When I started collecting antique amusement park postcards, I shopped at local New England antique stores mostly, and grabbed what was available. That was usually the less expensive common cards. Maine has two small amusement parks now, but in it’s heyday there was only one place of note, Old Orchard Beach, or OOB (Oh-Oh-Bee) as the locals call it. There are a ton of OOB cards, and even though I generally only buy views with rides on them, there are plenty of those as well. I’m always looking for roller coasters of course, but I also like cards featuring dark rides and funhouses, like the Noah’s Ark ride at OOB. My wife hails from the great state of Maine, so we would travel up there often for weekends to visit her family. Antique shops in Maine were a treasure trove of OOB cards.
The Noah’s Ark ride was once a ubiquitous sight along the midway of American and European amusement parks. The ark would rock slowly back and forth as if on waves, while the “riders” walked through the structure (including stairs and moving floorboards). They are obviously an ambulance chaser’s wet dream. Where once there were hundreds, now there are just two. One is at Blackpool in the UK, the other is at Kennywood near Pittsburgh, PA. There was also one at OOB.
There for many years, cards of the ark were something I’d always see. Many of them were only a buck or two, so I’d pick them up here and there. Then I noticed something. Cards that I thought I might own already were actually slightly different from what I had, with different angles, or slightly different cloud formations, maybe a different paint job on the ark. Due to the longevity of the OOB Noah’s Ark attraction, you see cards of many different types and ages, from white border 1930’s cards to modern chromes from the 1960’s, each type with variations.
I started collecting antique amusement park postcards in the early-nineties, and the trend of finding strange and unique Noah’s Ark cards continues to this day. Over the years I have amassed 75 different postcards that show the OOB Noah’s Ark, or some portion of it, from it’s origins in the 1930’s until it’s demise in the 1969. By far and away more cards than I have on any other single attraction or ride.
The sideshow performer images will return next month, so that I can highlight fifteen of my various OOB Noah’s Ark views this month. When I started this hobby, I couldn’t have possibly have known that I would amass so many cards on such an seemingly arcane subject. Such are the vagaries of collecting.
First is the common “Greetings” postcard. This one is a multi-view showing the ark, pier, and beach, along with some comely lasses in those risqué bathing suits. This card was posted in 1938.
A second “Greetings” card, this one a chrome card from the 60’s. It shows the ark, the pier, the entrance to the pier, and the beach. In addition to these two, I have 3 more “Greetings” cards from OOB featuring at least part of the ark.
This is an overview of the amusement area. In addition to the ark, you can see the Skooter ride (bumper cars), and the carousel on the second level above the Skooter. Note the great antique autos and the faux stone “Mount Ararat” the ark sits upon.
An unusual view as only the bow of the ark is seen, with the main focus being on the carousel building and the entrance to the pier. One can grasp a sense of scope of size of the mountain and ark from the adults and children seen nearby.
Another angle showing inside the carousel building, with the ark behind. There are far fewer cards that show the ark from the pier towards inland. Most views show either the ark straight on, or from the ark’s right towards the pier. This is a more expensive card since it is a rarer view, and it features the carousel, which is a whole branch of postcard collecting on it’s own.
This next one was the first close up view I owned (this is an upgrade from that card), but it still remains one of my favorites. It has a great sign at right that states “Noah’s Ark Bughouse Freaks”. That was the sign for the freakshow inside part of the ark building. Also part was the entrance for the Coal Mine, a donkey drawn ride through a replica Kentucky coal mine. The Coal Mine was notable for Sadie, the donkey who worked the ride. Most pictures of Sadie show her as light colored, so it’s unlikely the donkey seen in this view is Sadie.
The next two will illustrate one of the ways that variations can manifest. Both are American Art Postcard Co views printed in the 1930’s. Both are ostensibly the same image with very slight variation. See if you can note the four differences in the two views.
First, the easy ones, the card number has been moved to the right. Next, the title of the card is now centered. Third the cloud formations have changed, and fourth, the overall color of the view has lightened from view one to two.
This next view is a close-up linen era card, showing the ark with red and white stripe motif. Note the Coal Mine attraction, as well as the roller coaster slide ride behind the ark This card was mailed in 1941.
Another linen view at night highlighting the great neon and lit signage. This card also comes in a daytime variation, as well as with two different borders (white linen and orange linen).
This may be the rarest view of the ark I have. I bought it at a show for $4 years ago, and have never come across it again. It’s a postcard, not a real photo, but is a photograph. I would guess it is mid-60’s judging from the cars, but perhaps a bigger car nut than I could help us there.
This next view is a 1960’s chrome view, and since it has the same paint job on the ark, it must be of around that same vintage.
This scalloped edge chrome card is also hard to find. Again, I’ve not seen this card except for the time I won it on eBay. I paid somewhere around $5 for it. The Coal Mine also perseveres, as does Sadie. Not sure if she’s the original Sadie or not.
I have a number of cards like this that I call “Find the Ark!” cards. Usually tucked into a corner or behind something, they make up a small proportion of the total ark cards I own.
My final card is also a rare card that I‘ve seen just twice in my collecting time, and that is a close-up view of the donkey Sadie, of the Coal Mine attraction. Unfortunately, the Coal Mine as well as the OOB Noah’s Ark was destroyed by fire in 1969.
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