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C - Topicals
Cake Walk - This dance, originally know as the chalk line walk originated among the Black slaves of Florida. It was an exaggerated parody of the more formal dances of Whites that they witnessed. While first performed in the spirit of rebellion it was eventually assimilated into plantation life as it spread northward with the slave owner often dolling out hoecakes to the winners of sanctioned competitions. By the time minstrel shows carried the dance throughout the United States and introduced it to Europe, it became known as the cake walk. Because of the racist nature of minstrel shows the dance was transformed from being a parody of Whites to that of Blacks aspiring to dance as White people. With the addition of ragtime music in a climate of growing racial tensions the cake walk became a fad and was depicted on numerous postcards. It is not always easy to determine the butt of the joke on these comic cards as they can be of this Black dance or of the Whites who are trying to dance it.
Calendar - Calendars began to be placed on postcards at the turn of the 20th century. While they may have served the same purpose then as miniature pocket calendars serve now, the intentions of their publication are uncertain. Because of the decorative graphics that were often added to these cards to make them attractive, the calendar function is often rendered difficult to use. This genre may have been little more than an effort to provide another possible sale to a card hungry public.
Cameras - In the years postcards became popular, technology moved photography from the exclusive hand of the professional artist to that of the amateur. This growing interest in photography caused images of cameras to become part of the growing number of technological devices to be depicted on postcards. Real photo postcards can be found of photographers themselves in action or posed with their equipment. Cameras were also quite often depicted in fanciful ways being used by children or animals. As cameras became more commonplace they lost their novelty and were seen less on postcards.
Camping - In the years of Theodore Roosevelt’s Presidency he urged Americans to live a more healthful active life. Many took his advice and went out into the wilderness. Even early motor tourists, deprived of the yet to be built roadside amenities, often found themselves camping out for the night. While not produced in great numbers there are a good number of cards that depict camping scenes in all areas of the country but particularly in the Northeast. Only people from large cities went camping for recreation, not those many Americans living a rural life.
Camps - Both children and adults went off to early camps for recreation in the great outdoors. Postcards may depict group portraits of the attendees, the activities of the camp, and sometimes just the camp itself. Many camps became the center of much social activity. The nature of camp life created an environment condusive to sending postcards.
Canals - Canals play a very important role in commerce but not to the great extent they once did. They have been largely been replaced, first by railroads and now by our national highway system. While many canals were already historical relics when they were pictured on cards, these cards also depicted many of the small working canals that have since been abandoned. The newer larger canals such as those on the Great Lakes were often shown as marvels of modern engineering.
Card Games - Card games date at least as far back as 10th century China. As the earliest playing cards were painted these games were very exclusive. But as printing methods were advanced cards became widely available and popular with the masses. Most modern card games are played with the deck of cards that were simplified after arriving in France. Two very different card games are most often depicted on postcards. One is Poker, commonly played throughout the United States in the 19th century, but popularized in legend from stories of America�s wild western frontier. The other game is Bridge, which gained in popularity alongside postcards in the 1890’s. While Poker games are often shown being played in gambling halls and saloons, Bridge was more of a parlor game of the well to do.
Carrousels - Carrousels where most often to be found at amusement parks but many entrepreneurs opened these as stand alone rides in other areas frequented by tourists. While some carousels have been carefully preserved to this day most have been lost over the years. They are a popular subject among collectors but have become rather difficult to find. Because carrousels were once commonplace some of the cards depicting them are generic.
Castles - Since most castles as they are popularly imagined are to be found in Europe or the nearby areas of North Africa and the Middle East, images of them are usually filed by country. Many cards showing castles were made specifically for tourists but they currently no longer have the same romantic appeal they once had and are often looked upon as an ordinary views.
Catacombs - These underground chambers were established as repositories for the dead by early Jews and Christians within the Roman world. Over the years as cities began to rid themselves of overcrowded churchyards, catacombs began to serve as charnel houses. The bones contained within could be haphazardly thrown about or arranged in artistic displays. As cemeteries came into wider use many catacombs were forgotten but some were later reopened as tourist attractions. It is largely through their function in tourism that they appear on postcards. While there are no true catacombs in the United States there are subterranean charnel houses.
Cats - Of all the animals depicted on postcards none are as numerous as cats. While cats can be found portrayed in realistic manner they were more often than not anthropomorphized and placed in comic settings. These cards could make fun of cats but usually poked fun at us through the use of cats. Felines were also used symbolically as in the form of a black cat on Halloween cards.
Catskill Cats - Many postcards were produced depicting the Catskill Cats but they were not characters lifted from a literary source, only generic cartoons used for marketing. Cats were already one of the most popular animals used on postcards and often in comic ways, so it did not take long to match them up with the Catskill Mountains. The Catskills of New York is a popular summer resort area and postcards were used in many ways to promote the large hotels that sprang up there in the 19th century. The Catskill Cats were often depicted substituting for tourists in dress or engaged in vacation activities.
Caves - These underground chambers seem to hold some magical power that has drawn men to them since prehistoric times. Large caverns and grottos became some of the earliest natural attractions when tourism began, rivaling sites of great historic importance. The difficulty to photograph in this dark environment prevented many postcards from being made of them until electric lighting was introduced. Early cards usually depict scenes around a cave’s mouth where there was more natural light to be had.
