Penny Postcard

“Sometimes there’s more lurking in old picture postcards than what meets the eye!”

Picture postcard from Dr. Frederick Baker to Dr. Robert Leeper Doig.

It’s a simple penny postcard.  I came across the memento on ebay while searching for relics of early Alaska.  It was one small item lurking amongst millions on the site.

The postcard was advertised for sale by a simple scanned picture.  Registered seller in Ypsilanti, Michigan evidently did not delve into card’s history or provenance.  A hand-tinted color photo on front was most intriguing.  It shows the J. Heubner drugstore in Douglas, Alaska with 3 employees standing at counter. In period attire they seem poised; ready to help.  Hard to read handwriting says:

“Juneau, Alaska – July 28, 1909 11 P.M. – Having a perfectly gorgeous time, and getting a lot-better. Have seen three glaciers, a big mine, four streams tumbling over a thousand feet – and been to two dances today / work. We own Alaska. Have never seen scenery till now to covet.  Yours, Fred Baker”

Dr. Frederick “Fred” Baker. Wife – Charlotte. Son – Robert. Daughter – Mary “Mollie”.

Two interesting things to me were the card’s sender Fred Baker, and his designated recipient including address, “Dr. R.L. Doig – Sefton Building – San Diego, Cal.”  The sender’s name Fred Baker rang a bell.  Initially I just couldn’t place why?  R.L. Doig drew a big blank.  I did some serious digging.

Records show R.L. stands for Robert Leeper.  Robert Leeper Doig was born March 16, 1855 in New Athens, Ohio.  His dad James Rolla Doig was a college professor including ordained Presbyterian minister.  James was a founding father of Monmouth College in Illinois.  Robert Doig attended Monmouth, transferring to Cedar Mills, Iowa for enhanced medical studies. By 1883 he was practicing in cow town Ellsworth, Kansas.

On June 12, 1883 Robert married Adaline Frances Jack from Cedar Mills.  Their first child Arthur Haldane Doig was born in Ellsworth December 11, 1884.  Daughter Nellie Elizabeth came along 3 1/2 years later on June 13, 1888.  The couple’s son Lt. Colonel Arthur Haldane Doig went on to a distinguished career in the Coast Guard Artillery.  He’s buried with honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

The family for 10 years called Ellsworth home. Unforeseen circumstances brought them further west to San Diego.  Brother John Doig played a big part in that move.

John Rankin Doig was born 11 years earlier than Robert.  He enlisted in 1862 to serve in the Civil War.  John was 16 at the time.  He mustered out in Selma, Alabama – October 1865 enduring some 3 years of combat.  John attended Washington College afterwards. He went on to study medicine at Iowa University and The College of Physicians and Surgeons in Chicago.

His first practice was in Williamsburg, Iowa.  Larger Des Moines was his next stop.  Records show he then worked in Newton, Kansas for short order before moving to Ellsworth in 1879.  He remained there 1879 – 1886.

In 1886 John and his wife Nell moved to San Diego because of bad health. The good doctor developed serious asthma problems while living amongst wind ravaged prairie.   1894 is the year Robert and his family joined them in California.  The 2 brothers worked out of the same office on 6th Avenue. Both became prominent San Diego physicians.

Dr. Frederick “Fred” Baker and his wife Dr. Charlotte Johnson-Baker also had offices on 6th.  They were located in the Sefton Building owned by local banking magnate Joseph W. Sefton Jr.

Fred and Charlotte are pillars of early San Diego history. Fred Baker was born in Norwalk, Ohio on January 29, 1854.  Charlotte Johnson was born March 30, 1855 in Newburyport, Massachusetts.  The 2 married in 1882 moving to San Diego in 1888.  They became the areas initial husband-and-wife medical team.

Dr. Charlotte Johnson-Baker was San Diego’s first female doctor.  Their combined list of medical and civic accomplishments is miles long.  San Diego was blessed to have them as residents.  Both worked out of St. Joseph’s Hospital (now Scripp’s Mercy Hospital).

Charlotte Johnson Baker, MD (1855-1937)

Dr. Harry Wegeforth along with Dr. Fred Baker are key players in development of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Fred Baker was a naturalist and amateur malacologist.  He traveled throughout the world collecting mollusks which include snails, slugs, clams, octopus and squid.  His remarkable collection was donated to San Diego Natural History Museum, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, including Smithsonian Institutions.

Perhaps Dr. Fred Baker is best known for being co-founder of the San Diego Zoo.  Both Fred and Charlotte Baker were friends with publishing moguls Edward Willis Scripps and his half-sister Ellen Browning Scripps.  The Scripps’ money played a major part in making the zoo a success.

Other notable mentions for Dr. Fred Baker are his serving on the San Diego City Council.  He was president of San Diego City Schools. Mr. Baker was on board of trustees for State Normal College (now San Diego State University).  Baker Elementary School in San Diego is named for him.

Dr. Charlotte Johnson-Baker has her own outstanding merits. I’ll mention but a few:  Charlotte was first woman president of the San Diego County Medical Society. She led and was president of the Equal Suffrage Association. Co-founder of the San Diego Y.W.C.A. Mrs. Baker was president of Point Loma Assembly (woman’s club).

She was legislative chairman for League of Social Workers.  Charlotte was inducted into the San Diego Women’s Hall of Fame in 2009.  Her diaries and papers are kept in the San Diego History Center.  Both Dr. Fred Baker and Dr. Charlotte Johnson-Baker are buried in San Diego County. 

I believe it’s safe to say sometimes there’s more lurking in old picture postcards than what meets the eye.  Fred Baker proved such by mailing a simple penny postcard from Alaska to friend and colleague Dr. J.L. Doig in California almost 107 years ago.

I’m sure neither man had a clue back then, that a simple piece of correspondence sent from Alaska would still be making the rounds!

Dr. Robert Leeper Doig was recipient of postcard from Dr. Frederick Baker

Author: michaeldexterhankins

ordinary average guy

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