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Collected for Historical Value : Post Card Images Capture Life in Changing America

October 20, 1985|Associated Press

REDDING, Calif. — They aren't fooled by a pretty face. A scenic picture won't turn their heads.

What does appeal to members of the Northern California Post Card Club is a card that portrays historic change, whatever its age.

For instance, an 1898 post card of Mt. Shasta would not be as valuable as a Market Street scene of the same year.

It is the lure of knowledge, along with the fun of collecting, that prompts the 10 active club members to chronicle various historical eras through post cards.

For Janice Viscaino, it is only natural for her to seek out a pictorial display of Redding's past. The third-generation Redding resident inherited her great-grandmother's post card collection in 1957. Ten years later, when her grandmother died, more post cards came her way.

Of her 25 albums of post cards, three are chock-full of historical memorabilia of Northern California.

Some of her favorites include photos of the interior of the old Golden Eagle Hotel, which burned in 1962.

While rummaging around in a second-hand store in Wyoming, Jeane Campfield of Redding found a remnant of family history.

"My husband was looking at post cards, trying to be interested, when he suddenly said, 'Hey, wait a minute.' "

He had uncovered a post card of his aunt's house in Centralia, Kan., which had been addressed to someone staying at Yellowstone Lodge in Wyoming.

During the early 1900s, it was common for photographers to travel around the country, taking pictures of farmhouses. The homeowners would buy the post cards for correspondence.

One of the first cards Audra McGrogan collected was of her high school "just as it looked when I graduated."

Later, the Cottonwood resident found a picture of a street just around the corner from her childhood home in Ontario.

In some cases, it is the message that intrigues the collector.

For Jeane Campfield, tracking the four-year post card courtship of Al and Leona, an early 20th-Century couple, proved especially gratifying.

The couple shared their ardor from a distance--separated by the miles between Portland, Ore., and Hannibal, Mo. "They finally got married in 1913," Jeane Campfield said.

Post Cards Date to 1872

The U.S. post card dates to 1872, when the post office began issuing them for correspondence. About 20 years later the picture post card appeared, but the post office would allow only an address, not a message.

Undaunted, Americans scrawled their sentences over the picture until the divided back finally became legal in 1907.

This may have spurred collecting by early 20th-Century Americans, a pastime that was "almost a mania" between 1906 and 1918, according to Randy Taylor of Chico.

Taylor numbers his collection somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000, most of which he is willing to trade. He will not part with his private collection of 2,000.

Said Audra McGrogan: "We OD on post cards."

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