Western history

Historic Postcards

One of my favorite tools for research and touching the past is the postcard. Antique stores and postcard shows are a great place to view and purchase images from the past. This past weekend, I attended the Denver Postcard and Paper Show with my research friend, Christie. We did not buy much, but we had a wonderful time looking at images from the past. I purchased 2 post cards to give for a birthday present. Christie bought an old mine document.

When I was a docent for the William Henry Jackson view photo display at the Colorado Historical Society, I learned that Jackson created the first postcards sent through the mail. As a boy, Jackson earned a few coins by painting decorative landscapes on his neighbors’ screen doors. When he was a soldier in the Civil War, Jackson spent his leisure time creating small sketches of scenes around the campfire. The soldiers were so impressed with his sketches that they asked to write messages on them to send in the mail. As the story goes, Jackson’s sketches were the first picture post cards.

I became interested in postcards as a youngster. During the 50’s, my family took long car trips from Chicago to Florida and back. I picked up postcards along the way and kept them in an album. I have continued sending postcards when I travel, and I enjoy receiving them from others.

More recently, at a meeting of the Columbine Genealogical and Historical Society, I renewed my interest after a presentation by a woman who deals in historic postcards. Images on these cards show how places looked back in the day, with buildings and landmarks which might no longer exist. Fashions, trends and modes of transportation are documented as well as locations. Postcards provide a rare glimpse into the historic past.

— Joyce Lohse, 1/19/09