If you've ever encountered one or more
of those old Newark scenic postcards, it may interest you to know
that they more than likely first passed through the hands of a Newark
father or his two sons during more than half century they were in
the scenic postcard business, selling picture postcards of Newark.
The Founding Father
The father of the scenic postcard family was Isaac Braunstein,
born May 30, 1877 in Russia and was brought to America by his parents
who settled in New York City.
Isaac had established himself as a seller of scenic post cards
in the early 1900s by selling them, along with candies and gums,
on excursion boats out of New York City.
In 1904, on one such boat--the steamship General Slocum--Isaac
was a survivor of the worst disaster in the history of New York
City up until the Twin Towers 9/11 happening.
While sailing out of lower Manhattan up the East River, the boat
caught fire and 1,021 lives were lost, mostly women and children
on a church outing.
Isaac, an expert swimmer, saved himself by jumping into the East
River at 90th Street and swimming to safety.
He was engaged in the sale of scenic postcards throughout his
adult years and after having been widowed earlier, remarried in
Newark in 1920 to a widow, Hattie Newman. He was 43 and she was
34. They took up residence in Newark's old Third Ward.
Isaac's business consisted of selling scenic postcards, which
he carried in two heavy suitcases, Daily he called on retail stores,
mainly candy stores, in various Newark neighborhoods.
His mode of transportation was on foot or by bus or trolley. He
never learned to drive a car.
Source of Scenic Cards
Isaac's inventory consisted of interesting Newark and New Jersey
scenes that would have sales potential in the greater Newark area.
His merchandise originated at the Manhattan Post Card Company
which published scenic postcards of many different cities in New
York and New Jersey.
The scenic post cards came 1,000 to a box of a design, banded
into 100s. Isaac would buy 10 to 20 different scenic views, carry
them home from New York City by train and bus, and at home sort
them into lots of 100, which he would sell to the retailer for 60
The retail store-keeper would in turn resell the cards, usually
for a penny each.
Isaac operated his business out of his living premises, a railroad
flat on Stratford Place, a two-block-long extension of Prince Street
that ran from Waverly Avenue to Clinton Avenue.
When the room was needed for living space, Isaac rented storage
space in the back of Pearl's Candy Store on Waverly Avenue, across
from Charlton Street School.
He would carry 5-6,000 cards in his two grips, along with some
greeting cards. If he took in $15 to $20 on any particular day,
he would consider it a good day's business.
Steady Depression Years Income
Isaac managed to feed and support his family during the Depression
1930s, and he began adding greeting cards to his line because in
that era very few candy stores carried them and they offered a 100
percent profit to the storekeeper.
Dual Use of Scenic Card
The scenic Newark picture postcards in that era served a dual
purpose in the money-tight Depression years. One could pick up a
penny card in a neighborhood candy store, write a brief message
to a distant friend or relative in the message area, and mail it
for another penny. The Newark scene on the back of the card then
served as an enhancement adorning the brief message on the back.
By the end of the 1930s, Isaac found that as the economy began
to improve more and more of his sales were coming from the greeting
cards, although they required two cents postage instead of the one
cent still required for the Newark scenic cards.
As the 1940s began, leading up to the outset of World War II, both
sons, Henry and Murray, had attended Charlton Street School while
living on Stratford Place and, later, Bergen Street School when
the family moved to Clinton hill. Both attended South Side High
Changes in Card Business After the War
When Isaac's two sons, Henry and Murray, were separated from military
World War II, Isaac brought them into his business as partners.
But try as they might, the sons could not adapt to their father's
old fashioned ways of doing business, and they quickly learned that
he was too set in his ways to change.
So, in 1947, after a brief period, the sons made an amicable separation,
and started their own wholesale greeting card and postcard business.
Sons Modernize Scenic Card Operations
The sons realized that no new Newark scenic cards had been produced
for many years, and that the business would have to be updated in
order to survive in the post World War II era.
They also sensed that their father's business had moved increasingly
into greeting cards, and out of the outdated Newark scenics2,
and by updating the Newark Scenic cards they would not only be able
to continue their father's business, but also move into their father's
faster-growing greeting card business, which they did.
They contacted a scenic card manufacturer -- one of only two in
the business -- and contracted with them to produce twenty newer
scenes of Newark.3
They agreed to purchase a minimum of 7,500 cards of each design
or at least 150,000 cards and made a sizeable investment. They also
selected the scenes they wished to have printed and they engaged
a professional photographer at their own expense to take the pictures
for the new scenes.
Changed Methods of Operation
They also changed from their father's long-established method
of sales operation. Where Isaac had been selling his Newark scenic
cards in lots of 100 assorted, the sons switched their new Newark
scenes to lots of 1,000 cards.
Each lot of 1,000 cards contained 20 different Newark scenes,
banded 50-each-scene, and sold them in lots for $20 a lot.
Retailers sold the newer Newark scenic cards for five cents each
and, theoretically, earned $30 for each 1,000 sold.
The new Newark edition quickly caught on and sold so well that
the brothers later added an edition of Jersey City scenic post cards
as well, and continued to sell both lines as long as they remained
Competition form Sons Doesn't Deter Isaac
When the brothers started their scenic card operation, many of
Isaac's small storekeeper customers remained loyal to him. However,
others, especially larger operations, switched to the sons for the
newer Newark scenes, and for the cards' greater freshness and profitability.
Isaac was not deterred by his sons' business success, or the loss
of some of his larger customers, still traveling by buses, until
the day before he passed away in 1961.
Isaac's Final Day and His Death
On a Tuesday, September 6, in 1961, Isaac came home from a day
of making calls and complained of chest pains. He was taken to the
Beth Israel Hospital by his son Henry and died there the next day.
He was 84 years and three months old when he died.
Son Henry recalling the circumstances and time of his death to
me said, "My father was the old fashioned type and never went
to see a doctor."
Sons Business in Next 26 Years
Henry and Murray operated their new business, which they named
the Deluxe Greeting Card Company, out of a small vacant store on
Avon Avenue in the Third Ward.
As the business moved more toward greeting cards and away from
Newark scenic postcards, they moved their operation to larger and
more accessible quarters at 55 William Street in Downtown Newark,
corner of Washington Street.
The business had grown substantially from their start in 1947
and they had expanded heavily into greeting cards and related lines.
They had also started a mail order business, supplying boxed greeting
to various organizations around the country, who sold them for fund-raising
Brothers Sell Business: End of an Era
In 1973, after 26 years, the brothers accepted an offer too good
to refuse and sold their business and turned to other occupational
pursuits before their subsequent retirement, Henry in San Diego,
California, and Murray in Union, New Jersey.
For the Braunstein family, the scenic postcard era started by
Isaac more than half a century earlier, had come to an end.