October 11, 2021


You may not recognize his face, but if you are a collector and have ever looked through a pile of comic postcards, you will certainly know this man’s name. You have seen his signature and you most likely have several of his cards in your collection. He is Robert Teeple Petley.

 

Bob Petley was born in Akron, Ohio on November 11, 1912, to Herbert and Edna Teeple Petley. After high school, Bob attended Ohio Wesleyan University and graduated from Hiram College as an economics major.

On July 10, 1942, Bob married Kathlyn Eileen Niles. The couple was well on the road to a fascinating and successful future when Bob was involved in an accident that caused him to break his right hip. Several medical complications ensued, including arthritis, and as a result Bob was left severely handicapped.

In early 1943, Bob and Kathlyn relocated to Phoenix, Arizona, and Bob found work as an advertising artist at the Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette. The work was steady, but the pay was small; the perfect circumstance that forces a man to start his own business.

In 1945 he began a postcard business – The Petley Studio, Inc. – and with just 12 (13?) black and white original designs he developed a network of more than 3,500 dealers in five states. He made millions, but in 1984, Bob sold the Petley Studio and retired to Scottsdale. He died there on July 7, 2006, at age 93.

On December 5th, 1994, Ben Shoemaker and other members of the Tucson Post Card Exchange Club took upon themselves the task of checklisting all of Bob Petley’s postcards. There are just over 160 designs: 12 (13?) black and white and 149 (and maybe more) in color.

Most of Petley’s cards are numbered, but even with Bob’s help, the club was unable to certify the claim(s) that the Petley Studio, Inc. became the nation’s largest publisher and distributor of scenic color postcards, with annual sales exceeding 25 million pieces.

With the help of the Tucson Post Card Exchange Club’s website (http://nostalgia.esmartkid.com/petley.html) we are able to include the following definitive list of the first 12 (13?) cards created by Mr. Petley – most of which are now part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Institution.

[Now! As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow someone will ask, “What is this 12 (13?) confusion about?” Among many collectors of Petley postcards, it seems to be an obligatory first step to find all 12 (13?) originals before branching into the color comic and the chrome views. To answer the next question, “Why are there two #7 cards in the list? The best explanation of the 12 (13?) dilemma follows: Petley was very successful in establishing a network of sellers throughout the post-war American southwest. His cards sold well, but not all of his cards sold well. When the time came for reordering Bob Petley’s original comic cards, #7 was the first subjected to what may be called, The Petley Replacement Policy. Apparently, the card, “Greetings from the Romantic West” did not sell well and was never reprinted. Mr. Petley created a new card but used the same number with the suffix letter “A.” Hence, 13 original, not 12! Subsequent cards appeared – the Petley Replacement Policy at work again – with the numbers 2, 4, 5, and 10 with following “A” or “AA.” ]

As a collector, I have never found an Original No. 7, but I did at one point find a No. 7-A.

CHECKLIST of the ORIGINAL PETLEY BLACK AND WHITE COMIC POSTCARDS
1. “The Trip’s Been Uneventful…So Far” – (Couple on donkey w/suitcase) ©1945.
2. “At the End of the Trail” – (Hammocks hanging in saguaro cactus).
3. “Greetings From the Old West” – (Saloon & lots of activity).

4. “There’s No Bottleneck/ In Western Production/ Methods…” (rabbits) ©1945.

5. “Western Hospitality” – (Cows surround car).

 

 

6. “Cactus Leaves Can Never Replace the Good Ol’ Corn Cob…” – (Outhouse).
 (Pairs of horses, rabbits, birds, and snakes) ©1945.
7. “Greetings From the Romantic West”
7A. “Away Out Here Anything Kin Happen…” – (Four Indian kids look just like car driver) (Bob received a call from an Indian official unhappy about this card).
8. “Out West Seen All the Points of Interest” – (Buxom cowgirl on horse).
9. “I’m All Tied Up at the Moment” – (Cows branding man).
10. “Greetings From the West” – (Cowboy going over head of horse).
11. “And This Is No Bull” – (Couple on cow).
12. “Too Busy to Write…Besides There’s a Paper Shortage”- (Man in outhouse). ©1945.If you wish, ask about Bob Petley’s lop-eared rabbit trademark. Then again, if you have ever seen a postcard of an Arizona jackalope, you don’t need to.

Mr. Petley’s comic postcards in color are also numbered sequentially and each number is preceded by the capital letter “C,” as can be seen here – “A Little Stinker!”

 

Although Petley sold millions of comics, he also sold an equal number of scenes and views. Petley was the first to use a Kodak Kodachrome negative to make postcards, and he was the first to use rounded corners. He thought a round corner would protect the card from damage during postal handling.

SPECIAL NOTICE: If any of our readers should discover that one card used in this article has been censored by the editor, please, AS A FAVOR to the postcardhistory site, DO NOT mention it in the comments section below. If your curiosity is such that it is beyond control, e-mail editor@postcardhistory.net. I will clarify.

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Besides the repetition of the rabbit, I noticed that the car in 7A is the same as the one in 5, although the women are different.

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