What you’ll find here is simply a long page of project updates from my personal ventures around the city to try and photograph postcards. Additionally, from time to time I’ll share my own research into why some of these sites have changed–using newspaper clippings, city plans and Sanborn maps.
A lot has been accomplished in a pretty short span of time, in my opinion. A lot of man hours were poured into putting together what you see before you today, time I’m told should have been spent on my thesis or other tasks. Bah! This is fun, and I can say, it’s the most visually pleasing site I’ve put together yet. If you’ve been paying attention about 44 postcards have been added in the past month, some I’ve purchased and scanned myself, others I’ve lifted from auction sites.
I found the new plugin on wordpress that allows me to carve up maps into interactive exhibit spaces, (see Site Locator). Going forward, this will be an amazing plugin to continue to work with as I begin to further organize the site such as the creation of park locators, street locators and even St. Louis County town locators, as more postcards are added.
It’s getting harder to buy postcards. First, I have a lot. It’s not often I see something on eBay or elsewhere that I haven’t yet purchased or found an image of before. Those I do find are generally out of my price range or have a wicked (and bad for display) watermark. Don’t get me started on watermarks. For some reason and I say this with reasonable confidence, the St. Louis postcard market is becoming artificially inflated. Sellers are marking up cards that last year I could buy for fifty cents, I’m not sure the reason. But it’s happening. I don’t like taking images off auction sites & uploading them here, I prefer to use my own, there is a quality of image difference you just can’t ignore. But if the market continues to be inflated, I might have to continue doing this. Currently, I’m unemployed and nearing the end of grad school, I just don’t have the cash to keep buying 1-2 postcards that are in the $15-20 price range.
And neither should you.
Moreover, I’ve done a lot of neat things outside of the website this past year. Working with the Griot Museum of Black History, I helped research, construct and present an impressive and powerful exhibit on displacement and eminent domain, looking at Mill Creek Valley and St. Louis Place (NGA West). I’ve greatly appreciated the time I’ve spent with the Griot this past year, first as an intern archiving and organizing the museum collections and then as a volunteer/researcher working with the exhibit space. I look forward to continuing that relationship into the new year.
Lastly, and perhaps of most interest, I’ve decided I want to take some of the ideas I’ve had about new site features and flesh them out, not here, but in print. It’s still in the planning stages and it may not be published next year or the year after, but I’m working on a five volume book series using postcards (+ maps, newspapers, photographs) to break apart the St. Louis street grid into short narrative, first person experiences. For example, likely the first volume will be Streets of St. Louis, like the views found here. Ideally, this volume will put you, the reader, physically in the postcard and using maps, newspaper stories and business directories, it’ll explain what surrounds you, what smells fill your nose, when to catch the next streetcar and where you can catch the closest matinee. Where possible (as is seen in quite a number of postcards) this book will allow you to see the same view at different points in time, the books will ideally provide a better understanding for how radically the landscape of St. Louis changed downtown from 1906 to 1910, especially along Washington Avenue.
Stay tuned over the next few months, new cards will be uploaded to various categories (I have approx 48 to be added so far)! Additionally I’ll be trying out a few new ideas I’ve been giving thought to, including an exhibit on postcards and St. Louis Parks.
9/3/2017: I’m back from hiatus, strangely enough at probably the busiest time in months. Anyway, I’ve used Labor Day weekend as a moment to catch up and upload a few new galleries (see below)
–Old/New Post Office (I reorganized the previous gallery and added the more modern post office cards)
I think it’s fair to say I began this website with very ambitious goals. To bring it down to reality I think it’s fair to say in the present and future, this website will be a library/gallery of st. louis area postcards. The attempt to bridge the project to the present by creating a new gallery of modern postcards, for now, is on hiatus.
