M Sternberg, Wholesale and Retail Postcard Dealer [c.1906-c.1914]

Name: 
M Sternberg, Wholesale and Retail Postcard Dealer
Type: 
Business
Status: 
Inactive
Created
Date: 
c.1906-01-01 (Year, Month, Day are approximate)
Closed
Date: 
c.1914-12-31 (Year, Month, Day are approximate)
Tags: 

M. Sternberg was a postcard publisher in early 20th-Century Hong Kong. Here's their view of Queen's Road Central:

Queen's Road Central

 

Who: I guess that the man behind the company was Moritz Sternberg [1]. Apart from the similarity of the names, the mentions I've found of him show he was the proprietor of The Colonial Hotel and later the International Hotel. I can imagine that work put him in touch with visitors to Hong Kong, and the opportunity to sell postcards. eg, several of Sternberg's postcards show locations that visiting sailors would have been familiar with:

Sailors & Soldiers Home Praya East

 

Sailors and Soldiers Home

 

St Peter's Church, Praya West

 

What: From the Sternberg postcards I've seen, he only sold postcards printed on a printing press, not the "real photo" postcards that were printed using a photographic process.

I prefer the real photo postcards, as they are usually much sharper and so there is a lot more detail to see in the picture. Still, the printed postcards have the advantage that they could be printed in colour, like the examples shown above. Don't rely on the colours being historically accurate though. These prints are all based on black & white photographs that have had the colour added later. In some case we've seen the same view used for several different postcards, each with a different choice of colours!

 

Where: The back of that Queen's Road postcard has the text:

Published by M. Sternberg, Wholesale and Retail Postcard Dealer at No. 51 Queen's Road Central and at No. 34 Queen's Road Central, Hongkong.

Let's take a look at the 1911 Juror's List [2] to see if it mentions those addresses...

Just one match, showing "Arndt & Co." were also at 34, Queen's Road Central. They were "Importers, Exporters, Merchants, Government Contractors and Engineers", so no obvious business connection with Sternberg.

Next year's 1912 Directory & Chronicle [3] shows that Sternberg had moved:

STERNBERG, M., Tobacconist, Smokers' Requisites, Post Card Dealer - Old Post Office Building

They hadn't moved far though. The Old Post Office Building was on the corner of Queen's Road Central and Pedder Street.

 

When: The MetroPostcard website lists the publisher M. Sternberg as active between the years 1905-25 [4].

So far the mentions of Moritz I've found in Hong Kong records cover the years 1894 to 1909. And though I found the company, M. Sternberg, listed in the 1912 Directory & Chronicle [3], there's no sign of them in the later editions for 1917, 1920, or 1922. So maybe they weren't in business til as late as 1925?

As support for that idea, the Sternberg postcards I've seen have been dated to the 1900s and 1910s, eg these postcards related to the Peak:

Peak Tram, lower terminus

 

Peak Tram, upper terminus

 

1910s View of The Peak

 

c.1905 Buildings on the Peak

If you have any used Sternberg postcards, please could you let us know which year they were used? It might be hand-written like the 1911 example shown above, or shown as part of the postmark if the card was mailed. If you have any Sternberg postcards that show views which were definitely later than 1912, their date will be good to know too. That will help us get a more accurate range of years that the company was in business.

And if you have any Sternberg postcards you can show us, I'd love to see them. Please go ahead and upload them to Gwulo [5].

Regards, David

Also on Gwulo.com this week:

References:

  1. Moritz Sternberg
  2. 1911 Juror's List
  3. Issues of the Directory & Chronicle
  4. MetroPostCard
  5. How to upload a photo to Gwulo.com

Comments

I have a number of Sternberg's postcards - very few of them, however, were actually sent through the postal system. Those that I have that were, and retain a legible post mark, were sent in April and September 1907 and in January 1912. I also have a couple of Sternberg's cards which were photo-printed. David will probably be able to date them. They are 'View of the City and Harbour between Hongkong and Kowloon'; and 'Praya East' Hongkong'. Oddly, even though the format and style of the cards is otherwise the same, only the former is marked on the back 'Published by M. Sternberg, Hongkong'.

Sternberg pc 1.jpg
Sternberg pc 1.jpg, by tonyclark

 

Sternberg pc 2.jpg
Sternberg pc 2.jpg, by tonyclark

 

Not sure if Sternberg was of German origin. If he was, it may account for his inactivity after 1912 and subsequent years.

Tony, thanks for the extra postcards. So still no sign of Sternberg in business after 1912.

