Today’s lead image of Magician Lake, Dowagiac, is called a “real photo postcard.” Real photo postcards (RPPs) are distinct from postcards printed from photos, and that difference is important to collectors. The image quality of the real photos, images taken by amateur photographers with inexpensive postcard format cameras beginning in 1907, is wonderfully sharp and clear.
Michigan has over 3,000 miles of shoreline, what with three of the five Great Lakes almost surrounding its two peninsulas, but there are also more than 11,000 inland lakes, as well as inland towns, cities, rivers and farms. Beginning down in the lower-left corner of the map with Dowagiac (you go through that town if you take the train from Kalamazoo to Chicago) and strolling a zig-zag path north and east brings us next to one of my favorite little southwest Michigan towns, Paw Paw,
“Where the waters meet” in Paw Paw Lake. “Fine time, fine place,” reports Helen, using a penny stamp to mail the card to St. Paul, Minnesota, on August 3, 1908. This hand-colored card was produced in Germany.
Just above is the post office Sturgis (we’ve zig-zagged back southeast from Van Buren County to dip into St. Joseph County), shown on a postcard copyrighted 1959 by the L. L. Cook Company in Milwaukee, the image reproduced from a natural color transparency. Notice how we’ve gone from a black and white postcard camera image to a hand-colored to color photography with these first three cards? And do you notice the difference between the soft tints of the early German card and the hard, bold colors of the later "chrome" image?
I’ve posted the Kalamazoo Courthouse before but hadn’t photographed it well, and David and I were married in this building, too, so I'm very fond of this image. Someone addressed this card to an acquaintance in Battle Creek but never wrote a message or affixed a stamp. A good intention gone astray! This is another German-made card, with a note on the corner where the stamp was to have gone reading
Place the Stamp here
One Cent for
United States, and
Cuba, Canada and
So Canada, Cuba and Mexico were not considered “foreign” when it came to sending penny postcards? Interesting.
Later in Kalamazoo’s history came the country’s first pedestrian mall.
It was great while it lasted. So were the dime stores. All gone now.
Moving east and slightly north brings us to Battle Creek and Lake Goguac. “Camping alongside this lake so you can easily imagine the rest. Many thanks for your nice long letter....” The ink is quite faded on this card that went from Battle Creek to Minneapolis for a penny in 1909.
Lansing, our state capital, is really the middle of the mitt, at least measuring from west to east. Pretty far south from Up North, but let’s not get political today.
This old card of Sparrow Hospital in Lansing looks nothing like the hospital today. I lived in various apartments in the Sparrow neighborhood during my first few years as a Michigan resident.
How about this C. T. Art-Colortone night view of downtown Lansing? Theatre to the left, theatre to the right! Bright lights and traffic!
The Penrod Studio in Berrien Center produced a more modern daytime downtown scene about 30 years later.
Curwood Castle in Owosso, Michigan (east of Lansing), the lavish home of James Oliver Curwood,
is important to Michigan booksellers and readers of old-time Up North adventure tales. The author built this eye-popping palace in a little Midwestern town and then complained of the crowds that came by to gawk.
Time to go back west and visit Grand Rapids, starting with a look up Monroe Avenue.
Anyone know the name of that theatre on the right? I see “S” and then what could be a “T” following. Can this be yet another State Theatre? And do you notice the texture on the "linen" card?
The peaceful fountain at John Ball Park is featured on a card mailed to Minneapolis in 1908,
while another fountain, this one at the Soldiers Homein Grand Rapids, was mailed to St. Paul with not a single word of message. It was the thought that counted, apparently.
From G.R. we pick up M-37, my favorite road north, and promenade to White Cloud,
“where the North begins and pure waters flow.” I imagine all the vacationers reading that sign over the years, all of them feeling the tension leave their shoulders as they realized they were now Up North for real.
Next comes Newago, and I wish I had a card of downtown, but these fishermen and spectators in salmon season are something different.
The Hardy Dam on the Muskegon River creates another inland lake. Or would you call it an impoundment?
Moving indoors, a black and white postcard camera shot captures rustic furniture in Baldwin at the Shrine of the Pines.
Scenic Lake Idlewild was the Michigan destination of choice for black vacationers between 1912 and 1964.
You can read the story of the resort in a book called The Idlewild Community: Black Eden, by Lewis Walker and Ben C. Wilson and in this article in Traverse City’s Northern Express.
Cadillac Printing Co. in Cadillac printed this scene of its own downtown back in penny-postcard days, and Cadillac is where we stop for this week. Come back next Wednesday for this winter's last Postcard Promenade.