An Enigmatic Postcard of Old-Time Denver

From the Vault

  • Alice M. Hummer
This postcard, depicting a horse and passengers on a Denver streetcar, caught the fancy of William Rathvon, CSB, a former member of Mrs. Eddy’s household and an early worker in the Christian Science movement.

What’s this? A horse on a streetcar? Every once in a while, a treasure comes to light in the museum’s vaults that just makes researchers stop—and then smile. This postcard was uncovered on a recent summer day among the papers of William R. Rathvon, who served as a secretary in Mrs. Eddy’s home in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Permanent residents of Colorado, Mr. Rathvon and his wife Ella were living temporarily in Chicago when they found Christian Science. They took class instruction there in 1893. After returning home, the couple began healing others and helped to establish Christian Science in Colorado. By 1903, Mr. Rathvon was working in Boulder as the general manager of an oil company in the morning … and a Christian Science practitioner in the afternoon. A member of the Normal Class taught by Septimus J. Hanna in December 1907, Mr. Rathvon was called a year later to 400 Beacon Street to help handle Mrs. Eddy’s correspondence, where he served until her passing. In addition to his work as a practitioner and teacher, he later became a Christian Science lecturer, treasurer of The Mother Church, and, starting in 1918, a member of the Christian Science Board of Directors.

It was during this last period that the postcard was written. Dated 11/13/25 and penned in Casper, Wyoming, the card was addressed to “The C.S. Board of Directors” at “Falmouth & St. Paul Sts” in Boston. It bore the following message: “Indian summer all the way until we got here this AM, then snow abundant. The picture opposite is a relic of early days in Denver. The horse pulled the car up the hill & rode down. I saw it many years ago—W.R.R.” This explains the mystery of the horse riding the trolley. Why the card was never mailed, however, is less clear, but it survives to show the tiniest sliver of an early worker’s life—and to bring a smile in the Museum’s vault on a summer’s day.

Addressed to The “C.S. Board of Directors,” Mr. Rathvon’s note on the back of the postcard explains the mystery of the equine streetcar passenger.