The Midway Postcard Gallery Volume 4 October 2010
For this month, we’ll be making a quick stop in Florida, followed by an extended stay in Illinois. We also will have two more sideshow performer cards to discuss. So without further ado, we have first an example of how sex sells everything, even postcards. Here we have a view of a comely lass on the helicopter ride at the defunct Miracle Strip Amusement Park, Panama City, Florida. People weren’t buying this one for the ride! In back you can see part of the wonderful Skyliner roller coaster which once stood at Miracle Strip, was moved to Cypress Gardens, FL, and is currently being shopped around for a buyer, as it is not in the plans of the new owners of Cypress Gardens. Anyone want to buy a first class roller coaster?
Next up is a nice view of the Steeplechase ride at Forest Park, near Chicago, Illinois. The horses can be seen approaching the viewer on the separate tracks. The steeplechase ride was a pseudo roller coaster where 1-3 riders would scale each horse on separate tracks and race each other through the circuit. I rode a similar ride to this (the last one that existed) called the Soap-box Derby Racers at Knott’s Berry Farm in California. The ride used motorcycles when I rode it, and later converted to using enclosed soap-box derby cars. It was dismantled sometime in the 80’s. Note the roller coaster in the background as well as the Shoot the Chutes ride on the left.
Next is a close-up image of three happy young women riding the same Steeplechase ride at Forest Park. Close-up views like this one are popular as you can really see how the ride operated, and it also shows off the ladies hats and other attire. This card was mailed in 1912.
One of my favorite types of rides are dark rides, where you walk or ride through spooky scenes and such. This next view nicely illustrates the Hell Gate ride at Riverview Park in Chicago, Illinois. Hell Gate was a boat ride, that probably took you past scenes with skeletons and devils. Often these early dark rides were morality tales where one could see what happened to the non-virtuous. Note the riders in boats in the front of the card.
Another dark ride is seen here in a killer view of the Devil’s Gorge at White City Amusement Park 63rd street and So Park Ave Chicago, Illinois. Along with the obvious and awesome devil sculpture that graces the front of the ride, also note the devil’s head inside right where your car, or more probably boat enters the ride.
Here is an overview of the White City Amusement Park in Chicago. The central lagoon was almost iconic in these old parks, where the barely visible Shoot the Chutes ride can be seen. Also note the elaborate and ornate buildings left and right front, the roller coaster running along the back left, and the entrance to the Devil’s Gorge ride left. Both these cards date from the between 1910 and 1920.
Next we have another common attraction in the early days of amusement parks, the Fire and Flame Spectacular. At this show, several buildings in the park would seem to spontaneously burst into flame. The fire brigade would be called out, and horse drawn fire buggies would race through the park to the buildings on fire and extinguish them. This illusion was accomplished by using gas jets which spewed fire through the windows and atop the buildings, and heavy layers of asbestos to protect the buildings from actually burning. As the fire brigade started to put the fire out, the gas would be slowly lowered, and the crisis would be averted! This view shows the buildings at right ablaze. The speckling you see is from glitter that has been hand applied to the card. Also common at this time in history (1900-1910) was this glitter application. Postcard nerds like myself attempt to collect the view in glittered and non-glittered versions if possible. This card has also been trimmed on top. This may have happened at the time of printing, or more probably later by a dealer to remove a possibly rough edge.
Our final amusement park card is from the Midway of the Century of Progress Exposition from Chicago in 1933. From right to left you can see the buildings for Carter the Great at The Temple of Mystery, then an exhibit that advertises “A Real Two-Headed Baby”, no telling what that was, perhaps a “pickled punk” which was either a real (rarely) or faked (gaffed) two-headed baby in a jar filled with formaldehyde. The last building on the left is the Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum, filled with curiosities and live sideshow performers, some of which you will see in the last card this month.
First up on the sideshow cards is a wonderful image of Chaffer’s Wonder Midgets, a French troupe of over 20 little people. Little people cards are the most common of sideshow performer cards as there were more little people born than those with more extreme afflictions. This card dates from between 1908 and 1920.
Finally we have a 4 image view of sideshow performers who were attractions inside the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum at the aforementioned Century of Progress in Chicago in 1933. From left to right we have the most famous of all the “alligator skinned” men, John Williams. Next is Agnes Schmidt, afflicted with a skin disease that causes great folds of skin to form. Next is the very unfortunate Arthur Loos, who really must have had a hell of a time going out in public. Finally we have Leopold Williams, the Leopard Skinned man, an African American with vitiligo.
The type of card will often help one judge its age, as postcard manufacture went through several phases and changes over the years. The terms below will be what I use to describe cards, and will inform you what time frame those cards are from.
Private Mailing Card: 1850’s-1900 Marked on the back as such, only an address allowed on the back.
Undivided Back: 1900-1907 Most cards printed in Germany, address only on back of card, front may have space for message. All cards after 1907 are divided back, meaning both a message and an address may be written on the back
Early Chrome: Mostly German printed cards that have printing to the edges of a photographic image that’s been colored or a drawn image. 1900-1918.
White Border Cards: Mostly American printed starting 1918-1930’s. Generally inferiorly printed, especially the earlier ones, as American printing presses had not yet caught up with the superior German ones. Obviously World War 1 ended German dominance of the then very lucrative postcard printing market.
Linen Cards: These cards are characterized by a thin layer of linen that is glued over the paper prior to printing, giving them a non-smooth surface to the touch. 1940-s-early1950’s.
Chrome Cards: Postcards like you are used to today. Printed photographs on glossy stock. These date from the mid 1950’s until present, and are almost 100% of all new postcards made since the 1970’s. Chrome cards prior to the 1970’s are called Standard Size, which indicates the pre-1970’s postcard size of 3.5 inches by 5.5 inches. Almost all postcards printed since the 1970’s have been 4 inches by 6 inches or what is known as Continental Size. Since I do not actively collect continental sized postcards, all my images are of standard sized cards.
Real Photo Postcard RPPC: This is a card which is an actual photograph printed on actual photographic paper, generally made in limited numbers by small independent photographers. They may date from 1900 until present day, and can be dated approximately by the markings on the back. They are the rarest and most sought after postcards by collectors