Extensively illustrated with representative images, this unique book illuminates the cultural significance of the highly colorized “linen” postcards that depicted a glowing America in the 1930s and 1940s and that fascinate collectors today.
From the Great Depression through the early postwar years, any postcard sent in America was more than likely a “linen” card. Colorized in vivid, often exaggerated hues and printed on card stock embossed with a linen-like texture, linen postcards celebrated the American scene with views of majestic landscapes, modern cityscapes, roadside attractions, and other notable features. These colorful images portrayed the United States as shimmering with promise, quite unlike the black-and-white worlds of documentary photography or Life magazine. Linen postcards were enormously popular, with close to a billion printed and sold.
Postcard America offers the first comprehensive study of these cards and their cultural significance. Drawing on the production files of Curt Teich & Co. of Chicago, the originator of linen postcards, Jeffrey L. Meikle reveals how photographic views were transformed into colorized postcard images, often by means of manipulation—adding and deleting details or collaging bits and pieces from several photos. He presents two extensive portfolios of postcards—landscapes and cityscapes—that comprise a representative iconography of linen postcard views. For each image, Meikle explains the postcard’s subject, describes aspects of its production, and places it in social and cultural contexts. In the concluding chapter, he shifts from historical interpretation to a contemporary viewpoint, considering nostalgia as a motive for collectors and others who are fascinated today by these striking images.
JEFFREY L. MEIKLEAustin, TexasMeikle teaches in the departments of American Studies and Art and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin, where he holds the Stiles Professorship in American Studies. His previous books include American Plastic: A Cultural History, which was awarded the Dexter Prize by the Society for the History of Technology; Design in the USA; and Twentieth Century Limited: Industrial Design in America, 1925–1939.
"Postcard America is an exemplary work in the broad field of visual cultural studies and one that I recommend with great enthusiasm. Jeffrey Meikle’s commentaries on these postcards are a tour de force, the work of a mature scholar with the necessary mastery of diverse disciplines—technology, social history, business history, aesthetic history, and geography. Really extraordinary and fascinating to read."
~Miles Orvell, Professor of English and American Studies, Temple University, and author of The Real Thing: Imitation and Authenticity in American Culture, 1880–1940
"A wonderfully presented, provocative, and attractive book. The author’s description of Curt Teich’s life and work, which includes a detailed account of both the artistic and the business end of his operation, is likely to be the last word on this key American image-maker for many years to come."
~Eric Sandweiss, Professor of History, Indiana University, and author of The Day in Its Color: Charles Cushman’s Journey through a Vanishing America
"In Postcard America, Jeffrey L. Meikle takes us on an incredible tour…[t]he book is breathtaking in its luxuriousness, a veritable treasure trove of American culture."
"Postcard America is a seminal contribution to our understanding not only about the linen postcard but also about a graphic style that once visually captured and captivated America."
~Journal of Cultural Geography
1. "They Do Say It's Real": An Introduction to Linen Postcards
2. Curt Teich and the Early History of Postcards
3. The Linen Postcard: Innovation and Aesthetics
4. Landscapes in Linen Postcards: A National Imaginary
Portfolio I: Landscapes
The Southwest: A Regional Aesthetic
Travel and Tourism
Infrastructure and Transportation
5. Cityscapes in Linen Postcards: Images of Modernity
Portfolio II: Cityscapes
6. From a Rearview Mirror: Contemporary Reflections
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