We are always buying postcards and photos from before 1950 - email us at circa1910@tampabay.rr.com.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Linen DINER Advertising Postcards 1930-1950

This post focuses on one of the most popular current linen postcard themes: diners.  In our opinion, a true diner is a stand-alone building with the streamlined look of  a retired railroad dining car.  Wikipedia has some insight into this architectural style of classic diners:

Like a mobile home, the original style diner is narrow and elongated and allows roadway transportation. In the case of the diner, this is a carry-over from the first "true" diners ever built, which were never intended to remain stationary. The original diners (as opposed to "dining wagons") were actual dining cars on railways. When a dining car was no longer fit for service, it was often employed as a cheap restaurant at a (stationary) location near a train station or along the side of the railroad at some other location. 
Later, tradition—along with equipment designed to build railcars—kept this size and shape. In this original floorplan, a service counter dominates the interior, with a preparation area against the back wall and floor-mounted stools for the customers in front. Larger models may have a row of booths against the front wall and at the ends. The decor varied over time. Diners of the 1920s–1940s feature Art Deco or Streamline Moderne elements or copy the appearance of rail dining cars (though very few are, in fact, refurbished rail cars). They featured porcelain enamel exteriors, some with the name written on the front, others with bands of enamel, others in flutes. Many had a "barrel vault" roofline. Tile floors were common. Diners of the 1950s tended to use stainless steel panels, porcelain enamel, glass blocks, terrazzo floors, Formica and neon sign trim.

The Wikipedia article describes how, over time, diners left the pre-fab style and began to resemble more traditional restaurants with wallpaper, multiple dining rooms and more conventional exterior architecture.  We acknowledge our own purist attitude toward these collectible linen postcards  -  we don't accept that the illustration is of a diner unless it specifically says DINER on the postcard.  To our way of thinking, a cafe is not a diner, nor is a restaurant.  Certainly not a hotel dining room!  Others may differ.  We only collect the most classic images of American diners and, for the sake of your investment, we recommend you do the same.  

Our personal favorites include automobiles of the time - the vintage cars add a touch of dated style and help identify the era of the diner's popularity.  These linen postcards are often unused; they may have advertising on the back. 

Here is a diner without the stainless steel dining car exterior, but it clearly states on the sign that this is a DINER.

This postcard of the Richmond Belle Diner shows a classic streamlined building with an addition on the back, an old woody station wagon parked in front, and a fantastic sign.

Above is another linen diner postcard that shows a stucco exterior with striped awnings, a gas station (another popular collectible in the linen postcards department) and an interior image with a counter and tables with chairs instead of booths.

  This Florida diner postcard shows an in-between diner design of a long, narrow building with stucco exterior.  Panels of glass brick let in plenty of light and louvered windows let in a breeze. Don't miss the round windows that add a nautical motif to the building. In this multi-view the motel is also shown, as is their boat dock. 

There are also interior views of diners that give us a sense of how eating at a diner felt during a busy time of day:

Above is an interior view of a Willow Grove PA diner with the booths and counter described earlier.  Diners are casual environments, conducive to meeting friends and sharing basic, inexpensive food we love - burgers, milkshakes, pie and coffee.  Think of how often a diner appears in a movie or television show - there's an inner-city diner in BONES, for instance, where conversations often take place among the characters over plates of French fries.  There are commercials where a diner counter is used to give the same atmosphere - the diner setting is an evocative one.

More from Wikipedia: 
Diners almost invariably serve American food such as hamburgers, french fries, club sandwiches, and so on. Much of the food is grilled, as early diners were based around a grill. There is often an emphasis on breakfast foods such as eggs (including omelettes), waffles, pancakes, and French toast. Some diners serve these "breakfast foods" all day long. Many diners have transparent display cases in or behind the counter for the desserts. It is common with new diners to have the desserts displayed in rotating pie cases.  Diners frequently stay open 24 hours a day, especially in cities, making them an essential part of urban culture, alongside bars and nightclubs; these two segments of nighttime urban culture often find themselves intertwined, as many diners get a good deal of late-night business from persons departing drinking establishments. Many diners were historically placed near factories which operated 24 hours a day, with night shift workers providing a key part of the customer base.

There was a classic 24-hour diner near my college dorm in Philadelphia.  One night my roommate, who was wakeful and depressed, went down to the diner.  There she met an old sailor who, at 3 am over coffee and cigarettes, proposed marriage.  She declined, but told me it made her feel much better.

Price Estimates:   Diner postcards are available in both linen and chrome varieties.  Linens are older and more valuable.  Price is also determined by the rarity of the postcard.  The Richmond Belle postcard, for instance, is often available and not too expensive.  Show dealers tend to price diner linens high - in the $40 - $75 range.  It's more advantageous to keep a close watch on auctions, or to search flea markets for diner linens.  The postcards shown here cost between $12 - 35.   These estimates are for postcards in EXCELLENT condition, and they are only estimates.

1 comment:

  1. Those are some of the nicest diner cards I've seen. Always nice to have some classic cars too.