This postcard was sent from Helsinki (Swedish: Helsingfors), the capital of Finland, to the Finnish port town of Hanko (Hangö) on February 16, 1915. At that time Finland was a Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire. Because Russia was engaged in the First World War, the card had to be cleared by a wartime government censor, as evidenced by a stamp with the words “Пропустить. г. Гельсингфорсъ” (“Pass. City of Helsingfors”):
The card was sent to a Mr. Rickhard Engberg. At upper right is the word Tullvaktmästaren, which translates to Customs guard master. That sounds like a combination of customs officer and coast guardsman. (See a large scan of the back here.)
Update: when I first published this post, I couldn’t read the message in Swedish on the postcard. A kind reader in Sweden, Michael Fored, quickly provided a translation in a comment under the post. I also had not yet managed to identify the family. A subsequent effort was successful, after I searched for the name “Sigfrid Engberg.” The rest of this post has been updated to include all the additional information.
First, Michael’s translation of Sigfrid’s message:
Dear Brother, [Doesn’t have to be a true brother. It’s also an old-fashioned greeting phrase.] A thousand thanks for the letter, I’m glad you thought of me too. It would be a big surprise to me if you came by Borgå sometime when you are in Helsinki. Many greetings to you all. Sigfrid.
I ask for my greetings to Hagström.
The salutation “Dear Brother” was the key to finding Sigfrid’s family tree online. It had actually occurred to me to search for the name Sigfrid Engberg, but I had focused on Rickhard instead and had forgotten to search for Sigfrid. I’ve never managed to find any information about Rickhard. He doesn’t appear in Sigfrid’s family tree.
In the photo are Sigfrid Johannes Engberg (1876-1940) and his two children, Harry Sigfrid Engberg (1899-1926) and Astrid Judith Engberg (1901-1988). Astrid would later marry Mikko Silfvenius (1878-1943) and have three children.
In the photo, Astrid is demonstrating how she plays her cittra (sitra, цитра, zither):
Harry Engberg would go on to work as an assistant to the famous Finnish painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela. A page in English on the website of the Gallen-Kallela Museum mentions him:
In 1923, Gallen-Kallela travelled to the United States with his assistant Harry Engberg. […] In 1926, Akseli, Mary and Kirsti returned to Finland. They settled in Tarvaspää.
Tragically, Harry didn’t return from the United States. He died in 1926, in Chicago, from tuberculosis. He was only 26 years old.
Below, you can see portraits of the children’s parents hanging on the wall. Their mother was Elin Johanna Lönnfors Engberg (1881-1904). She also died very young, at just 23 years old.
The postcard was mailed in February 1915, but the photo must have been taken a couple of years earlier. In February 1915 Harry would be 15 and Astrid would be 14, but they look younger. Harry seems to be trying hard not to laugh:
Updated February 4, 2020.