Friday, February 8, 2008

POSTCARD HISTORY LESSON - gondolas in Venice, California 1909

I've been collecting gondola-related postcards since about 1995. I don't have an enormous collection, but my collection has some neat images to be examined.

In all of the places that have, or have had gondolas, there are more postcards representing Venice, California than anywhere aside from the original Venice.

Gondolas had been on the North American continent for a while before tobacco millionaire Abbott Kinney built his "Venice of the West", but Kinney's gondolas were very influential - spawning many canal neighborhood developments in states on both coasts.

It is said that Venice, California had 36 gondolas in her heyday, each having been brought over from Venice, Italy by steamship, accompanied by gondoliers.

In this image we see two gondolas; one rowing and one at anchor.

I'm not sure whether the anchored gondola was kept in the middle of the Midway Canal for display reasons, or because they wanted to keep people from climbing into it.

The anchored gondola on this postcard is one of the more detailed gondola images I've seen in this type of postcard format. You can clearly see the details of the gondola including her seats, cavalla, and even the interior of the passenger area. A detail which was fairly unique to Venice, California, was the extra seating area immediately in front of the gondolier. Additional seats were placed in what is usually occupied by trasto boards. I have always assumed that Kinney or his management staff put in this additional seating, with little concern for the poor gondoliers who had to row with more passengers. It occurs to me now, that the gondoliers may have been paid per passenger (either through paycheck or tips), and may have put in the additional seating themselves to bolster their incomes.

The other gondola, which can be seen cruising by with passengers, has another detail which was unique to the "Venice of the West": Japanese lanterns. Two Japanese lanterns can be seen hanging from a pole on the bow. More lanterns are strewn across three rowing boats which are anchored just ahead of the dormant gondola.

Venice, California was wildly popular and the crowds of people milling about attest to that fact.

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