The vintage postcard that looks so quaint now to our 21st-century eyes was once a form of communication every bit as game-changing in its time as tweets and text-messaging were when they first arrived on the scene. At the advent of the postcard mid-19th century, some people were put off by the idea of sending or receiving correspondence that wasn’t in a sealed envelope and was open for anyone to read. But many more embraced the new medium, and by 1908, more than 677 million postcards were mailed at a time when the nation’s entire population was less than 89 million people.
In his introduction to Around Highland, a recent addition to Arcadia Publishing’s “Postcard History Series,” co-author Ethan P. Jackman details the chain of events that led to the popularity of the pictorial medium, from advancements in the field of photography that made it easier for photographers to shoot on location to an act of Congress in 1861 that allowed the mailing of postcards for a penny.
By the early part of the 20th century, Jackman writes, “Highland was known as the Gateway to Ulster County, with visitors arriving by riverboat, railroad and a trolley line. Many came as tourists, staying for weeks or even months at local hotels, inns and boarding houses. The business of publishing picture postcards flourished during that era, and there was a demand for postcards as souvenirs and to send to those back home.”
Around Highland features more than 200 vintage postcards from the collection of Jackman’s co-author, Vivian Yess Wadlin, amassed over the last 25 years along with other memorabilia about local history in Ulster, Dutchess and Columbia counties that she collects for use in her About Town publication. “I probably have at least 1,000 postcards,” she said, “covering all of southern Ulster County from Saugerties down to the county line at the southern border and pretty much the Hudson River west to the other side of the Shawangunk Ridge.”
She finds some of them at the twice-yearly postcard shows in Kingston while others are finds from eBay or other online resources. Sometimes people even come to her with old postcards, contacting her because they know she collects.
As the title suggests, Around Highland features postcards that show the history of Highland as well as that of some of its surrounding areas. The last chapter, “Nearby Places,” covers a sampling of Gardiner, Rifton, Esopus, West Park, Milton and Ohioville. The images include some of the 1936 U.S. Olympic crew team whose story was chronicled in a book last year, The Boys in the Boat. Many of the crew racers participated in regattas on the Hudson River, said Wadlin, and stayed on the west side of the river in hotels and boarding houses, with some of that experience captured in postcard images.
The book originated with Jackman, town historian in Lloyd from 2008-2009. “Ethan published Highland and the Town of Lloyd for Arcadia [for their “Images of America” series in 2009], and that book sold so well that Arcadia came to him and asked if he wanted to do another book,” Wadlin said. “He decided that since I had this collection of postcards, I was the right person to be his co-author.” The two have known each other for years, she said, with each serving as each other’s vice-president when the other was president of the Town of Lloyd Historical Preservation Society (TOLHPS). Wadlin is still a board member of the organization, but Jackman’s primary residence is now in Canada. Because they were in different countries when putting the book together, she said, it was done entirely through e-mail.
Wadlin scanned 215 of her postcards and laid them out in the format used in the series, and they divided the task of writing the text introducing each chapter and the captions, with Jackman writing the introduction to the book and the acknowledgements. “It was quite a wonderful way to do a book,” said Wadlin. “I would love to do another one.”
The two will give a presentation together at the Vineyard Common Theater at 300 Vineyard Avenue in Highland on Monday, September 8 at 7:30 p.m. The co-authors will each take a few postcards from the book and talk about them, said Wadlin, and she will also discuss novelty postcards from her collection that feature three-dimensional elements or were printed on unusual surfaces, including leather. Wadlin also has postcards that you can hold up to the light — with an image of a city scene, for example — and the windows will appear to be lit. There is no charge to attend the discussion, which is presented in conjunction with the TOLHPS monthly meeting, and there will be free refreshments. Around Highland will be available for purchase at the event along with other history books from Arcadia Publishing and those written by other speakers the organization has hosted at past events. All funds raised through sales benefit the Town of Lloyd Historical Preservation Society. The group would like to have a permanent structure at some point, said Wadlin, to house their extensive collections of local historical memorabilia for display.
For more information, contact the Town of Lloyd Historical Preservation Society at www.tolhps.org.