Iconic Postcards Preserve Past –Cagle

U.S. 66 scenic postcard.

Not to sound like an old-timer, but there is a timeless quality that accompanies hard copy printing…it just can’t be captured electronically. This goes beyond just works of art; think about a brittle newspaper, a photograph yellowed with age, a faded document. These are artifacts captured from a moment in time, preserved for the ages.

Imagine the chills that would run down your spine if you held an original printing of the Declaration of Independence in your own hands. For me, holding a German stamp that depicts Adolf Hitler—printed when the madman was still in power—never ceases to make me shudder with fear. The tactile sensation and the way print can transform one to any place in time is the secret behind that timeless quality.

Still, it doesn’t require historical, social or political significance to bring value to the printed piece. The humble postcard has occupied a sentimental role in Americana, and though its diminished role may have evolved over the years, it continues to offer both artistic and cultural relevance.

A fine example of this lies in Lake County, IL, where the Lake County Discover Museum houses the Curt Teich (as in tyke) Postcard Archives. It holds the distinction of being one of the largest postcard collections in the world, with more than 365,000 postcards cataloged under 2,100-plus subject headings. The archives include images of 10,000 towns and cities in North America and boasts perhaps the greatest warehouse of Route 66, Lincoln Highway and other travel-related images.

Many of the postcards were printed by the Curt Teich Co. of Chicago, which operated between 1898 and 1978. They truly depicted Americana, documenting everyday life with images of Main Street, national parks, planes-trains-automobiles, consumer products and even both World Wars, from the home front to the front lines.

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