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Comstock Adirondack Postcard Collection

Comstock Adirondack Postcard Collection

Collection Number: 
Collection Length: 
Geographic Coverage: 
Adirondack Mountains, NY
1890 to 1950
Finding Aid: 
Postcard of Utowana House, Blue Mountain Lake, NY

The modern picture postcard phenomena begins in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Officially licensed postcards cost one cent to mail while unlicensed private cards required two cents, the same as a first-class letter in a sealed envelope. The popularity of postcards increased dramatically in 1898 when the U.S. Congress authorized lowering the postage rate to one cent. These early postcards required that the address and stamp be on one entire side of the card, while the other side could contain an image and a space for a handwritten message by the sender. This all changed in 1907 when Postal authorities approved the “divided back” format which has continued ever since. Hundreds, if not thousands of American photographers, printers, publishers across the United States began creating and selling postcards. Some of these were “Real Photo Postcards” (RPP) in which the image was actually a photographic print. This was also a period in which the general printing industry was developing numerous lithographic and offset printing techniques to produce color and black and white images which were quickly adopted by postcard producers. Many of these early cards were printed in France and Germany, but this diminished almost entirely due to tariffs and the First World War. Edward (Ted) Comstock, curator, antiquarian dealer, editor, and consultant of all things Adirondack began collecting vintage Adirondack postcards in the 1980’s, saying “the variety of the early cards fascinated me…as ephemeral examples of paleo-pop art they have plenty of stories to tell about Adirondack history during the first half of the 20th century.”

This collection consists of approximately 3,000 postcards from the 1890’s through the 1950’s depicting scenes in the Adirondack Mountains region of New York State. It contains postcards by the major postcard publishers of the time as well as by significant known and unknown Adirondack photographers. It is especially strong in its images of geographical locations, and hotels. Approximately 30-40% of the cards have been posted containing messages of all kinds.

The collection was purchased from Ted Comstock in 2016.