Postcards - Flipbook - Page 29
FOR AS LONG AS THERE
HAVE BEEN POSTCARDS,
THERE HAVE BEEN
POSTCARD COLLECTORS ...
Click on the magnifying
glass on each postcard
for an enlarged view.
ICTURE POSTCARDS FIRST BEGAN CIRCULATING
in Europe in the 1870s. Spurred on by
the official souvenir postal cards for sale
at the World’s Columbian Exposition
of 1893 in Chicago and aided by advances in
photography and printing, the humble postcard
enjoyed a heyday in the United States from 1905
to 1915. During this golden age of postcards,
nearly 1 billion were mailed in the U.S. alone.
Despite the evolution of technology, postcards
remain a relatively cheap, quick, and memorable
way to keep in touch. In 2019, Americans mailed
some 6 million postcards.
For as long as there have been postcards,
there have been postcard collectors, or deltiologists. Arnold Sweet (PhD AAE’64), professor
emeritus of industrial engineering, has amassed
thousands of cards since he began collecting
them about 30 years ago.
“My wife and I went up to Lake Michigan and
visited a small town with a number of antique
places,” he says. “There was a cabinet full of
postcards—a whole bunch of them from Purdue. I had never even seen those buildings, so I
Sweet says he’s always been a collector. He
still has the stamp collection from his youth,
and he collects other Purdue ephemera such as
prints and books, but his postcard collection is
by far his largest. In the early days of building his
collection, he got involved with the Indianapolis
Postcard Club and began attending its annual
shows. He’s even traveled to Chicago and St.
Louis for postcard conventions, paying “from 50
cents to a lot of money” for cards to add to his
collection, which largely centers on locales. In
addition to Purdue, he collects cards featuring
Tippecanoe County and the Bronx, New York,
where he grew up. His primary requirement:
Each card has to be different.
“Looking at some cards, you might wonder
why I bought them because a lot of them look
the same,” Sweet says. “Even if they have the
same picture on the front, I’ll buy ones that have
something different on the back. Or perhaps a
different kind of border—I’d buy that, too.”
Organized more or less in alphabetical order
by the name of the building or site, each card is
stored in an individual plastic envelope within
acid free boxes. Sweet plans to donate the Purdue cards to Purdue University Archives and
Special Collections upon his death.
In addition to capturing snapshots of history,
Sweet’s collection reflects changes in technology and communication. “Some of the ones I’ve
collected are sort of silly,” he says. “If Purdue
sent me a postcard telling me to show up at a
talk, I would keep it. That doesn’t happen anymore. They send emails. The only postcards I
get now are from the Purdue art galleries. It’s
all changed with the internet. When my granddaughters travel, I say, ‘Send me a postcard.’
But sometimes, it’s difficult for them to find one
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