In addition I’ve created a new link under “about” titled “Special Features” which is a place I post non-postcard specific or expanded postcard items. That is, from time to time on social media I like to share newspaper clippings or archival documents that are relevant to other interests–such as architecture/building history. Those will be located there–sometimes they will overlap with postcards but I can’t always promise they will. In other words, it’s where I’ll post neat stuff that demonstrates how obsessed I am with history and little social life I actually have.
7/29/2017: I have been on a bit of a hiatus the past few weeks and this will continue till at least the second week of August. Check back soon!
7/8/2017: Scrap that last idea–I’ve started anew in my quest to provide a little more information for each card. True I’ve continued to create individual pages for sites so that the search function actually has some use and I’ve also begun to tag these new posts as well. Sometime soon when I get enough individual posts up I’ll have a tag cloud on the front page to help folks find new and interesting pages.
Instead of churches I went with high schools in the most recent site update. Check it out. Now with each post there is a gallery of appropriate postcards, a short historical blurb about the site, a few (where possible) newspaper clippings relating to the site and a small google map illustrating where the postcard site is located. Last, each page will contain a few interesting links to relevant work from local historians as it relates to the postcard site.
7/2/2017: Hey! Update! Here is the first *official* post for the website. Many (many) more to go, but you gotta start somewhere. Glad I could start on such a historic congregation and fantastic postcard.
6/26/2017: Doesn’t this look neat? I think it’s awesome. It sets up a different way of viewing postcards, individually. Which is where this website is going hopefully by mid-July. I’m hoping to have every postcard individually archived here including photo, name, relevant date and location (maybe even with a google map locator). I spent a ton of time reuploading the images back into the new (current) gallery format–and yet I’m still not thrilled with how it looks. Hopefully that can change, slowly.
I’m also looking to put up some additional information on postcards in general. That way you can get to know the different eras in postcard production, how you can tell the date of a postcard by the border or texture–etc.
Some updates: By midnight tonight all but a few categories of postcards will have been converted to the new gallery format. Those that will not be altered are ‘Amusement Parks’ and ‘Other Hotels.’ This is not to say that will always be the case, it’s just a lot of work went into nailing down the addresses for the various hotels and I’m not mentally capable of wiping that work out and dropping the postcards into a slideshow. Not yet at least.
Also, I feel the Amusement Park page is one that many will really engage with–and I really appreciate the work of Doug (his links are featured there on the page), and what he’s done to bring some narrative to the various amusement parks around St. Louis.
I’m eager to finish this conversion process up. There’s still at least 100 postcards yet to be uploaded namely the downtown commercial buildings. Some of them are already visible via the postcard locator (now featured on the homepage at the bottom), while many more still haven’t gotten their day in the sun. And remarkably, I’m finding new cards everyday on auction sites like eBay and Delcampe–so even categories I already consider to be ‘near complete’ are being updated routinely.
Some clarifications on the slideshows. You’ll notice some postcards are full screen while others are quite small, still more frustrating are the vertical cards that become hard to read. In short, those that display in a reduced size (and are horizontal) are card images I’ve taken from the internet. Those that are large and detailed? Those are from my personal collection and were scanned in-house. I’m not sure what’s going on with the vertical cards, many of which are from my personal stock–but display in a way that greatly reduces their quality.
Future plans in the short term:
-Finish uploading cards to the ‘Businesses’ category.
-Begin to add additional metadata where possible such as postmark, rear memo and address.
-Begin to assemble a list of potential postcard sites for St. Louis County municipalities. I have a friend who will be helping me with this task, using Ferguson/Florissant as the template.
A new way of viewing postcards is slowly rolling out. Tonight I managed to redo the ‘religion’ category. This new gallery format allows viewers to better view individual postcards and their captions. I’ve also been informed it looks better on tablets/laptops than the previous presentation approach.
Some interesting news. I’ve been mulling a map–or some sort of visual key that will better display the postcards. I found a neat little plugin and shoveled a ridiculous amount of money to the developers for access to the software that has allowed me to create the Site Locator. So far I have one for the south side, central corridor and west side.
