Originally published July, 2015.
The postcard above was made from a photographic negative of the ruins of Michael and Emily Chambers 1871 brownstone mansion that stood in what is now Chambers Grove Park, but the caption reads, “Old Fond du Lac Indian Trading Post on the St. Louis River, Duluth, Minn.” John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company did build a fur-trading post at Fond du Lac in about 1816, but it was made of locally harvested wood and stood east of the Chambers’ property. Just before they were turned down, the actual fur post ruins looked like this:
In this postcard, all that remains of the fur post is the crumbling building to the left; the other buildings were more recently built structures when the photograph was taken. But note that this postcard is also mislabeled the ruins of the Hudson Bay Trading Post, built at Fond du Lac in 1897—and no such building was ever constructed. Most of the Chambers House ruins were removed in 1912; the fur post ruins were removed by 1916. In the 1930s, the C.C.C. built a reconstruction of the Astor Fur Post in Chambers Grove Park:
The reconstruction hardly resembled the actual fur post. The National Park Service said that it “does not pretend to be a replica of the Fond du Lac Post, but all of its features are substantiated by existing records for the Posts in this territory.” The replica came down in the 1960s. The actual Astor Fur Post looked like this:
*Early postcards were very much a marketing tool used to promote a community and attracted businesses and residents even more than they promoted local tourism. Promoters often enhanced images via clumsy pre-Photoshop techniques to make their subjects more attractive (e.g., adding a sunset to an image facing north or south), and before 1915 most cards were made in Germany, and sometimes coloring instructions were lost or misinterpreted, often with more colorful results.