Main Street Masterpieces
Every postcard collector knows that places like railroad depots, restaurants, and local views can be photographed in different ways. Low angles, high angles, wide angles, distance shots, activity or lack of it, props, time of day, lighting, and others can all offer a different take on a place. And, of course, the ability and creativity of the photographer and the desires of the postcard client will also determine whether the resulting postcard is boring, ordinary, or exceptional.
One of the many subcategories in my collection of linen postcards is Stores and Businesses. (I do not include restaurants, bars, and others in the food-serving/entertainment genre. They are different.) Like many of you, I keep the very best ones in albums. While I love all of these “store” cards (and what collector doesn’t love all their cards?), when I flip through the albums, the postcards that depict the businesses in an absolutely straight head-on image never cease to delight me more than the others. And when I say straight, that means that the photographer stood front and center of the storefront to take his photo that would become a postcard. The perfect example is the feature card, showing Langie Coal Co. – Rochester, New York.
While there are storefront photos that are taken at varying angles, the straight-on cards generally pack an incomparable visual punch. They often have great symmetry and naturally have the color and sharpness that can be found on the best linen postcards. Some of them also feature the deco look that was popular in 1930s storefronts.
These cards are difficult to find mainly because they are very local and are usually advertising postcards that were mailed to promote a business. Thus, they were junk mail, and were rarely saved. They also were rarely mailed beyond their immediate locale, so it would be particularly difficult for a collector to find the ones that were made for a business many states away, unless the businesses are from a touristy area and specialize in gifts or souvenirs.
Most dealers would probably file these cards locally which makes perfect sense, but which makes them even more difficult to find. Note that most of the illustrations with this piece are from New Jersey and New York, my states of residence and the states I look at most as I search for cards.
It is also interesting to note that most all of these cards are from cities or towns that would have a “main” street business district. Rarely do cards appear from smaller towns. The illustration here are samples from my collection that show exactly what I mean.