The Lost Art of Library Postcards


I’d like to imagine there will always be people who find it necessary to fit the experiences of a vacation into the small space provided on a postcard, but I’m doubtful. The idea of buying, filling out, and dropping one into a mailbox has become a quaint relic of our pre-Instagram past.

An even sadder truth is that we don’t celebrate our public libraries the way we once did. Yet, as anyone who’s ever dug through a box of vintage postcards will remember, the public library was once a landmark, a source of public pride that represented the best of a city. And while there are many of us who still feel that way about libraries, in recent years we’ve watched them lose funding, and cities have torn down a number of these classic buildings where so many have gone seeking knowledge. As we work to keep our local libraries open, these beautiful 20th-century postcards serve as nostalgic reminders of just what we’re fighting for.

Boston Public Library, 1908

Houston Public Library, 1907

New York Public Library, 1920

Muncie, IN. Public Library, 1941

Dallas Public Library, circa 1906

Medford, OR. Public Library, circa 1920

Columbus, IN. Public Library, circa 1921

Columbus, OH. Public Library, date unknown

Elmhurst, New York Public Library, 1920

Chicago Public Library, circa 1900

Chelsea Mass. Public Library, 1923

Falmouth, MA. Public Library, date unknown

Carnegie Public Library, Marion, IA., date unknown

Santa Rosa, California Public Library, circa 1920

Newberry Library, Chicago, IL., circa 1906