Chicago Research Library Acquires World-Famous Postcard Collection from LCFP

Above, an iconic drive-in postcard from Tulsa.  – Postcards Courtesy of Newberry Research Library

by Tina Johansson

The largest public collection of postcards in the United States is getting a new, permanent home in Chicago.

Housed since 1982 at the Lake County Forest Preserve District’s Lake County Discovery Museum in Wauconda, the sizeable Curt Teich Postcard Archives Collection will be transferred to the prominent Newberry Research Library over the next six months.

We can’t wait to make the postcards available to users and include them in our public exhibitions.”Alex Teller, Newberry Library spokesperson

The stately Newberry Library is located at 60 W. Walton Street, is an independent research library specializing in the humanities. It has been free and open to the public since 1887. Its collections encompass a variety of topics related to history and culture of Western Europe and the Americas over the last six centuries.

Alex Teller, spokesperson for Newberry said the historic library’s staff is ecstatic about acquiring the collection.  “We can’t wait to make the postcards available to users and include them in our public exhibitions,” he said.

Alice Schreyer, vice president of the Newberry’s Roger and Julie Baskes collections and library services is leading the Newberry’s effort to integrate the postcard materials into the library’s collection.

The Newberry plans to provide reference service to anyone interested in the archived contents, by April 2017. Access to the materials will initially be made by appointment only, while the Newberry incorporates the postcard collection into the library’s discovery and access systems. Users will have uninterrupted access to more than 30,000 digitized postcard views available through the Illinois Digital Archives.

The nearly 2.5 million postcards, many extremely rare, feature a range of subjects and genres from rural vistas and urban skylines, tourist attractions and emergent industries, domestic scenes and global conflicts. They demonstrate the country’s evolving conception of itself—and its place in the world—during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

An “oilette” from the Leonard A. Lauder – Ralphael Tuck collection, within the Curt Teich postcard archives

“For over 30 years, the Lake County Discovery Museum has stewarded and expanded this remarkable postcard collection with curatorial expertise, skill, passion, and creativity,” said Newberry President David Spadafora. “We intend to build upon this legacy with the same commitment to connecting scholars and the general public with the tangible evidence of the past.”

The Discovery Museum is preparing to move from its current location to the Lake County Forest Preserve General Offices in Libertyville, which will take place over the next 12 months. If all goes according to plan, the move, said LCFP spokesperson Katherine Hamilton-Smith, is set for completion by late 2017.

Ann Maine, president of Lake County Forest Preserve said, “Transferring it to the Newberry will place it in a broader context with their wonderful collections, and expose it to wider recognition as a scholarly resource. We are pleased that we were positioned to create it 35 years ago, and to develop it into the important archives it is today.” She added that the transfer  strengthens the missions of both organizations. “In our case, it allows us to focus resources on preserving and telling Lake County’s rich natural and human story…”

At the heart of the Curt Teich Postcard Archives Collection are the industrial archives of the Curt Teich Company itself. The company operated in Chicago from 1898 to 1978 as the world’s largest printer of view and advertising postcards.

Consisting of some 360,000 images related to more than 10,000 towns and cities in the U.S., Canada, and 115 other countries, the Teich industrial archives also contains photographs, prints, sketches, and other layout materials documenting the creation of many of the company’s postcards. The range of themes aligns with several subject strengths in the Newberry collection, including local and family history, travel and exploration, Chicago and the Midwest, and the history of printing, publishing, and typography.

A famous Chicago postcard, part of the Curt Teich collection.
A famous Chicago postcard, part of the Curt Teich collection.

“The transfer of the Teich Archives Collection to the Newberry Library validates my late husband Ralph D. Teich’s vision. Ralph (Curt Teich’s youngest son) understood as no one else did in 1981, that the Teich Company archives was important as a collective document of twentieth century history, and that it should be made available to the public,” said Beth Teich. “The commitment of the Forest Preserves over 35 years to develop the company archives into a world class collection and to find it such a prestigious new home fulfills his vision.”

The Lake County Discovery Museum was able to build the Curt Teich Postcard Archives Collection with gifts including those from the Leonard A. Lauder Raphael Tuck Collection of more than 35,000 “oilettes” postcards; the John I. Monroe Collection of postcards printed by Paul Finkenrath of Berlin; and the James R. Powell Route 66 Collection.

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