Saturday, September 17, 2011
The San Francisco Earthquake and Fire in April 1906, in which about 3,000 people died, is one of the most famous disasters in U.S. history. At the time, it captured the attention of readers around the country as they read about the damage in their newspapers. Many photographs were taken and postcards of the event are plentiful. Postcards are available in black-and-white and colored versions; some are common and some are harder to find. Here we offer a review of some postcards of this fascinating subject. Above we see two images. The black and white card shows a homeless man hauling his rescued belongings with a caption that points out the crack in the ground. The tinted postcard shows one of the most popular images - City Hall in ruins.
This colored printed image above shows the Opera House. All the postcards in this post are early undivided-back postcards, so messages had to be written on the front as only the address was allowed on the back.
The fire actually caused more damage than the earthquake at it roared through the city devouring wooden buildings. About 3/4 of the city's people were homeless and tents were set up in the city's parks to offer shelter. Only the destruction of many fine homes in the path of the fires stopped the destruction. Here is a colorful printed postcard showing flames in the sky, wooden buildings in the foreground.
The image above shows the Hamilton Hotel and the ruins of the Flood Building. The detail is very sharp, showing the rubble piled up where buildings used to stand. Published by Kropp of Milwaukee.
Below we see a real photo postcard (RPPC) of the destruction. Real photo postcards are harder to find than the more common printed postcards. This intriguing image shows a lady at the left, a background of partially destroyed buildings, and two signs. One says, "D. Samuels Lace Co. will occupy these premises." and the other says, "Sullivan Contracting Co. Wrecking & Grading".
This postcard has the caption: Policeman on Duty, April 25, 1906. We have also seen it with a caption that describes the distribution of flour to survivors of the earthquake and fire. You can see the women holding big pans and the sacks of flour on the ground.
We especially like the postcard scenes that include people - the San Franciscan citizens responded to the disaster with fortitude, and when we can see them in the postcard images, we believe we have a more accurate sense of what the event was like to experience. This scene shows people surveying the damage "looking up Mason Street". After the 1980s quake, we had friends in San Francisco who went out walking to view the damage, too.
The postcard above is from a series that was sold to shop-owners who could stamp their own name in the white space. Here, Chase's Pharmacy in So. Braintree (we imagine in Massachusetts). The series shows views not readily available, so it is desirable even though the pictures are not as sharp as some others available. The caption on this card says, "Thousands of people stood in line daily, patiently waiting their turn for relief supplies. St. Mary's Cathedral offered a convenient place." You can see people lined up in front of the Cathedral and along the side of the building.
There are some rare postcards of the earthquake and fire - here is one showing a wonderful spotted dog with a caption that tells us he survived "Five days through fire and earthquake, without food, in the Hotel St. Francis wine cellars, San Francisco."
We also have a series of postcards, harder to find, that were made of reconstruction scenes once the quake was over and the city began to rebuild.
Price Estimates: Postcards of the earthquake and fire are easy to find, so you can afford to be picky. Look for cards in top condition. Sometimes you can find a Lot of these postcards and that will usually decrease the price-per-postcard. Be willing to pay more for unusual or real photo images. Expect to pay $5 - $25 depending on rarity. These estimates are for postcards in EXCELLENT condition, and they are only estimates.
Friday, September 2, 2011
Alphabet postcards from the early 1900s are fun to collect - you know you will have to find 26 postcards to complete your set, and you can choose one style or mix and match - in this post, we look at a variety of styles to introduce you to the possibilities. Of course, there are other series of attractive alphabet postcards not shown here - you will find a lot to like in this area of collecting! Our personal favorite series is an alphabet of flowers signed by C. Klein (Catherine or Caterina - a German artist of great popularity for her nature designs). We open this post with a forget-me-not letter B above, and we will have a second Klein alphabet letter further on. These cards are flat with lovely floral designs for each letter.
On the left is a charming design of little children inside of roses on a colorful flat postcard forming the letter D.
The languid pose of the lady on the right could be considered a bit risque for the period - she is dressed in a classical Greek-style toga dress with her hair pinned up, posing inside a 'wood' letter C on a little bridge in a woodland setting. This is a flat postcard series using bentwood for all the letters. Don't miss the sprigs of leaves still green on the letter. Part of the fantasy appeal of this series is that the letters are created out of live branches.
Below is a pretty little Angel holding a letter I on an alphabet series with superb artwork by Ellen Clapsaddle. The postcards are embossed, with shining gold added. On each of the letters, the background is the same blue-green with swirls that resemble clouds.
Real photo postcards with montages of fantasy images are one sub-set of alphabet postcards. Here are two different examples, for the letters E and Z. The top postcard is black and white, the bottom postcard has a sepia tint. These combined images of glamorous women with little children have no tinting.
On the right is a sweet child inside a large letter Q surrounded by flowers. She plays music and wears a soft pink chemise. These postcards are flat, characterized by lovely colors in delicate shades.
The letters are outlined in gold.
Here are two little girls holding up a big letter N on a French real photo postcard. The children wear wonderful dresses and have fancy hair-dos. This picture is "vignetted" - in other words, the image gradually disappears at the bottom of the postcard. This real photo postcard has delicate tinting with colors and hand-painted details on the girls' gowns.
We close with another beautiful alphabet letter postcard signed by Catherine Klein - as in some of her alphabet designs, the flowers coordinate with the letters, so here are orchids for the letter O. As always, her artwork is magnificent, blending natural flowers and leaves with the formation of the letter.
Price Estimates: Alphabet postcards are a good buy recently, with the more commonly-available series priced at about $5 - $10 each. The two most expensive series in this post are the Clapsaddle Angels and the Klein Flowers. These will cost $20 each or more. Remember that these estimates are for postcards in EXCELLENT condition, and they are only estimates.