In 1898, the United States’ Congress authorized the sale of privately made postcards, opening the floodgates to a new medium that blended advertising and communication. Companies quickly adopted the postcard as an inexpensive way to market their services, whether the business was a restaurant, motel, department store, or bank. Famous tourist destinations made postcards as cheap souvenirs, while undiscovered locales created postcards to remind the world of their existence.

While most American postcards were printed by a few major companies, such as Teich & Co. in Chicago, Kropp in Milwaukee, and Mitchell in San Francisco, their illustrated subjects covered nearly every inch of the United States. Although the majority related to popular destinations and lodgings in places like New York, California, or Florida, proud citizens of Utah, New Mexico, or Vermont wanted their towns on postcards, too.

By the 1910s, you could send grandma a picture postcard of a fleet of oyster ships in Hampton, Virginia, or a view of railroad construction in Lebanon Springs, New York. There were postcards made for the county fair in Anthony, Kansas; the train depot in Harpers Ferry, Iowa; and the new firehouse in Lorain, Ohio. Before interstate highways and reliable telephone connections, postcards gave all Americans, regardless of their residence, an easy, affordable way to maintain relationships both near and far.

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