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updated: 8/29/2011 11:34 AM

Lisle collector preserves history in postcards

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  • Reidy's General Store on Front Street also served as Lisle's post office before it burned down in 1939, said Marilyn Cawiezel, a founding member of the Lisle Heritage Society.

      Reidy's General Store on Front Street also served as Lisle's post office before it burned down in 1939, said Marilyn Cawiezel, a founding member of the Lisle Heritage Society.
    Courtesy of Susan Brown Nicholson

  • While images of nature on postcards from the Morton Arboretum may still look current, those with buildings and people hint at years gone by.

      While images of nature on postcards from the Morton Arboretum may still look current, those with buildings and people hint at years gone by.
    Courtesy of the Curt Teich Postcard Archives of th

  • The image of Morton Arboretum's grounds from 1966 still could serve as a memento from a modern-day outing.

      The image of Morton Arboretum's grounds from 1966 still could serve as a memento from a modern-day outing.
    Courtesy of the Curt Teich Postcard Archives of th

  • A postcard of Benedictine Hall, the first building on the St. Procopius College campus in Lisle, preserves a bit of history as the building has met the wrecking ball.

      A postcard of Benedictine Hall, the first building on the St. Procopius College campus in Lisle, preserves a bit of history as the building has met the wrecking ball.
    Courtesy of Susan Brown Nicholson

  • This postcard gives an aerial view of the start of St. Procopius College, which has grown into Benedictine University in Lisle.

      This postcard gives an aerial view of the start of St. Procopius College, which has grown into Benedictine University in Lisle.
    Courtesy of the Curt Teich Postcard Archives of th

  • The thriving Lisle Creamery shown on this 1908 postcard sent milk by train to Chicago and put Lisle on the map.

      The thriving Lisle Creamery shown on this 1908 postcard sent milk by train to Chicago and put Lisle on the map.
    Courtesy of Susan Brown Nicholson

  • This postcard, with a postmark from 1911, bears a message on the back reading, "This is the depot in our famous city and is large enough for a town twice as large, so if you ever come to Lisle you will find the train service equal to that of Elmhurst."

      This postcard, with a postmark from 1911, bears a message on the back reading, "This is the depot in our famous city and is large enough for a town twice as large, so if you ever come to Lisle you will find the train service equal to that of Elmhurst."
    Courtesy of Susan Brown Nicholson

  • Once the St. Joseph's Bohemian Orphanage, the stately building on this postcard now is the heart of the Benet Academy campus.

      Once the St. Joseph's Bohemian Orphanage, the stately building on this postcard now is the heart of the Benet Academy campus.
    Courtesy of Susan Brown Nicholson

  • Consumer photography products and services allowed people to turn everyday moments from their own lives -- like sewing class at St. Joseph's Bohemian Orphanage -- into postcards.

      Consumer photography products and services allowed people to turn everyday moments from their own lives -- like sewing class at St. Joseph's Bohemian Orphanage -- into postcards.
    Courtesy of Susan Brown Nicholson

  • The St. Joseph's Bohemian Orphanage baseball team of 1922, preserved on a postcard.

      The St. Joseph's Bohemian Orphanage baseball team of 1922, preserved on a postcard.
    Courtesy of Susan Brown Nicholson

  • Susan Brown Nicholson's personal postcard collection includes numerous images of her hometown, like this postcard of South Street, an early name for Main Street, looking south at the intersection with Front Street.

      Susan Brown Nicholson's personal postcard collection includes numerous images of her hometown, like this postcard of South Street, an early name for Main Street, looking south at the intersection with Front Street.
    Courtesy of Susan Brown Nicholson

  • Once available in stores and restaurants, postcards now are found most often at tourist destinations or used for marketing. Morton Arboretum has just released a new series of four cards highlighting the four seasons on the Lisle museum's grounds.

      Once available in stores and restaurants, postcards now are found most often at tourist destinations or used for marketing. Morton Arboretum has just released a new series of four cards highlighting the four seasons on the Lisle museum's grounds.
    Courtesy of Morton Arboretum

  • Once available in stores and restaurants, postcards now are found most often at tourist destinations or used for marketing. Morton Arboretum has just released a new series of four cards highlighting the four seasons on the Lisle museum's grounds.

      Once available in stores and restaurants, postcards now are found most often at tourist destinations or used for marketing. Morton Arboretum has just released a new series of four cards highlighting the four seasons on the Lisle museum's grounds.
    Courtesy of Morton Arboretum

  • Once available in stores and restaurants, postcards now are found most often at tourist destinations or used for marketing. Morton Arboretum has just released a new series of four cards highlighting the four seasons on the Lisle museum's grounds.

