Early in March 1937 a woman in western nyc got a colorful postcard providing a vivid contrast into the gloom lately wintertime (fig. 1.1). Sent from Tucson, Arizona, the card illustrates a radiant desert landscape in nearby Sahuaro nationwide Monument. Several majestic saguaro cactuses remain high against a sky artfully streaked with reds, yellows, and purples. Lengthy shadows, anticipating an attractive sunset, cross a dirt road curving toward a distant horizon of purple mountains. Even though the recipient’s reaction to the card is as yet not known, the transmitter conveyed one thing of the woman frame of mind in fragmentary style of most such emails. “How come i'ven’t heard from you, ” she requested, “do I owe you a letter (as usual)?” Her question shows a basic purpose of postcards, reminding buddies or loved ones this one is thinking about them without having to say anything more. She additionally provided evidence of a standard problem with well-known forms of aesthetic representation. “Haven’t seen this, ” she admitted, referring to the card’s wilderness scene, “but they state it is genuine.”
Her phrase of doubt may just show a belief that “seeing is thinking.” From our viewpoint, but the postcard’s picture, made up of strong dark lines contrasting with delicate shade washes, falls midway amongst the apparent realism of a color photo while the imaginative license of a watercolor or pastel. An examination for the card’s area shows an embossed design of fragile synchronous lines working horizontally and vertically, a few more prominent than the others, suggesting the weave of an artist’s fabric, upon which the picture is printed. Seen through twenty-first-century eyes, this image signifies the overall concept of a desert landscape but scarcely seems a photographic piece of a particular moment of truth. Even so, this postcard and large number of others make up a popular full-color portrayal of this united states of america during a time usually later on envisioned as current in monotone black-and-white. If these cards seem now to fall lacking realism, they have to have-been accepted in their own time as at the very least approximating reality.
Linen postcards, so named due to their embossed surfaces resembling linen fabric, dominated the United states market for landscape view cards from 1931 into the very early 1950s. At the same time, contending cards known as “chromes, ” with shiny areas considering Kodachrome color transparencies, had been in the process of changing them. The linen variety, so unlike any postcards before or since, had been originated by Curt Teich & Co. of Chicago and extensively imitated by various other printers. Considering retouched black-and-white photographs, linen cards were printed by offset lithography on cheap card stock in brilliant, exaggerated colors. Teich’s sales booklets celebrated the “striking note of smartness” of this “linenized effect” and praised these “beautiful mini paintings” as the most “aristocratic of all post cards.”2 Actually, but they were printed by the hundreds of thousands, had been often offered for anything, and were often distributed by businesses as advertising things. Linen postcards offered an original, recognizable sight of The united states. Whether representing normal surroundings, roadside tourist attractions, or marvels of modern tools, the mini images of linen view cards, about 3½ by 5½ ins in proportions, portrayed the United states scene as shimmering with vow during unsure times during the the Great Depression and World War II (fig. 1.2). Their particular saturated colors provided a well known view associated with the US perhaps not exhibited in grainy magazine pictures, high-contrast lifetime mag photos, or even the stark documentary work of professional photographers including Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans.