The project’s purpose is to allow the public to rediscover St. Louis and the surrounding region by using postcards from the past as a lens for viewing the city as it currently exists. Hopefully, these postcards can assist St. Louisans in understanding how much we’ve lost over time; architecturally, environmentally, and socially.
Take, for example, the postcards featured in the postcard archive. What you’ll observe at this site, especially in the images of city parks, is a time in the city’s history where use of public space was very different than it is in 2017. For example, early post cards show enormous flower beds, fantastic fountains, wading pools, ponds with rich landscaping and wonderful shady groves for picnicking. Contrast this to today, in parks such as Benton or Compton Heights, where flower beds have been replaced by crab grass or seasonally blooming (daffodils) flowers. Parks are less passive in modern times, instead of strolling through gardens–they’re more apt to be used for walking the dog or jogging. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, the empty flower beds, the sparsely landscaped ponds are hardly inspiring of civic pride. This postcard project will hopefully inspire rekindling of a ‘city beautiful movement’ in the city parks and public areas.
Idealism aside, the St. Louis Louis Postcard Project is an archive. A visual library that showcases St. Louis as it was, not as portrayed in photographs but as captured in postcards. It is constantly expanding with new views of the city.
So pull up a chair, turn on your tablet or laptop, and browse these fantastic postcards.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Where did you acquire the postcard images?
A: Most images found in the galleries here are those that I have digitized and uploaded from my personal postcard collection. About 10% of the cards here are taken from online auction sites, these are usually easy to spot due to reduced image quality or watermarks. I generally avoid posting images with watermarks preferring to purchase them and upload the images myself–however living on a fixed income, that’s not always realistic. In the rare case that I download and reproduce postcard images from academic institutions or museums, I will provide name credit.
Q: Can I download and share these images?
A: Of course. Nearly all postcards featured on the website are in the public domain. The onus behind the site itself was to create a centralized and publicly accessible library of vintage St. Louis Postcards. For more information on what constitutes public domain material and whether or not you should reproduce it check out this helpful chart.
Q: Why don’t you have any postcards of the St. Louis Arch or Busch Stadium?
A: The answer to this is simple–they’re not old enough. I collect postcards that date between 1902-1940, those printed after this period such as the ‘photochrome’ and ‘linen’ postcards–while interesting–in my view just lack the artistic quality of earlier postcards. That said, this is totally subject to change.
If, for example, there is only one iteration of the postcard and it happens to be in a linen or photochrome form, will I include it? Of course! Vashon High School and Homer G. Phillips Hospital, for example, are two cards ONLY (to the best of my knowledge) represented in linen form. But, take St. Louis City Hall, there are about twelve different (but very similar) pre-linen designs for this one building, in this instance, linen/photochrome will be left out.
Who knows, maybe one day I’ll have enough time to push into the linen era–but for the moment? I think most folks will appreciate the quality of pre-linen era postcards.
For a good outline of the different postcard eras, check out this link.
Q: Why don’t you have a postcard for “X”?
A: I don’t claim to have every postcard, but I’m finding new postcards all the time. All the more reason to check in from time to time. If however you have a few old designs sitting around the house or on your computer that you think should be added, by all means contact me at (email@example.com). I’m especially interested in buildings relating to African American history, churches, primary schools and businesses.
Q: Where are the World’s Fair postcards?
A: I knew someone would ask that! It’s coming. There are dozens of designs and I want to be sure I have all or most before I upload that gallery. If you are desperate to look at World’s Fair postcards there’s an online gallery you can find by clicking right here.
Q: Why are some pages different than others?
A: Read the blog dummy. No, I’m kidding–but you really should. It’s not so much a blog, more of a running record of site changes and updates. To answer the question–the website is still very much a work in progress. I’m trying to figure out what I want it to be in addition to a dozen or so galleries of neat old postcards. Currently I’m going back and reorganizing the galleries into more individualized and descriptive exhibits. For example, last night I rebuilt the St. Louis Public High School page.
Using that template I’m hoping to inject into the ‘postcard archive’ more local history. Who designed the building portrayed in the postcard? What’s the street address? Why is it special? Was it impacted by the 1927 tornado? Where can I learn more about this architectural style? These questions and more being answered with this redesign. Essentially it breaks down into this: (Postcard Gallery) + a short biographical blurb + 1-2 newspaper clippings + a google map showing where the site is/was + helpful links to learn more about the postcard subject.
Q: This looks cool, how do I start collecting?
A: Postcard collecting is cool and it’s actually fairly affordable compared to my other hobbies. Obvious starting places include sites like eBay or Delcampe. I’m also fond of Playle–it’s a great starting place as the sellers often have fixed prices much lower than more well known auctioneers. I strongly recommend you NOT purchase from seller sites like CardCow or OldPostCards.com. These two in particular sell cards at ridiculous price points–cards you can find on eBay for as low as fifty cents or a dollar.