Moddsey, it may well be that he was German. It isn't conclusive evidence, but I've previously written this about his address at 34 QRC:

34, Queen's Road Central is a base for several German companies. Jurors from Ullmann & Co. and Weismann, Ld. both give it as their address. [...] In 1907 I believe that 34 Queen's Rd C was the address of the old Hong Kong Club building, suggesting it was split up and rented to various busineses.

I think Sternberg was a bit of a tricky operator. He didn't confine the subject matter of his postcards to only Hong Kong and also published postcards of scenes across the border in neighbouring Kwangtung (Guangdong) province.

http://gwulo.com/sites/gwulo.com/files/thumbnails/image/CantonPC-incorrect-Large.jpg

This post card , published and printed in Hong Kong in the early 20th Century by the ubiquitous M. Sternberg of Queens Road, from time to time pops up for auction on the Ebay or Delcampe auction sites. The caption suggests that the scene is of the railway in Canton (Guangzhou) China. This is not true. Not only was the locomotive (No.17) and the type of rolling stock shown in the picture never exported to China but the surrounding trees and scenery do not match Guangzhou. About the time this postcard was published the Canton-Hankow Railway was beginning to be constructed (it eventually took over 30 years for completion) and this railway did import some American locomotives with the same wheel arrangement as the one in the picture. However there were many other differences and these engines were allocated numbers 20 to 23 inclusive.

I spent some time researching this picture with railway history enthusiasts located in USA and after some time they were able to pinpoint a locomotive which matches the one in the picture as the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad which operated through Canton , Ohio. The design matches perfectly No.17, which was supplied towards the end of the 19th Century.

So it seems that M. Sternberg was probably not too concerned about possible copyright infringements and displayed considerable flexibility with his captions when it came to selling postcards. Sternberg also produced a colour-tinted version of this card:-

https://www.cardcow.com/555378/canton-railway-transportation-trains-railroad/

 

He cannot be charged with false advertising though. It was simply a matter of pronunciation. CAN-tuhn, (Ohio :)

Well you're right Annelisec. Steinberg certainly cannot be "charged" because he's been dead for what must be all of nearly 100 years.

That aside. In his time he definitely misled buyers (as Ebay dealers continue to do so) . The U.S. railway companies official names were almost invariably termed as "Railroads" and not "Railways". There is indeed still a "Canton Railroad " , a short switching line and sidings  (freight wagon marshalling yard) on the east side
of Baltimore harbour.  So by peddling this card in Hong Kong of all places and describing it as the "Canton Railway" ,  he was definitely portraying it as a scene in China.

Tough crowd. I'm giving up stand-up.

Among my pre-WWI Hong Kong Postcard collection there are 111 by Sternberg. Sorry David, but I can´t scan them all. Besides the adresses mentioned for Sternberg I can add: 51 Queen´s R.; 51 Queen´s R and 34 Queen´s R; 68 Queen´s R; 34 and 20A Queen´s Road. - He moved a lot and sometimes had two offices. There are also postcards without an adress; the imprint reads: "Published by M. Sternberg, Hongkong".

My stamped postcards by Sternberg are 1909-1914; with the same year covering different of Sternberg´s adresses. The "34 and 20A Queen´s Road" postcard shows the sunken Canton Steamer Kwing Chow; typhoon of the 18th of September 1906. But this one has no stamp on it. And those typhoon photos were still sold years after the catastrophe.

Some of my Sternberg postcards have a "Copyright by M. Sternberg, Hongkong" imprinted on the picture. They are stamped 1909 and 1910. A copyright imprint is rare on Hongkong postcards - pls correct me if I am wrong. Copyrights on postcards, stereocards etc. depicting Hong Kong can usually be found only on us-american products. Did Sternberg move to the US? (wild guess)

Thanks for the extra information.

So far the earliest postmark we have is 1907 from Tony, and the latest is 1914 from Christoph. I'll update the "years active" to be 1907-14.

Christoph, I agree that the copyright date is unusual. I'm not sure why those cards got the copyright notice.

Regards, David

To add a little more information about Sternberg's use of 'China' scenes in his Hongkong-published postcards, this card has six small images of Chinese subjects. The larger picture (top left) again  has a picture described as the "Canton Railway" (as in my earlier post above) . This time, however, Steinberg has got it right and it does depict the temporary mat-shed serving as a locomotive depot and the location is almost certainly at Shek Wei Tong ( 石圍塘) in Canton ( Guangzhou) which was the terminus of the Canton-Samshui Railway constructed 1902-1904.