As is always the case with me, I was interested in a subject, went to the internet to read more about it, couldn’t find what I was looking for, and ended up creating a website about it. I am not an expert on the topic and only in creating these pages have I been able to learn more about Main Street Postcards from the US.
Collectors of postcards are known as ” Deltiologists”, and without going into great detail, our site, PeterDPaul.com is mainly concerned with views of American Towns and Cities. There are plenty of websites out here selling old postcards, which we are not, and we are simply sharing what we have on these pages.
Unused postcards are commonly known as “UNU” and tend to have more value with Card Collectors. Used cards are commonly known as “WOB”, which stands for Writing on Back, although with earlier cards the writing might actually be on the front within the image. The nice thing about the used cards is seeing the messages sent and the postmark can give a lot of information on dating the card.
Earlier cards tended to be monochrome , Septia, black and white, and/or hand colored, where the black and white image has been enhanced by an artist to bring out the colors. Often a “boring” street scene is dressed up with colorful cars and signs to liven it up.
Different styles of Postcards include :
“Early Twentieth Century” – Made until about 1914-15
“White Border” – made from 1914 to 1932-33
“Linen” – Made from 1933 to the 1950’s
“Standard – Chrome” – Made from 1939 to 1950’s
Banks have always been the anchor of any Town, and banks are well represented in Postcards. Quite often found on a corner and easy to spot, as the Towns grew, banks could be found anywhere along the street and you could often find several banks right next to each other.
Pharmacy’s and local drug stores were often the place where you would buy the postcards and often, as they were the ones financing the cards, you would see the store clearly presented in the photo.
Some old postcards have the camera shooting directly down the center of the road, giving attention to both sides of the street, while others are angled to give more attention to buildings on one side of the street. There are also cards that present a “aerial” view, where the camera is either a few floors up or high enough to give a bird’s eye view.
The old cars parked along the street also help to give an idea of when the picture was taken. We’ve notice that many of the cars in the photos are higher end models, often in colorful schemes, to attract your eye to the card.
Old gas stations, while once very common in a downtown area are getting to be hard to find. Many old postcards will not only show the old gas station, but the signage showing brands long since gone. Postcards are a frozen second of time, showing a “day in the life”, although most the people captured in them had no idea they would be seen again and again on these cards.
For the most part, the people in the postcards seem unaware of the camera, but sometimes the people captured and the reactions make the postcard all the more interesting.
Other old postcards will show children, who I suspect were either the photographers child/children or the children of the person financing the card in the foreground. Early postcards, when cameras were rare, show much more of these interactions while later cards show people walking by barely noticing the camera.
When postcards were taken, with the camera on a tripod in the middle of the street, you can sometimes spot the Police Officer assisting the photographer to avoid any issues.
As mentioned earlier, the signage on the buildings and in the Postcard shows the change Towns and Cities have gone through. In early postcards, you can see the parking problems early cars presented, with cars often being parking in a row in the middle of the street.
Postcards were the place to promote a town or perhaps a certain business in that town. “Arches” popped up all over the Country as cars became more popular.
Rock Springs, Wyoming
Reno , Nevada
As for that never-ending contest of who has the widest Main Street, well, postcards can attempt to answer that too.
Greenwood, South Carolina – Also puts in for the Widest Street
Aerial view of Greenwood, South Carolina
Not to be outdone Keene, New Hampshire
I think we found the thinnest Main Street as well, funny no one is bragging for that title.
(Burke, Idaho )
Finally, we have included those interesting buildings that you seldom hear about.
Telephone Exchange Building – Goodland, Kansas.
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