Saturday, February 16, 2013

The exchange

This postcard of Stockholm was mailed from that city in 1903 by one Annie Sundberg and addressed to Mademoiselle Candelaria Benítez Inglott of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. My first assumption, due in part to the vaguely Nordic sound of "Inglott," was that the two women (or more likely adolescents) were either cousins or schoolmates, though precisely how the Spanish-Swedish connection would have come about was a mystery. On further reflection and with a bit of research, however, it now seems likely that they had never met nor even corresponded before Annie sent this card.

The tip-off is the brief message on the front: "Acceptez-vous l'échange" — "Do you accept the exchange?" Knowing no Spanish, and suspecting that the recipient in her turn would know no Swedish, Annie Sundberg posed the question in French, the one language that two educated women at the beginning of the 20th century might have been expected to have in common. Note too, that in writing to a complete stranger she uses the formal "vous."

As to the nature of "l'échange," it almost certainly alludes to the early 20th-entury craze for sending and collecting postcards, the more exotic the better. How Annie Sundberg obtained Candelaria's name is unknown; it could have been through a mutual contact, but it's also possible that Candelaria had advertised publicly for correspondents, a practice which was not uncommon.

Thus far I haven't been able to identify Candelaria Benítez Inglott, but she was almost certainly at least a distant relation of the same prominent Canary Islands family that produced Wenceslao Benítez Inglott (1879-1955), a scientist and admiral in the Spanish navy; Miguel Benítez Inglott (1890-1965), a lawyer, composer, and friend of Federico García Lorca; and Luis Benítez Inglott (1895-1966), a poet, journalist, and translator of Shakespeare. The far-flung Inglott line, which appears to be ultimately of English origin but was long established in Malta, probably came to the Canaries as part of a significant wave of Maltese immigration during the latter half of the eighteenth century.

The word written in on the top of the reverse appears to be "trycksak": printed matter. The street address in Las Palmas, which Annie Sundberg may not have had correctly, may be "López Botas, 9"; if so, that address is now a nursing home run by the Hermanos de la Cruz Blanca.

Recent photographs of the Strömgatan show an almost unchanged view, except for the addition of another bridge.

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