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Newsflash: Postcards Invade Museums & Archives Class!

written by Dr. Jodi Kearns & Dr. Hillary Nunn

We had so much fun in the wilderness of postcards of the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection during Spring’18 unclass, Digital Humanities in the Archives, that we asked the Fall’18 students in the Museums and Archives Certificate program to dive in too.

As a group, the students digitized, uploaded, and created metadata for one binder of postcards, 1898-1906 Old Comics, in order to make them accessible to researchers, postcard enthusiasts, and serendipitous surfers.

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To complete the project, students found something interesting in the binder and wrote blogs about their discoveries. We hope you enjoy them!

Allan Christopher (History) –  Wrong Portrayal of Women with Meaningful Thoughts

Amanda Leach (History) – Reunited and It Feels So Good!

Anthony Greenaway (Anthropology) – What’s so Funny about Cultural Continuity

Aubrey Baldwin (Anthropology) – Translating Early 20th Century Humor

Katelynn Olsen (Art) – Color: The Art of Advertisement

Laura Loop (History) – Well-dressed Men with Beer

Phillip Fischio (History) – Rams vs Humans

Rose Stull (History) – I’m on the Water Wagon Now

Sarah Riddle (History) – Postcards are Yesteryear’s Memes

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Wrong Portrayal of Women with Meaningful Thoughts

By Allan Christopher

In the state of love, much can go on between a couple. A sweet kiss under the moon or in the tunnel. How about a summer afternoon photo under a tree? No one would stop to think that those things would be out of line. Yet, how about a woman kidnapping a man in the name of love? Or being ridiculed as being worth less than a dog? How could you consider this as love?

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In short, love is sacrifice. Across the lot of cards that went into the David P. Campbell collection that I came by, some of these postcards show lovely couples doing romantic things, sure, but there are a handful more that poke and jest towards how the woman is either the sexual toy object or the maker of food. When either of those roles are not filled, they are made fun of as the cards above and below does.

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Postcards even make clear what a lady should look like. In the card below, there is a woman putting peroxide in her hair to whiten it. So, even fashion is involved in reinforcing how women should look, not to mention how women should act with a lot of it also being in how they should ‘correctly’ behave since, you know, it is on most of the common cards how a woman is to act and be. And since it is common, doesn’t that mean it is correct? (Hopefully you can get, reader, it does not.)

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While there is a considerable amount of portrayal of women wrongly, when looked upon at what these postcards actually said, it was more among mundane things. For example, upon examining the above postcard with ease, this “Clyde” needed to be told that “that is what he needs” from Edith. What could you think Clyde needed? What was so important (or unimportant for that matter) that an entire postcard needed to be sent to confirm simple questions? If we are to look to the back of this particular one, you should begin to easily notice (as shown below) that there is no message or stamp to begin with.

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Again, it preposes the idea that it might not have ever been mailed, but as a form of quick communication to tell someone something lest the day be over and thus not being able to be reached again until tomorrow.

To see the work of love of other people in written form was in some sense rewarding – to meet up and go to school together, to try to see one another after a missed Sunday – especially when someone wrote in secret code. It made it worth it despite the reinforcement of bad stereotypes of women on most of these.

Well-dressed Men with Beer

By Laura Loop

One piece that truly defines the United States as a nation is its extensive and particularly detailed military status. It defines many of our relationships with other countries, as well as keeps us safe from harm in times of need.  Throughout recorded history, one of the most common pieces of the written record is war and military propaganda. Some pieces are obvious in their intent, but military propaganda became so integrated in the pop culture that defined the early 1900s that common propaganda themes became a part of the cartoons being printed on postcards.

Depicted on many of the postcards in the David P. Campbell Postcard Collection are middle aged white men, well dressed in clothing (and also wearing hats) that resembles uniforms, while holding mugs of beer; some promise to show you a jolly good time.

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Though there are no obvious ties to the armed forces, there are similarities that appeal to a military based crowd. People were comforted by the appearance of well-dressed men (holding beer?) who may have been in uniform; at the time, the armed forces were looked at as a symbol of hope and prosperity as a new nation. Using this imagery to help sell postcards and aid in communication between individuals serves as a major part in American history.

Not only were postcards an effective and cost efficient way of communication, especially while serving in the armed forces, it also gave Americans a diversified way to put their money back into circulation by buying government stamps and utilizing the post office.

