Main Street Masterpieces

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Don Preziosi

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.

American Shops (clothing) – Newark, NJ

Youth Fashion Shop – Perth Amboy, NJ

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.

Aunt Jennie’s Bake Shop – Rochester, NY

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.

Groves Photo Supply – Freeport, NY

Herman Sackin Co. Furniture – Trenton, NJ

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.

Lady Jane (dress shop) – Bloomfield, NJ

Miller Bros. Square Deal Jewelers – New Orleans, LA

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.

Polka Dot Shop Gifts – Hollywood, FL

Shellcraft Hobby Shop – Ocean Grove, NJ

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.







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I have a nice collection of Linen cards thanks to Don’s past articles in postcard magazines. He first got me into buses, and the rest is history.

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Wonderful article! Enjoyed seeing all these storefront views….

Thanks for this article. I collect this category for the exact reasons you stated. I had never considered the small business angle making them throw aways. They are some of the best graphics going and it’s a shame so many have been tossed.

Wonderful images and interesting article!

I wonder if any Tridacna gigas has ever actually eaten a man.

Always a treat when I find time to read these articles. This one was quick and sweet. So many folks I want to share it with, but most are so hung on FB they don’t bother with the email. No matter, for the people that comment are always kind, and I guess it’s best being part of a small group that seems to appreciate a similar hobby.

I also enjoyed the quick and sweet article, as opposed to drawn out ones full of conjecture. It was a fun read.
I collect cards from the 1900-1920 era, but this article gave me an appreciation for linens.

Thanks for the article. I normally don’t give much thought to linens, but these are very interesting. Your article is great, not long and drawn out with conjecture and the cards really are great.
I too think the head on depictions make a more bold and interesting view. I may have to give linens a look.

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