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America’s Great Hotels During the Golden Age of the Picture Post Card

Wish you were here

In February 2000, there was a unique exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York: “Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard.” Evans was a titan of 20th-century photography who portrayed broken-down plantations; sharecropper families, and bone-dry Southern farms during the Depression, grimy factories in the North; and the facial expressions of New York subway passengers.

  1. Evans collected picture postcards throughout his life during the golden age from 1900 into the 1920s.
  2. This phenomenon was spurred by the United States postal service’s 1907 ruling that the blank side of a postcard could include the address of the recipient and a message.
  3. At the same time, the Post Office put a 1¢ postage stamp price on these postcards.

Another boon was the drop in the cost of offset color lithography which gave postcards the look of hand-colored images, with soft blues, greens and reds.

During this period, picture-postcard categories included hotels, summer resorts, train stations, automobiles, boardwalks, main streets in villages, state capitols, factories, occupations, and many more subjects. The best of these hotel cards were produced by two companies: Curt Teich & Company, Inc., Chicago and Tichnor Brothers Inc., Boston both of which closed in the 1970s. It is estimated that Curt Teich & Company printed some 400,000 different views of the United States, Canada and overseas hotels during a period of seventy-seven years.

Tichnor Brothers produced 25,000 hotel postcards mostly from all the states. A rundown of America’s great hotels during the Golden Age of the picture-postcard appears in Barry Zaid’s “Wish You Were Here: A Tour of America’s Great Hotels During the Golden Age of the Picture Postcard” Crown Publishers, Inc. (New York 1990).

“But in the cards, all the hotels are in their prime, This is a trip across America that we can still take. We can imagine that that is us swimming in front of the Marlborough – Blenheim on Atlantic City’s golden, sandy beach or strolling through the magnificent cactus gardens of Phoenix’s Camelback Inn or enjoying the view of the mountains through the tall windows of the Prince of Wales Hotel in Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park. Isn’t that our table in the tree-lined dining room, beside the gurgling brook that runs through the lodge in Brookdale, California? This is visual history, a record of the travelers life of yesteryear.”

Fortunately, many classic hotels are preserved in these colorful unique postcards in the “Wish You Were Here” book. Here are the best of them:

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Stanley Turkel CMHS

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