Snapshots and Short Notes, by Kenneth Wilson, published by the University of North Texas Press, June 2020, examines the photographic postcards exchanged during the first half of the twentieth century as illustrated, first-hand accounts of American life. Almost immediately after the introduction of the generic postcard at the turn of the century, innovations in small, accessible cameras added black and white photographs to the cards. The resulting combination of image and text emerged as a communication device tantamount to social media today.
Postcard messages and photographs tell the stories of ordinary lives during a time of far-reaching technological, demographic, and social changes: a family’s new combine harvester that could cut 40 acres a day; a young woman trying to find work in a man’s world; the sight of an airplane in flight. However, postcards also chronicled and shared hardship and tragedy—the glaring reality of homesteading on the High Plains, natural disasters, preparations for war, and the struggles for racial and gender equality.
With a meticulous eye for detail, painstaking research, and astute commentary, Wilson surveys more than 170 photographic postcards, that provide insights into every aspect of life a century ago.
“Wilson presents a new approach. . . and his detailed accounts of cards draw you in and make you a believer.”
—Robert Bogdan, co-author, Real Photo Postcard Guide: The People’s Photography
“Ken Wilson takes us on a spellbinding journey across American history through the imagery of yesterday’s Instagram and Snapchat. Photo postcards of a century or more ago open a portal to the past that shows us both tumultuous cultural changes (women’s rights, immigration, industrialization, loss of rural life) and the wonderful small details of everyday life. . . ”
“Brilliant. Essentially, Wilson reveals the American zeitgeist through his discussion of the Photographic Postcard.”
—Tai Kreidler, editor, Nikkei Farmer on the Nebraska Plains, archivist, Southwest Collection at Texas Tech
“Kenneth Wilson superbly documents everyday American life in the early 20th century through images on real photo postcards--and messages inscribed on them. His comments on individual cards are enhanced by detailed historical research into the ordinary people who made, sent, and received them.”
—Jeffrey L. Meikle, author,Design in the USA, and Postcard America
“Kenneth Wilson takes us on a lively excursion through a robust paper archive to open our eyes to yesterday. The exploration reveals how the photographic postcard can be a time capsule about people, places, and events of the early twentieth century.”
—Daniel Arreola, author, Postcards from the Río Bravo Border