A Postcard from Edgewater

Vol. XVII No. 2 - SUMMER 2006

By: Kathy Gemperle

Postcards are a favorite way to communicate when people travel to places far away. In a few well chosen phrases, the sender tells how things are going and reminds the recipient that they are away. In Edgewater, the most popular postcards of this type are those printed for the Edgewater Beach Hotel, which stood on the 5300 block of Sheridan from 1916 to 1970.

Some other Edgewater postcards were printed to advertise special places like restaurants and motels in hopes of reaching more customers. Still others were printed to show large important buildings like churches and schools and apartment buildings.

At the Edgewater Historical Society Museum, we have a display of some of the many postcards sent from Edgewater to places around the country. Because these cards often end up in drawers and become parts of estate sales, they are bought up by collectors and then sold to other collectors. The museum is a collector of Edgewater postcards.

For the enjoyment of our many summer visitors, we have put some of our postcard images on display. The exhibit is set up so that you can see the enlarged image and the back side together. On the back side, you can see the message and, in some cases, the postmark and some information about the printing of the card.

Did you know that there is a museum in the Chicago area dedicated to the postcard? The Lake County Museum holds the Curt Teich Postcard Archives. The Curt Teich Company operated in Chicago from 1898 to 1978. The company was the world’s largest printer of view and advertising cards. The Lake County Museum can be reached by calling 847-968-3381 or send an email to teicharchives@co.lake.il.us

Postcards were first introduced by photographers who took photos of families and places often going door to door. The photo that was produced was made to be mailed although many families kept them. Some photographers like R.E. Jackson (see the Spring 2001 Edgewater Scrapbook) took pictures of neighborhood streets and businesses. All the early photo cards were printed in black and white.

Prior to color photography, the first colored postcards were hand colored. The earliest cards looked like black and white photos with just a hint of color in the sky and ground. Gradually, the artwork became more elaborate when the companies producing cards decided that the photos had some unwanted details. Areas of the photos were airbrushed in order to eliminate trash on the street or unsightly areas. Even the grass was made to look perfect. All this changed, of course, with the invention of colored film.

As for the messages sent on cards prior to 1907, no message was allowed on the address side of a postcard, so the photos were made smaller in order to allow for space on the border for messages. Once the post office rules were changed, there was a lot more room to send those important messages like “Having a great time!” and “Wish you were here.” Speaking of the post office, there is a photo card of Edgewater’s own post office in 1908. Stop by and see it. The exhibit will be up through September.