      Once available in stores and restaurants, postcards now are found most often at tourist destinations or used for marketing. Morton Arboretum has just released a new series of four cards highlighting the four seasons on the Lisle museum's grounds.
    Courtesy of Morton Arboretum

  • Once available in stores and restaurants, postcards now are found most often at tourist destinations or used for marketing. Morton Arboretum has just released a new series of four cards highlighting the four seasons on the Lisle museum's grounds.

      Once available in stores and restaurants, postcards now are found most often at tourist destinations or used for marketing. Morton Arboretum has just released a new series of four cards highlighting the four seasons on the Lisle museum's grounds.
    Courtesy of Morton Arboretum

  • A fifth new postcard released this summer beckons visitors to the Morton Arboretum's Children's Garden.

      A fifth new postcard released this summer beckons visitors to the Morton Arboretum's Children's Garden.
    Courtesy of Morton Arboretum

  • Susan Brown Nicholson

      Susan Brown Nicholson

 
 

"Greetings."

Did you receive any postcards in the mail this summer?

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It seems the emergence of new technologies jeopardizes the amiable picture postcard sent to friends and family from vacation destinations. As with a challenge from any new medium, the future potential of postcards is still to be determined, including its use in marketing.

"It is sad that what was once recorded for us to read and enjoy even 100 years later is being lost in the airwaves in current times," said Susan Brown Nicholson, a recognized authority on antique postcards.

The longtime Lisle resident questions whether the younger generation will miss out on learning about ancestors without the bits of casual information garnered from the backside of postcards.

Long before texting and social media updates limited the space available to send a message, postcards restricted communication to half the backside of a 3.5-by-5.5-inch or 4-by-6-inch postcard. The small space allowed for a short, snappy greeting and in the process recorded a bit of family history.

The less people use postcards, the more interest rises in collecting, a hobby called deltiology. Nicholson said the study and collecting of postcards is extremely popular today.

"The major purchase venues are websites and auction sites online such as bidStart and eBay with more than one million cards each online every day," Nicholson said.

Postcards are part of the collectible category of ephemera, which means anything made of paper that is expected to be short-lived. They captured the interests of recipients and collectors from the start.

Nicholson wrote "The Encyclopedia of Antique Postcards" with illustrations and price guide as a resource to collectors. She also writes about antique postcards for many publications including the Barr's Postcard News and The Postcard Collector.

The Lake County Discovery Museum in Wauconda has the country's only postcard museum. Its 365,000 Curt-Teich Postcard Archives has a significant collection of Route 66 images. Access online is at lcfpd.org.

"The most popular postcards to collect now are real photographic postcards from small-town America and popular holidays like Halloween," Nicholson said.

Nicholson's collection of old postcards has some of her hometown, Lisle. Her images include Reidy's General Store, Lisle Creamery and the Lisle Depot train station with its large protective eves to help shelter riders from inclement weather.

The postcards showing Benedictine Hall and the St. Joan of Arc Church interior preserve memories since those buildings met with a wrecking ball. The St. Joseph's Bohemian Orphanage ended in 1956, but the building lives on as the oldest structure on the Benet Academy high school campus in Lisle.

The old postcards from the Morton Arboretum in Lisle are not as significantly different from the newest stylish collection currently for sale in its gift shop because plants and trees have a universality about them that transcends time. It is when people or buildings are included that a postcard offers a glimpse of history.

Postcards became popular at the beginning of the 20th century and were collected right from the start. They offered a wide diversity at a reasonable cost.

In the early 1900s, Eastman Kodak introduced a Folding Pocket Kodak designed so the general public could use its postcard-size film to take photographs and have them printed on postcard backs. Real Photo postcards, such as the Lisle street scenes, enabled people to make a postcard of any picture they took.

At first, postcards could have only writing in the front and the address and stamp on the back. After 1907, postcards had an image on the front with a divided back, as we have today. Fold-out postcards, popular in the 1950s, were a series of postcards attached into a strip.

In the heyday of postcards, people could purchase them in dime stores, drugstores and newsstands. Small specialty shops that sold only postcards were popular at tourist attractions. Today it is hard to even find postcards outside vacation destinations.

"Postcards have always been an advertising tool and still are today," Nicholson said. "The 1907 versions are not considered 'junk mail' but collectibles."

Even artist-illustrator Norman Rockwell did a postcard for the Upjohn Co. in Michigan.

Local Realtors used the postcard medium to showcase a house for sale on the photo front and the details of the house as the postcard's message. Today, real estate agents still use postcards to keep their name in front of potential customers.

Nicholson said free rack cards, available in restaurants and motels in the last century, record the kinds of products we used and places we frequented. Postcards featuring political and social causes could reach the general public many times bearing just a penny stamp.

Subject matter, condition, desirability and demand all determine a postcard's value.

Nicholson started collecting postcards when she bought some while collecting antiques. She suggests that new collectors ask questions and buy just what they like.

"If the value goes up, good for you," Nicholson said. "If not, you still like it."

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