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Postcards can even show feelings through their art, how they might be feeling home sick, or missing a loved ones home cooked meals (as shown above), many of the powerful feelings that can be gathered from a simple cartoon drawing have such a significant impact on American culture and lifestyle.

 

 

Sources:

The Peak and Decline of the Golden Age http://www.metropostcard.com/history1907-1913.html

The American “Great White Fleet” Postcards of 1908 http://www.philatelicdatabase.com/united-states/american-fleet-postcards-of-1908/

At postcard.uakron.edu, you can find the entire collection of David P. Campbell’s postcard collection. The collection is currently being housed at the CCHP’s Institute for Human Science and Culture. This blog was brought to you by a current student of the University of Akron in attempt to make the collection of postcards accessible to a wider variety of audiences.

Postcards Are Yesteryear’s Memes

By Sarah Riddle

Visual humor is no stranger to the people of today; after all, love them or hate them, memes do make up a vast scope of the internet these days. Yet what about the days before the internet, before we could access the entire world of entertainment virtually at our fingertips? What if you needed to send a brief message quickly? The short answer: postcards. The word “meme” was used to describe a cultural item passed from one person to another before cats made the internet fun.

Nowadays if you want to send a friend or loved one a message that will make them smile, perhaps with an accompanying message, all one has to do is find the right image from the internet and send it via text or some other form of social media. Yet one hundred years ago when these postcards were mailed, before texting technology existed, a common practice was to buy postcards, often with some sort of preprinted picture and message, and then send them off to the post office. Just like today, you could add your own message if you wanted to, but sometimes the postcard itself sufficed, especially if it’s just for laughs.

Sometimes the postcard would be accompanied by a cartoon with a caption, such as this one from 1904.

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This postcard makes use of simple imagery humor, as well as the classic slapstick device of laughing at someone who’s hurt themselves (come on, we’ve all done it at least once) that the cartoon Tom and Jerry has made famous for generations since the 1940s.

Other times it is the simple instance of irony: seeing something that does not match up with its description or concept in the slightest, like this postcard here.

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Regardless of how it is spread from person to person, there is little doubt that humanity’s sense of humor has changed much over the centuries, and it is certainly a good thing that the internet is now around so as to better preserve the humorous oddities of the past.

 

Rams vs. Humans

By Phillip Fischio

Have you ever seen an old postcard from the turn of the century? I looked at a few, and it seems to me like the enemy of man is ram. Now if you have not seen any old postcards from the turn of the century, check out the David P. Campbell collection. The postcards shown here from the set I digitized are personal correspondences about someone stopping in for a visit or just wanting to write. The rams represent the drop-in.

The first postcard warns a man named Joe that Elva and Ed will be stopping in to see next Thursday. The preprinted message, positioned next to an angry ram, says he “will butt in” and the handwritten message, sent from Elva and Ed, adds the qualifier “if it will be convenient” which is a little fun in a way.

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The second ram postcard from my group does not have any handwritten messages like the first one, but also has an image of a ram hitting someone in the rear end just like the first one. Another similarity between the two postcards is that they both use bright colors like a bright red to draw in the person getting the card in for this use makes the eye more interested in the image and the postcard itself.

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Not from my group, there is one more ram postcard in the set we digitized for class. “Headed your way” the preprinted message tells Mrs. J. E. Remington while a ram is inches away from a man in top hat and tails. Check it out!

What’s So Funny about Cultural Continuity?

By Anthony Greenaway

While working with the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology in an effort to help digitize a part of their David P. Campbell Postcard Collection, I was exposed to many interesting and funny postcards. This isn’t too surprising considering I worked on old comic postcards. Some of the humor went over my head, but other cards were still funny considering the jokes are over 100 years old. For example, one postcard was headed with a finely dressed man saying “I had this taken while out in riding in my own automobile.”

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Here “it” refers to a photograph, as if the postcard is a photograph taken for reasons of vanity. The irony comes from a little sign attached to the car: “4 Hire 50¢ per hour” it reads. The veil is uplifted, and the nicely dressed man is exposed to be a common person just like me and you! Okay, the humor is lost when the joke is explained, but the point stands. This point I’m referring to is this: Despite being separated by 100 years I can still find these jokes funny.

