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Picturing Illinois

Picturing Illinois: Twentieth-Century Postcard Art from Chicago to Cairo

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Picturing Illinois
    Book Description:

    The American picture postcard debuted around the start of the twentieth century, creating an enthusiasm for sending and collecting postcard art that continued for decades. As a form of popular culture, scenic postcards strongly influenced how Americans conceptualized both faraway and nearby places through portrayals of landscapes, buildings, and historic sites. In this gloriously illustrated history of the picture postcard in Illinois, John A. Jakle and Keith A. Sculle study a rich and diverse set of images that chronicle what Illinoisans considered attractive, intriguing, and memorable. They also discuss how messages written on postcards reveal the sender's personal interpretation of local geography and scenery._x000B__x000B_The most popularly depicted destination was Chicago, America's great boomtown. Its portraits are especially varied, showing off its high-rise architecture, its teeming avenues, and the vitality of its marketplaces and even slaughterhouses. Postcards featuring downstate locales, however, elaborated and reinforced stereotypes that divided the state, portraying the rest of Illinois as the counterpoint to Chicago's urban bustle. Scores of cards from Springfield, Peoria, Bloomington-Normal, Urbana-Champaign, Quincy, and Vandalia emphasize wide-open prairies, modest civic edifices, and folksy charm. The sense of dichotomy between Chicago and the rest of Illinois was, of course, a substantial fallacy, since the city's very prosperity depended upon the entire state's fertile farmlands, natural resources, and small industries. _x000B__x000B_Jakle and Sculle follow this dialogue between urban Chicago and rural downstate as it is illustrated on two hundred vintage postcards, observing both their common conventions and their variety. They also discuss the advances in printing technology in the early 1900s that made mass appeal possible. Providing rich historical and geographical context, Picturing Illinois: Twentieth-Century Postcard Art from Chicago to Cairo illustrates the picture postcard's significance in American popular culture and the unique ways in which Illinoisans pictured their world._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09394-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    (pp. 1-22)

    If Chicago was the great American success story, how could the city and its state possibly escape the focus of postcard representation? From a frontier trading post, Chicago had risen seemingly overnight to become one of the world’s largest metropolises. As the twentieth century dawned, Illinois was both the nation’s leading agricultural state and its third-leading industrial state. It was part of the prosperous Middle Western heartland, perhaps the most quintessentially American of regions. Around 1900, when the picture postcard craze hit the United States, Chicago and Illinois beyond the metropolis offered scenes variously spectacular, picturesque, and fundamentally American. Indeed,...

  5. PART ONE Chicago and Its Suburbs: The Metropolis
    (pp. 23-114)

    As the nation’s boom metropolis, Chicago was a major tourist attraction, and a major source of pride to its residents. “Greetings from Chicago” was a thought, if not an actual phrase used, resonating with all the many postcards sent and received from the city early in the twentieth century. The caption on the novelty card in FIGURE 12 reads in part: “Chicago, Miracle City of the Age in little more than 100 years, grew from a village of a few log cabins to the fourth largest city on the globe.” The French had borrowed the word “Che-cau-gou” from native parlance,...

  6. PART TWO Illinois beyond the Metropolis
    (pp. 115-184)

    The novelty card in FIGURE 111 says: “Greetings from Illinois.” “Illinois” was a French adaptation of a term the Kaskaskia used in identifying themselves as “men.” The Illinois Indians, once part of the Miami nation, were scattered up and down the Illinois River, the river’s name being ultimately applied to the state. Many commentators have considered Illinois, including Chicago, to be the most American of all the states. As journalist Clyde Davis observed: “It’s the U.S.A. in a capsule. Here our virtues and our faults are most exaggerated and magnified. Here somehow the heroes seem more heroic, the villains more...

    (pp. 185-190)

    Of what use was the picture postcard? What was the sending and receiving—and the collecting and saving—of postcards all about? How important were the images? A perusal of the short notes that one finds handwritten on vintage postcards is instructive. Reports of travel dominated most of those notations: “Dear Friend. Say, did you know I was away from home and having a good time?” “Say, this is a great place, quite different than Terre Haute.” And yes, some senders of postcards were very much interested in what their postcards actually depicted: “Arrived Ok, and I am sightseeing. Will...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 191-198)
  9. Credits
    (pp. 199-202)
  10. Index
    (pp. 203-212)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 213-217)