Chas W Olson

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 22:12

I've been trawling through eBAY recently, and found this. We're usually looking at the photo on the front of the postcard, but this time it's the back that's more interesting. I'm pretty sure it was sent in 1907 by a relative of Sean, one of our regular contributors.

Here's the text:


Dear Miss O'Sullivan,

I wonder how you would like to live out in the East?

Somehow, I seem to prefer the East to the West. I suppose it is because I am used to it.

With best regards,

Yours truly,

Chas. W. Olson

Addressed to:

Miss O'Sullivan,
6 Altonater, [spelling?]
North Circular Road,

From Sean's website we know that John Olson I had a son Charles William Olson, born in 1888. That would have made 'Chas W Olson' 19 years old in 1907, which sounds about right based on the content of the postcard.

The postcard also suggests where Charles was working in 1907. Here's what we already know about his working history:

  • 1904: Working at C. E. Warren and Co.
  • 1906: Listed as an Assistant at the International Banking Corporation based at 9 Queen’s Road, Central. (Research Brian Lewis)
  • 1917: Also in the 1917 Dollar Directory, Charles Olson pops up as working for Thoreson and Co, Shipping Agents and living at 98b Wanchai Road. (Research Brian Lewis)
  • 1922: It is also noted in the China Directory that C.W.Olson is now joint manager of Thoresen and Co.
  • 1923: The China Directory of August, 1923 lists him as a director of Thoresen and Co.

From this postcard, there's a good chance that he was working at Thoresen & Co in 1907, when this postcard was sent. The stamp gives the clue...

On the eBAY page for this postcard, the seller notes:

VICTORIA postmark on KE VII stamp, DOC perfin (Det Oversiske Compgnes Thorensen Group).

Wikipedia explains that: a perfin is a stamp that has had initials or a name perforated across it to discourage theft. So here the perfin is DOC, standing for 'Det Oversiske Compgnes'. The seller notes it was part of the Thorensen Group. Allowing for a typo, it was more likely that DOC was the perfin for Thoresen & Co.

Then the only remaining mystery is Miss O'Sullivan. Who was she, and how did they know each other?

Regards, David

Date picture taken
3 Jul 1907


Amazing David,

This is definitely my great uncle Charlie and he even put it through the company post!

That's him. Have checked quickly the Miss O'Sullivan but the road no longer exists and the 1911 census does not show her.

He must have been trying his wicked way with her on one of his visits to the UK. This is actually the first recorded possible visit. We know that John, his brother and my grandfather, was in London in 1912 because of a presentation of an engraved cigar holder by business associates.

But I daresay Charlie got there first. He usually did. Hope he did not leave any unwanted gifts in Dublin! It was second only to Paris at the European party capital of the time I believe.

Thanks for the info and the belly laugh.


Checked out the lady in question on the off chance she was still there in the 1911 Census which is available free online.

The address is Altona Terrace and i found a Mary Sullivan aged 23 at number 6. Might be the right lady. She would have been 19 if she was Charlie's girl. Her father was a butcher, she did not work and she was born in Co Kerry.

Dropping the O was not unusual in those days by the way.



Dear David, Sean
Regarding the Chas W Olsen thread, I am pleased to submit to Gwulo, my findings on the postcard addressed to Miss Sullivan...following my trip to Ireland from 17-27 May.
Last sunday morning 22 May  I took a trip into town in search of 6 Altonater, North Circular Road, Dublin. The pictorial results are on the attached file.
North Circular Road is an historical east to west arterial road to the north side of the City of Dublin. It reaches from the grandiose 'Phoenix Park' end in the west, and travels all the way across the North City to The North Wall Quay and Docklands area.
Number 6, or where it was at least is located very close to the beginning of North Circular Road, at the Phoenix Park end.
Phoenix Park is were both Obama and HRH The Queen stayed/ visited (Farmleigh) during their state visits last week, and would have been very much an upper middle class type suburb in 1907.
As you can see from the research sadly number 6 is a thing of the past, but there is enough original 'Pevsner' and Georgian style architecture, including the entrance to Phoenix Park itself  very close by to give us an idea of life in the locality in Miss Sullivans time.
(BTW I was likely taking my life in my hands, taking covert pictures there last sunday, with the place no doubt 'cased' by the various security services for those visits! hope everyone appreciates my dedication...)
So its possible that Miss Sullivan, may either have been part of a well to do family living at the address, or perhaps 'in service' to a family herself.
Further research might include checking the 1907 Dublin City Gazette (at the public records library), if it can be located, which would list who the owner of number 6 was at the time of writing the postcard. If it is a 'Sullivan' then we can conclude the former to be the case.
We can also see the iconic 'Double decker tram' and overhead lines in the historical postcard. This is the one familiar sight and experience that both Chas and Miss Sullivan would have shared desite the distance between them...
Isn't it ironic that while in Dublin, the streetscape has not changed much while the trams have gone, whereas in Hong Kong the streetscape has radically altered, but the trams remain!
Anyway hopefully another little piece in the historical jigsaw, and bringing a moment in time for both Chas and Ms Sullivan back to life for the readers...
Back to Singapore on Friday - Icelandic volcanoes permitting....
Best regards
Julian O'Connell.
A couple of links on North Circular Road and Phoenix Park below for further reading if anyone is interested. The Phoenix Park one is an interesting read. Its been a focal point of many historical moments in the history of the city, to this very day, including the Queens visit last week.

Hi Julian,

Thanks for your interest in my great uncle Charles and his amours. Yes Miss Sullivan lived just where you say and the 1911 Census shows her in the house with father and two brothers.

I hope that the other visitors to Dublin did not put you out too much! I'm afraid much has changed - mainly for the worse - in Dublin since Miss Sullivan's time. But we now have returned to trams. They call the Luas. Surprised you did not see them - more like light railway such as you see in European capitals like Madrid.

You are right to say that that part of the city was well-to-do at the time of the postcard David obtained with such serendipity. Not sure my great Uncle Charles worried much about that sort of thing. Think he was on a European Grand Tour and until the day he died in 1966 he was a danger to women!

As I assume you live in Singapore you may be interested to know that I have a grand aunt named Clara Rowe buried there. She was a sister of my grandmother Annie Louisa Moore Bourke.

In the course of researching the Moore Bourke side of the family I put a message on the Singapore notice board of asking for information regarding Clara and her husband Charles Rowe. From this I received information that her body had been exhumed and her remains had been cremated because the cemetery she had been buried in had been  redeveloped.

The Singapore Government gave me the option of having her ashes scattered at sea or re-interring them. I chose the latter. Clara Mary Beatrice Rowe’s remains are now lie behind a white Carrera marble plaque at Chao Chu Kang Columbarium, Singapore, in Niche No: A02-19-119. Where her husband, Charles Rowe, is buried and what became of him I do not know.He was a rubber planter in Serambam I think.

Somewhere I have a picture of her leaving the wedding which took place in Singapore 1911/12.

Will post it if I can find it!

Again thanks for your interest.