It looks fantastic. Credit to Paul Fehler and his map blog (http://www.bigmapblog.com/). The map used for the selector is Fred Graf’s St. Louis in 1896. While beautiful, it has its obvious limitations. Notably, about 50% of the postcards aren’t represented. A lot of downtown businesses and hotels simply aren’t on the map.
I’m probably going to keep the site selector now, as is, and in the meantime try and create a different map to better suit the needs of the site. On the other hand, I might just select the block, or approximate location of the site in the postcard and….
Yeah it’s complicated.
Overnight you might have noticed some new items pop up, that’s because I spent eight hours putting together two new links: Hotels (Planters, Maryland, Marquette and Jefferson) and Other Hotels. Don’t get mad! If your favorite hotel was relegated to the status of “other,” it simply means at the moment I don’t have enough postcards of that building to warrant an individual page. I mean, let’s be honest. There’s only three unique views of the Planters hotel, the rest are recolors.
New postcards were added to hospitals: St. Mary’s Hospital and St. Mary’s Infirmary. Also, two new postcards were added under private schools: St. Louis University High School and Christian Brothers College.
Tonight is a night off…haven’t had one in at least a week.
It’s been a busy week! If you’ve been checking in lately you’d notice that I’ve uploaded hundreds of postcards to the website which encompass the ‘postcard archive.’ And man that’s time consuming and boring. Almost done! Stay tuned, by the end of the week I should have the ‘Business’ tab completed. After this I plan on looking at ways to better present the postcards included in the archive including perhaps breaking down some of the larger pages into multiple parts.
I set out this morning to try and correct my mistakes yesterday at the Compton Heights water tower. I think I managed to get it right this time–you be the judge.
The key on the top image is getting the shot to include the fork in the path as well as the hill on the right *I know, I’m being inane*. The second image is more important to get right, because the postcard (below) also features the fountain. I kept finding my picture cut off right before the fountain–finally after a couple minutes I was able to include the curvature of the path and the fountain.
It’s not perfect but I’m satisfied.
I also walked over to Tower Grove Park and took a few photos including the Lindell ruins, Humboldt Statue. I’m not sure why I didn’t take a picture of the Columbus statue, but maybe you folks can.
There’s a few things that stick out here. First, in the postcard it appears there are three different fountains in the basin, whereas today there’s only one. Moreover the fountain that is there today doesn’t appear to have the height as depicted in the postcard above–it could be the artist’s fault though. Yeah, it’s probably his fault.
The next one is a different view of the ruins, and I tried my best to get the shot–unfortunately, as I remarked on twitter, to get it perfect I think I’d have to wade into the basin. It was 84 degrees, maybe if it was a little warmer.
So I took a shot at doing this myself today and I came up a little short–which is a good lesson for folks looking to participate. Make sure to have the postcards you are trying to photograph handy (save them to your phone or print them out).
I visited Compton Heights Reservoir and came up mere feet short on two beautiful postcards, check it out below:
As you’ll see below, I came about 10-15 feet too close to duplicating this postcard perfectly, I should have photographed at the fork in the path (the one behind me, not in front of me) Also, you’ll note how sparse the landscaping is around the water tower today compared to the postcard! I noticed a couple vandalized items in the park and a couple spots where it was apparent landscaping once sat–these are the things you’ll start to pick up on once you look more closely at these old postcards.
Also maybe don’t let the dog get in your shot.
*Update* Upon study of an old park photograph, it appears the pathway that I should have stood at has been altered over time. I was still wrong, but even so, it’ll be much trickier to get the right shot.
Here again, you’ll notice I goofed up. It’s basically the correct shot, except I took the photograph looking Northwest, the postcard is facing Northeast. It doesn’t seem like a huge deal–except, it is. A good reminder that you should have your postcard handy so that you don’t make a special trip and goof up!