The Golden Age of Postcards – Social Media a Century Ago

german postcards

Three things came together in the early 1900’s in this country that created a craze for sending penny postcards to friends:  One was the speed of postal transit because of our sophisticated rail system;   Another was a photo-colorizing technique called “lithography” that had reached a high level in especially Germany;  And the third was the advancement of photographic technology that put cameras in the hands of thousands of would-be photographers in America (and especially near Kodak country here in Rochester, NY).   The result is an immense photo-record of thousands of often obscure scenes that otherwise might never have been preserved for posterity.  We use dozens of them in our videos and here on this website.


widewaters postal

Oops!  The Germans did their best with the photos sent by the American photographers, but the pictures were in black and white, and without detailed instructions they sometimes guessed wrong on the colors of buildings, roofs, etc.  Or in the case of this photo showing the “widewaters” at Rochester, they wiped out hundreds of homes and businesses altogether!   The top of the photograph was overexposed or obscured by fog, and checking a map of the US the Germans must have seen Lake Ontario up there to the north, and decided to repair the damaged area accordingly.   For those who don’t know, Lake Ontario is miles north of this location.

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