Man's Shirt Collar (1.b)
Man’s shirt collar inscribed with letter from James Graves Jones to Mr. and Mrs. Wayland Edgar Jones. The letter is written vertically up the right margin of the collar above the button hole
Excerpt from letter: “Nearly everything east and north of this boundary line gone, and several blocks west of it, especially in Hayes Valley as far as Octavia St. from Golden Gate Ave. east. Fire is still burning on the northside but is checked in the Mission.” This letter was written on the collar of a shirt. James G. Jones, the person who wrote this letter, sent it to his family in 1906. That year there was a massive earthquake and fire in San Francisco, which made it nearly impossible for James to find paper to send his family a letter saying that he was safe. How do you communicate with your family today? Why do you think he would write a letter this way?
This artifact — a shirt collar with a letter penned on it — is a piece of material culture. In 1906, San Francisco was the site of one of the biggest earthquakes in California history. The earthquake, and the fire that followed it, caused major damage to the city. Many residents were homeless. Communication with loved ones was limited during this time. Apparently the most readily available way for James Jones to reach his family was to tear off the collar from this shirt, write this letter, and mail it across the country. The fact that paper and envelopes were so hard to come by after the earthquake reveals how far-reaching the devastation was. Students may wish to make a claim about whether this shirt collar indicates that the person who wrote this letter moved because of push or pull factors.