In an effort to make a suitably festive holiday post, I went looking around the NYPL Digital Gallery for an image from a “vintage” (oops, I mean “archival”) greeting card. My goal was to find something that either featured performers or had even some tangential connection to the performing arts. But when I came across this striking postcard, I was stopped in my tracks. OK, the couple may not be performers, but both of them are attractive in a matinee-idolish sort of way. And, with time running out, it certainly was quirky enough for the purposes of this blog.
But imagine my surprise when I clicked on the other image from this particular “image set” — the text of the greeting itself:
This postcard had been sent in 1931 to a Paul Draper of Manhattan. Could the intended recipient have been Paul Draper, the famous tap dancer? The possibility was exciting, but after quickly checking a few other sources, it seemed likely that Draper would have been in Europe at the time the postcard was sent. But maybe. A glance over at Wikipedia’s disambiguation page (hate that “term”!) reveals a handful of other potential Paul Drapers, although the Library of Congress Authorities File, by providing dates, makes it easier to eliminate some false leads in this particular instance. Similarly, there are a few likely Pat Cordyres from that period (but a former Museum of Modern Art employee may be the most promising potential postcard writer, or, the most intriguing, at any rate). Or maybe this Paul is a long lost relative of Don Draper? That might go a long way towards explaining the mysterious content of the message itself.
While I probably could write a lengthy jeremiad on the deficiencies of the descriptive metadata associated with this particular digital image set, it wouldn’t be in keeping with the holiday spirit (and I don’t want to be dissing friends). Instead I invite all of you professionals out there to play the social metadata game and send in your tags. Show those civilians on Flickr Commons what a real archivist can do!
At the very least, stumbling across this image has enabled me to not let the Paul Draper centenary go by completely unremarked before the year has passed. So, happy belated 100th birthday to Paul Draper!
And “buon natale,” or, happy whatever holiday it is you are celebrating, to you all!