The following is a guest post by Helena Zinkham, Chief, Prints & Photographs Division.
What tends to be 3.5 inches tall and 10 inches long? Postcards created in a panoramic view format.
More than 400 oversize postcards are “new for you” in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog. The Library received most of the postcards as copyright deposits in 1905-1909. Thirty-nine different states are represented. Of special interest are the series of cards showing single towns, including Aberdeen, SD; Millville, NJ; and Beloit, Wisconsin. You’ll also find such dramatic subjects as the devastating results of a fire in Chelsea, MA, and an airplane flying over cars driving along a beach. (Do you think the plane was really in that position, or added later through darkroom magic?)
When we first inventoried the Library’s main postcard file back in 2008, these cards stood out as deserving extra attention; more than half are original photographic prints, called “real photo” postcards. It took a few years to gather the resources necessary for scanning and cataloging. Then, the Library’s Duplication Services carefully captured the digital images, and a talented team in the Prints & Photographs Division created the catalog records, finishing up last week.
Several team members chose fascinating cards to introduce you to this new collection. Shaunette Payne found delight in a card that reminds her of the classic movie The Wizard of Oz!
Bonnie Dziedzic chose a baseball game at Sauk Centre, Minnesota, on July Fourth. She wrote: “The photo shows a fairgrounds race track on the prairie with a covered grandstand and school. The teams have taken to the field in the center of the track with the spectators overflowing the bleachers. Buggies of spectators line the outside fence of the track and the infield. I imagine them enjoying their picnics as they watch the holiday activities and wait for fireworks. Sauk Centre is the birthplace of Sinclair Lewis, and the town inspired Gopher Prairie in his 1920 novel Main Street. Maybe Lewis was at this game!”
Mary Christ enjoyed cataloging a set of postcards from New York State, and came across one miniature panorama that wasn’t used as a postcard. In her own words: “A print showing New York City in 1850 is a treat for any history nerd or native New Yorker. (I happen to be both.) On the card, New York is still written with a hyphen as New-York; Staten Island has a quarantine station; and Ellis Island has yet to serve its most famous purpose. The familiar names of Brooklyn, Hoboken, and Long Island Sound brought a smile to my face, though, I must confess it took me a moment to identify “Bedlow’s Island.” A quick Google search informed me that the island was the 17th century home of one “Issack Bedloo” and the 19th century location of a military fort. It was then that I realized–Bedloe’s Island is now Liberty Island, the home of the Statue of Liberty.”
Please let us know which of the many “new” postcards intrigue you!
- Look at all the panoramic and oversize postcards in LOT 14058.
- View the Panoramic Photograph Collection: more than four thousand larger format panoramic images measuring between twenty-eight inches and six feet in length.
- Read about how photographers made the panoramic postcards using a special camera and the history of photographic postcards in the book: Bogdan, Robert, and Todd Weseloh. Real Photo Postcard Guide: The People’s Photography. N.Y. : Syracuse University Press, 2006, p. 51-52, [view catalog record for this book].
- See how the larger format panoramic photographs are made.