dear friend, Thinking of you today;  Though long miles lie between us, dear friend, I am thinking of you today”

The address on the card shows "University Park, Colorado," so I can only assume the house on St. Paul served as the publishing location.

I found another Dillenback postcard, dated 1909 - a mechanical Elks' Club card - The Call of the Elk.  The elk "says" -  "Pull My Tail, Brother Elk, and Hear My Call." When you pull it, the message is revealed "Hello, Bill! Meet me at Elks' Fair Tonight."

Dillenback later moved to the City Park West area of Denver (1657 Gaylord). He died in 1929, at the age of 88.  He is buried in Riverside Cemetery, Denver.

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