This was a session that entertained, stimulated, and educated its audience through presentations on various uses of postcards, particularly as information resources.
Gregory Smith, Historian, Texas Historical Commission, provided an overview of the history of postcards and discussed features found in postcards that can aid in their dating, including stamps, postmarks, and dimensions. He also showed examples of the different processes used to produce the images that can help place a card within a broader range of dates, such as "real photo" cards, which were common through the 1930's, "white border" cards, popular from the teens through the 1930's, and "linen finish" cards printed on textured paper, common from the 1930's through the 1950's. He then addressed various ways in which postcards can be used for historical documentation, as well as some of the problems of depending entirely upon postcards, since the images were occasionally altered, and colors are often unreliable.
Loriene Roy, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, The University of Texas at Austin, spoke about the use of postcards as documents in historic preservation. Through many instances of the use of postcards in preservation, she indicated how postcards can be used in research, to provide unique documentation, to supplement other evidence, and to educate. She also cautioned that historians must evaluate postcards as they do any evidence, since the colors may be unreliable or the image may have been altered.
Susan Toomy Frost, a collector, discussed her collection of cowgirl postcards, showing samples of the different types of cards, describing how the postcards were acquired, and giving examples of how her collection has been useful to others. Examples of the variety of types of cards that she has found with pictures of cowgirls include novelty cards, artist-signed cards, advertising cards, rodeo cards, movie cards, and portrait cards of individuals and groups dressed in western clothes.
Bob Wade, an artist, discussed his use of postcards in his work. He has greatly enlarged real-photo postcards, usually of western subjects, printed them on photolinen, and embellished them with color. These larger-than-life-size cowgirls and other found images can be quite striking. Mr. Wade entertained the attendees with slides of several of these images, as well as of large sculptural works he created, some of which were also inspired by postcard images, including a giant, earth-work map of the U.S. and a giant sombrero.
Moderator Beth Dodd mentioned that Postcard journal, Postcards in libraries, and Image file: a journal from the Curt Teich Postcard Archives are all important resources for those interested in pursuing the topic further.
University of Houston