Vintage Postcard Images

Example of Historic Accuracy (or not!)

     Postcards were at their height of popularity from about 1905 through the 1950s.  Early view cards were based on a photograph or artist's rendering, and printed from a hand colored master original. In those hand colored images,  you will see great attention to detail and shades and colors. Others may be machine printed, and in those, you'll often see broad swaths of color, with some areas with no color at all.   Many early cards were finished in Germany, by artists who never saw the subject.  They  used their artistic creativity, sometimes referencing common finishing detail of European buildings.  It's not unusual to find two cards of the same view but colored very differently. 

     While I will sometimes correct an image  if the color of one object has bled over into an adjacent object, I try not to second guess the overall color scheme created by the original artist.  Because I am interested in late 19th century architecture, sometimes I research the buildings depicted.  However, I do not attempt to match the postcard image to the description of the original building.

     Below is an  example of how a color postcard may  did not represent reality. 
This  postcard of Stone Mountain in Georgia may look  much like a tinted photograph, but note that the carving includes five main figures with the Confederate army in the back ground (an early conception of the memorial). 
Stone Mountain

     After decades of starts and stops on the carving, the final sculpture includes larger images of only  Robert E. Lee,  Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis (see below).  The actual granite carving measures approximately 90 feet high, 190 feet wide, and 12 feet deep. Three sculptors have been  involved in the project, from 1867-1998 (with many gaps in the process).   This is just one of thousands of examples of postcards which depicted a "future" scene or building,  not reality at the time of their creation. 

Stone Mtn


I love this Chicago building, and have collected several Illinois Central cards.  I have not found any two cards colored exactly the same way.   Below are two from my collection.   I think the closest to "reality" is the bottom card, but the one on tope is so gorgeous, I couldn't bring myself to "correct" the color of the depot.  Another consideration in historic accuracy is the age of the photograph from which the postcard was created.  Often, the original image is several years older than the postcard.

Illinois Central Lake Front

Illinois Central Depot