Cover Image: Snapshots and Short Notes: Images and Messages of Early Twentieth-Century Photo Postcards

Snapshots and Short Notes: Images and Messages of Early Twentieth-Century Photo Postcards

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Member Reviews

“Snapshots and Short Notes: Images and Messages of Early Twentieth-Century Photo Postcards” by Kenneth Wilson is the kind of book everyone should read if they want to be entertained, are fascinated with tidbits, and love a well-researched topic in our collective history. 

This book looks at the photo postcards that were exchanged in the first half of the twentieth century as first-hand accounts of American life. The postcard was brought into popular usage at the turn of the previous century and improvements in making cameras smaller and more  accessible also meant that everyday people had access to printing their photographs onto a postcard and sharing with a wider audience by putting a stamp on it and sending it on its way.  Wilson points out that “the resulting combination of image and text emerged as a communication device tantamount to social media today.”

The postcard revolutionized personal communication.  Postcards - their messages and the photographs - tell the stories of ordinary lives during a time of great innovation and change, and the use of these postcards created a vast archive written by the eyewitnesses to history.  Because of this, older postcards are treated as significant cultural artifacts.

A photograph paired with personal communication the way a postcard did established the photo postcard as a new means of creative expression and communication.  Companies and entrepreneurs could advertise their wares quickly and cheaper than before. 

Wilson’s thorough research and keen eye for detail makes this a compelling read.  It’s a fascinating look at a part of our history that is often overlooked.  To read about the postcards that captured the work of soldiers, the view of cities being built, and the progress we have made together shows how postcards connected people – no matter how many miles separated them.
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As a person who is a history major and a lover of history I loved looking and reading all of the different photos and  notes through out the 20th century and being able to learn new things. I highly recommend this for anyone who loves learning new things or love looking at great photos.
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As most historians know, nothing is more precious to understanding our pasts than unfiltered firsthand accounts of the time. People let down their guards in diaries, postcards, and letters. Postcards themselves provide snapshots of what was considered noteworthy at the time. This book is a treasure trove of social history. The collection is vast and varied, and it is sure to provide entertainment to anyone even mildly interested in the past. It’s like browsing postcards in an antique shop, with the advantage of someone else having done the hard work of searching for them!
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An absorbing insight into life in early twentieth century America through the medium of postcards. Divided into two main parts, the author begins with part 1: 'The Postcard', which explains the evolution of the picture postcard. Part 2, 'Pictures and Voices', is made up of twenty chapters, each under a separate heading and topic. There are images of many original postcards alongside messages from the sender. The author analyses these and puts into context. They make really engrossing reading and are a wonderful glimpse into the past. Made me think I need to write more postcards! Thank you to Kenneth Wilson, Net Galley and University of North Texas Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Images and Messages of Early Twentieth-Century Photo Postcards is a well curated survey of the picture postcard and associated history. Due out 15th June from the University of North Texas Press, it's 304 pages and will be available in hardcover format.

There are rare postcards here reproduced along with fascimiles of the handwritten notes from the original senders. I found it fascinating to see the words written by people more than a century ago. I think they had more impact because they were everyday observations about life and love and even trivialities ("Had fine luck. Be home Tuesday midnight. Stay at Mays").

The book is arranged thematically starting with a general introduction and history of the rise of the postcard and its use as a means of communication before and during WW1. The second part of the book contains the postcards and messages, arranged by diverse subjects.

The author includes a comprehensive bibliography and links for further reading. There is also an index.

I loved these little glimpses into a vanished world. The emphasis is on American postcards, but there are a number of postcards and photos of European subjects (especially those sent in and around WW1).

Well written and engaging. Five stars. This would make a superlative gift for history interested readers, philatelists, ephemera fans, and the like.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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I think it's a fascinating read and I loved it because I love history and postcards.
It's well written and the postcards are amazing.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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As a genealogist, I have to say I loved Snapshots and Short Notes: Images and Messages of Early Twentieth-Century Photo Postcards by Kenneth Wilson. I have a number of Real Picture Postcards (RPPC) related to my ancestors, and have long had a fascination with these small pieces of personal and cultural history, so enjoying this book was hardly a surprise. How much I learned about RPPCs, however, was a surprise.

