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Webster College cafeteria

“Dining Hall and Cafeteria, Webster College, St. Louis 19, Mo.

Postcards and other images such as this one often offer a number of clues that can help you determine an approximate date. Here are some parts of the item that appear to provide some valuable information (click on the photo to enlarge the image):

Clue #1: the wording on the back of the postcard reads:

“Dining Hall and Cafeteria, Webster College, St. Louis 19, Mo. This modern dining room overlooks Big Bend Boulevard, a main artery connecting the City of St. Louis with its suburbs.”

This description obviously refers to the cafeteria (now known as Marletto’s) built with Maria Hall which opened in fall 1959. Because it mentions Webster College, the photo must be before 1983 when the institution changed its name to Webster University.

Clue #2: at one of the tables, a number of students are wearing green beanies. The beanies were part of freshman orientation and freshmen were required to wear them until Halloween. The beanies were last worn by freshmen in the fall of 1962 when the practice ended.

So we can offer an approximate date range for this photo as 1959 to 1962. But there’s a third possible clue…

Clue #3: the woman at the cash register bears a resemblance to a student named Shreela Ray (class of 1964) who was a freshman in the fall of 1960. Because she’s not wearing a beanie, we might assume that this picture was taken in the fall of her sophomore (1961) or junior year (1962).

In cases like this one, we can’t provide a definitive date without further corroborating evidence. We can, however, often come close by using the clues embedded in the item as well as other historical records in the Webster University Archives.

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