There are many ways we can argue that our culture now is different from that of the past. For example, we’re more accepting of different kinds of people and their lifestyles now, an extreme idea for the people of the early 1900s. Despite such extreme changes, we never stopped being American. We are neither more American now than the people of the past were back then. Cultures don’t stop being and influencing their people, even long after the original people are gone.

Cultural continuity is the idea that cultural ideas and mores persist despite social change. Ideas and beliefs held by the people of today can be traced back a surprising many number of years. One might expect humor to be the quickest to change, as what’s topical changes every day. However, this collection proves that is not the case. On the subject of topical humor, another example is of a man who has women sitting on top of his head, along with the caption of “What’s on your mind?” The man literally has women on his mind.

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Despite the objectifying nature of the joke, it’s one that’s still easily comprehended today. Similar jokes are even still made despite 100 years progress! The fact that we have this continuity makes certain social problems from our past still relevant today. If even our dirtier jokes can be traced back to the 1800s, what other beliefs do we still hold despite our best efforts?

This doesn’t mean that we don’t change at all. To say that there is no real change would be extreme. As I’ve said earlier, disenfranchised peoples still enjoy more equality than they did in the past. I know this especially well, as I am gay. We only got the right to marry four years ago! As more proof of this change, here is a final postcard.

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This image isn’t very funny to me, instead leaving me with many questions. Who is Lulu, first of all? I feel like that knowledge is integral to the joke, if there even is one. Why are they drawn so grotesquely, and was their misshapeness humorous in itself? Why are their eyes so big? They only make the image seem creepy.  If I’m being honest, this postcard only works to make me somewhat uncomfortable.

We change every day. There will always be new events and elements in the world that will force us to do or think something new. However, the continuity of our culture will always be there for as long as someone can trace their history back to our own.

Translating Early 20th Century Humor

By Aubrey Baldwin

For this project I digitized a group of postcards that all seem to try to be comical in nature. Most of the postcards would have been funny for the early 20th Century, but the some of the jokes are not relevant for today. The images on a few of the postcards are funny. For example on one of the postcards there is an image of a man getting hit in the face with a baseball and most people would find this as comedic.

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There are also other postcards in this collection that are offensive. For example one of the images shows two men and they look like there are looking up a girl skirt.1898-1906OldComics_063_Page_1

This postcard shows how people treated women during this time and that this behavior was worth a laugh. These postcards were created during the years of 1898- 1908.

The way that people wrote on the cards is also indicative of the time. It shows how people used language at the time and the slang that they used. Furthermore, the postcards show how people talked to each other during the time.

There is one postcard that I processed that I think is hilarious.  There is a father singing and his children are all hiding under tables and behind a piano. The person who sent this postcard said that this must be how someone’s children felt. The name is illegible on the postcard. I thought that this was hilarious because of the look on the children’s faces and how they react to there fathers singing. He is also singing so badly that glass things are breaking as he is singing.

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Color: The Art of Advertisement

By Katelynn Olsen

The color wheel, color harmony, and the context of how colors are used are all the basic principles of color theory. Color theory has such a dramatic impact in our everyday lives, and many people don’t even notice it, whether it be the color of the clothes you choose to wear, or the color of the sign outside your favorite restaurant. Colors have a psychological impact on a person, and people in advertisement take advantage of this. The David P. Campbell Postcard Collection has many examples of the color theory being used in advertisements, for the designers of the postcards wanted their cards to sell.

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Many of the postcards in the collection have the same color palette. The postcards seem to have a strong use of primary colors, and the saturation of the color in each photo is very intense. Colors are used in this way because bright warm colors can attract and stimulate a person. When looking at, “Jimmy and His Papa,” above, we can see the intense reds, blues, and yellows throughout.

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At the time most of these postcards were made, in the early 20th century, many advertisers believed some colors appealed more to women than men, and vice versa. For example, reds and purples would have a stronger impact on women. The postcard, “Peeping Tom will Photograph,” shows these vibrant reds and purples. The message I’m sure women could relate to, being bothered by creepy men, would sell even better with these colors in an advertisers mind.

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Before advances in technology, postcards were a common means for communication. The postcards can be compared to today’s modern text message, for it was a means of keeping in touch. Think about how much people text today. It’s a lot! So, of course the business in making postcards was very competitive. Companies would have wanted to create the most appealing postcard, so they would have the most people buying their cards. One way they made them appealing was through the use of color.

The trick of color theory is something we still see in advertising today. So, keep these postcard’s color in mind next time you’re looking at an advertisement.