I bought this real photo postcard of Kaiser Wilhelm II at a postcard show in Northwest Ohio. It is captioned “Berlin, June 21, 1907.” The photograph was taken right between the Moroccan Crisis of 1905 and the Daily Telegraph Affair of 1908. The Kaiser was a busy guy!
You can see that he holds a pair of white gloves, clutches a spyglass, and leans on a ceremonial sword all with his left arm and hand. These props were more strategic than one might think upon first glance. Wilhelm II had Erb’s palsy, a paralyzing condition caused by nerve damage from rough childbirth. As a result, the Kaiser’s left arm was somewhat disfigured and shorter than his right arm. Props were his way of concealing it.
This postcard was not mailed until December of 1907, months after the caption on the front was written. It was sent from Berlin by a woman named Annie to her cousin, Mrs. Alexander Schillaman of Elyria, Ohio. Below is the transcription.
I received your letter with the order all O.K. Will get your gloves some time next week. They have three day holidays here on Christmas. The postage is alright; there is always enough for that our money has a little more value than German. 6 mark apiece for the gloves and 50 Pfennige [left] over, which is about 12 1/2 cents in our money. That pays the postage. Aunt Joy and Margaret left for Prague this morning 8:30. They expect to stay there about two months. They stop in Dresden and Leipzig and Vienna on the way. It is very bad weather now to travel, but they don’t intend to do very much. Goodbye, love to both of you.
I love the correlation between the Kaiser holding his gloves on the front and Annie discussing glove orders on the back.
For a bit of perspective on what life was like for travelers Annie, Joy, and Margaret, here’s some early film footage (1900-1914) of Berlin. Enjoy!