Jo-Ann Boepple: Postcards were picture-perfect for 20th century scrapbooks

Published 3:27 pm Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In the last five years someone discovered scrapbooking and it has become a popular hobby and business.
Little do they know that scrap booking has been a popular hobby for generations.
But the books that I remember were not like the bright glitzy books that are popular today. They were a hard paper cover with black pages. Some were even tied together with a shoestring.
Since there was no super glue, Elmer’s glue, glue sticks or rubber cement —only plain, mucilage, triangular, corner tabs were used to place items on the pages.
The books were used to collect most anything. Photo albums were popular but other items such as play programs, ticket subs, postcards and newspaper clippings were “pasted” into the books.
The Edwardsburg Museum has received several such collections. Most of the owners are known but a few have been contributed with no clue as to the owner.
The most recent book was found by Jim Ralph and since he had no clue to the owner he gave it to the museum.
It is a collection of postcards sent to Leona Wise, signed by Albert, whose last name does not appear anywhere on the cards. It covers approximately a two-year span from 1909 to 1911. Some of the cards are numbered and many were sent on the same day.
Most of the cards are of buildings in the Chicago and Benton Harbor area.
This leads us to believe that it was just a collection to see how many different cards could be collected.
Another collection in the museum contains cards sent to Hattie Cook in Mishawaka and Cassopolis around the same years, even some as early as 1905. This is a variety of cards with some buildings but many are holiday wishes and sentimental  cards.
I believe that Hattie Cook lived in Mishawaka and may have summered at Diamond Lake, and her family and friends wrote to her there. Most of the cards with scenes of Cassopolis have nothing written on them, so I assume they were just souvenirs.
Reading the notes on the cards provides not only information about the sender but also about the receiver.
Postcard collecting was a huge craze in the early years of the 20th century, with the peak years being approximately 1907 to 1913.
Postcards were popular among both sexes and all ages. The cards were used to keep in touch with friends and family, for exchanging with strangers in other geographical areas and even for courtship.
Official United States Post Office figures for the year ending June 30, 1908 cited 668 million postcards mailed in the United States.
Postcards were printed on a variety of paper. There was the “white border” era, named for obvious reasons,which lasted from about 1916 to 1930. The “linen card” era lasted from about 1931 to the early 1950s, when cards were primarily printed on papers with a textured surface similar to linen cloth. The last and current postcard era, which began about 1939, is the “chrome” era; however, these types of cards did not begin to dominate until about 1950. The images on these cards are generally based on colored photographs, and are readily identified by the glossy appearance given by the paper’s coating.
A magazine was published from 1900 to 1907 to meet a demand by postcards collectors. Millions of postcards went through the postal system every week, and a high proportion finished up in someone’s album, to be rediscovered by collectors in the second half of the 20th century.
Once available in stores and restaurants, postcards now are found most often at tourist destinations or used for marketing.
The Edwardsburg Museum has its own postcard collection of scenes of Edwardsburg. A description of the postcards in that collection will be featured next week.