The author starts with a fairly comprehensive introduction to what he calls the ""Golden Age of Postcards", basically 1901-1914. He goes into the various types of postcards which were made and available during that time, as well as some of the background on the US Postal Service and the habits of letter writing and correspondence which marked those times. It was in this section that he provided the perfect - and perfectly obvious - comparison between picture postcards and social media! Duh! I'd never made that connection, but once I had, it just made so much sense! 

The bulk of the book is dedicated to postcards, and I was truly impressed with the way the author handled this section. There are postcards for just about everything you can imagine - current events, celebrities, businesses, entertainment, politicians, funerals, local and national cultural events, and so many postcards just showing families and family members. I loved every one! But what sets this book apart is the author's attention to historical detail related to each postcard. It's obvious he did a lot of research into the sender and the recipient, the image, but he also put each postcard into a historical and personal context. My favorite was a postcard of Frank, the owner of a local floral business in Tampa FL, holding a gigantic flower arrangement. It might not be as culturally or historically relevant as some others in the collection - say the one of Teddy Roosevelt stumping - but to me it represented the best thing about old postcards, the ability of everyday people to share pieces of their lives with others.

After reading Snapshots and Short Notes: Images and Messages of Early Twentieth-Century Photo Postcards, I am absolutely inspired to search out more historic RPPCs, and spend more time on the ones I already have in my family history archives. 

This review is based on an advance copy read.
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This book is a fascinating look at a period of time when photo postcards were very popular. This is an incrediblely interesting collection of images and a wonderful history surrounding the postcard. This is actually much more interesting than I expected. 

If you love old photographs these cards give a wonderful glimpse into western history and the culture in place when postcards were created.

On a fun note there are facts and information about the picture and people in the postcard and its very interesting to read and provides a great source of historical information. 

I would recommend this to both casual history buffs who enjoy the intersection of popular culture and history as well as those who might simply be more interested in a deeper history of post cards.

I received this book from NetGalley for an honest review
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This collection is a history of many things. Chronology of the type of postcards, the photograph styles, camera technology, and of the events itself. Moving world events like wars to the flight, electricity, telephone, electric car huge bridges, gas mains, dirt movers, shoes, parade, cheese, of machines that people were working, stagecoach, Many historical moments captured in time on paper.
You note the stamps on each postcard too,
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Snapshots and Short Notes: Images and Messages of Early Twentieth-Century Photo Postcards by Kenneth Wilson is a fascinating look at a relatively short period of time when photo postcards were very popular.

This collection of images as well as the wonderful history surrounding the photo postcard (and the postcard in general) is both entertaining and eye-opening. I will touch on the entertaining part first. These cards give us a glimpse into both individual lives and the country's history, and particularly how they entwine. If you like looking at old photographs, you'll love the images reproduced here. If the history of cultural items interest you, you'll find the short history to be a great read. If you're like me you'll get a lot of enjoyment from both.

The eye-opening part is more involved. On a personal level, I had run across a few postcards when doing archival research back in the day. I never really considered them as items worthy of their own study, my interest was entirely about what, if anything, the notes and dates might tell me about the person I was researching. The study of these cards as a broader source of historical information makes perfect sense but I just did not recognize it. The other, less positive note, is how openly and willingly people would share racist and bigoted images without thinking twice. That wouldn't happen today nearly as often, except among Trump supporters, who would claim either ignorance or "culture." For the rest of us, it is a wake-up call that there has never really been a "good old days."

I would recommend this to both casual history buffs who enjoy the intersection of popular culture and history as well as those who might simply be more interested in the objects as objects. The images are wonderful and are accompanied by short explanations of what and where, at least to the extent that is known. It is also fun to just ponder the possible meanings as well.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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The history-lover in me loved this book. The text details the history of the photographic postcard, but I was drawn to the great collection of images of the postcards themselves. There's probably two groups who will be drawn to this book - those who will read the history and those who will just admire the postcards. I'll leave you to guess which I was ;)
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