The mystery of the card
June 13, 2012
By Michele Mihalovich
Who knows what kinds of surprises you’ll find in an 1898 train car outfitted to be a Baptist chapel? Well, Northwest Railroad Museum workers rehabilitating the Messenger of Peace car in Snoqualmie found quite a treasure this February – a business card from the same time period.
And not just any card.
This was from H. J. Geisler, owner of a Dayton, Ohio saloon called The Sample Room, which advertised “fine wine, liquor, and cigars,” and claimed “Kentucky whiskey a specialty.”
Now, why on Earth a card advertising booze was tucked into the Baptist chapel car’s roof, sandwiched between the soffit and roof decking, is somewhat of a mystery.
Museum Director Richard Anderson said, “My guess is that one of the workers constructing the car, who may have frequently visited The Sample Room, tucked it in there on purpose.”
Baptists were big advocates of the temperance movement, which urged society to reduce, or even stop the use of alcohol, he said.
So that particular business card was possibly the worker’s attempt at humor, or irony, Anderson said.
The American Baptist Publication Society ordered the Messenger of Peace car, which the museum acquired in 2007, from the Barney and Smith Car Company in Dayton, Ohio, in early 1898.
Anderson said he’s further convinced that the card was intentionally placed because the clerestory area of the car, where the card was found, has been inaccessible since 1898.
But who was H.J. Giesler?
Anderson said a museum volunteer decided to look into it, and learned Geisler was Henry J. Geisler of Dayton, Ohio, born in August 1869, married Clara in 1893 and by 1894 he appeared in the Dayton, Ohio city directory as the proprietor of “choice wines, Liquors and Cigars.”
However, by 1906, his wife was listed as the proprietor of the business, and the U.S. Census confirmed that Clara was a widow.
Anderson said it’s not unusual to find little traces of history when renovating old rail cars.
“We’ve found boards with measurement markings on them, old tools and names scratched on inside walls. This was definitely a pleasant surprise because it’s so humorous.”
Michele Mihalovich: 392-6434, ext. 246, or email@example.com.