Cemeteries - Most postcards of cemeteries tend to show little more than their entranceways. It is usually only on the cards depicting older churchyards and graveyards that gravestones are actually found, especially if a wider view is also to be had from their grounds. Some of these cards may focus in on a particular monument of a famous personality, but many of the more interesting cards that display death heads are not very common. Artistic conventions along with materials used for gravestones and monuments were specific to their time and can help date the age of the cemetery if not the card.
Change of Address - Today change of address cards can be obtained through the Post Office but their plain image free generic format pales when compared to the pictoral cards that were once used for the same purpose. In addition to a small illustration these cards also contained preprinted text and blank lines onto which the old and new address of the sender could be printed. As large metropolitan areas grew many large cities swallowed neighboring communities and had to integrate street names into a consistant format. Many named streets became numbered instead for the sake of efficiency and residents found themselves at a new address without even having moved. A number of postcard publishers took advantage of this situation selling many change of address cards. Despite the large numbers they were printed in they are no longer easy to find for they tended to be discarded over time.
Check Box - This type of novelty postcard required the sender’s participation. By marking off boxes on the card-front certain words or phrases of choice would come together to form a message. On some of these cards the choice of phrases were humorous in nature. These preprinted choices could be used in place of writing a more personal note or as a supplement to it. This type of card are mostly found as white border cards or as linens.
Checks - This particular type of style was was used for both holiday cards and greeting cards. They contained a artist drawn check with the payer’s and payee’s name left blank ready for the sender to fill in. The amount, was in terms of good wishes, and along with the accompanying graphics were appropriate to the celebration it was issued for.
Chess - The playing of many different types of games have been depicted on postcards but few rise to the variety found for chess. Not only are their artist drawn cards of games in session but announcements made for chess tournaments. By far the most intriguing chess cards were those designed to play a game with a correspondent through the mail. These types of cards were also used by Russian spies to send clandestine messages during the Cold War. Chess playing cards continue to be made today though many are now designed to be sent via email for those with less patience.
Child Labor - It is often stated that before modern times there was no concept of childhood and children were treated as little adults. While for most of history children worked on farms the depersonalization of children most likely rose with the industrial revolution. It was not uncommon four children as young as four to work 80 hour weeks. Children often worked at some of the most dangerous jobs in mills and mines, not to mention as chimney sweeps and prostitutes. With the advent of public schooling came child labor laws, but at first these only put a limit on the hours they could work. Many early postcards depict child laborers but show them posed and happy and not engaged in the activities that often led to early illness or death.
Children - Postcards depicting children were most popular at the beginning of the 20th Century. It was a continuation of Victorian sensibilities so prevalent in earlier years where they were the center of much attention. Children are very often found on real photo cards but especially on illustrated and holiday cards with a great deal of sentiment attached.
Chimney Sweeps - Before modern techniques of cooking and heating were developed homes had a fireplace and an accompanying chimney. When burning wood or coal, particulate can build up inside a chimney to the point that it can catch fire and spread to the house. As homes grew larger so did their chimneys to the point that small boys could fit inside them to clean them. As chimneys were common this occupation first known as climbing boys grew to employ large numbers of small children. The job of climbing boy was very dangerous and often deadly though laws against child labor took many out of the work force over the years. Few left this occupation in good health. This however is not depiction presented on postcards. Instead cards tend to show happy young sweeps in their black uniforms as superstitious symbols promoting luck. There is a wide variety of superstitions surround chimney sweeps among different nations but they all relate to bringing good luck.
Chinese - Chinese people depicted as a distinct ethnic group were usually confined to cards of urban centers such as New York or San Francisco where they lived in large numbers. As they often lived segregated lives in Chinatowns they retained many of their traditional cultural elements that proved to be of visual interest for inclusion on postcards. While some of these postcards were racist in content others were not, and Chinese merchants marketed many of these cards to tourists. Without knowing intent it is not always easy to determain whether a cards was displaying cultural differences in a good or bad light.
Churches - Most views of a town would not only capture a view of a church, but most likely all of a town’s churches. Despite the fact that these cards are so plentiful they are rarely considered anything more than ordinary view-cards. Some churches however were so famous that large amounts of cards were produced depicting them and they can form a sub-category to a place. Views of church interiors are much more rare.
Circus - There was a time when circus troupes were much more prevalent than they are today. While some were large affairs others were small family businesses. Because they were a form of transient entertainment few local postcard publishers took an interest in them. While individual performers would make and sell postcards for extra money, actual circus imagery is not very common except on modern photochromes.
Civil War - Although the American Civil War had ended before picture postcards came into production, cards depicting its battlefields with newly built monuments can be found. Other artist renditions of past events from this period can also be found on cards. Some of these cards depict scenes from the once popular cycloramas built in the 1880’s while other cards display reprints of old newspaper illustrations. A noted set of illustrated song cards of Sheridan’s Ride were printed in number. There are also many modern cards containing battle scenes and generals painted by contemporary artists due to the recent revived interest in this subject. Civil War cards are most popular among collectors in the South.
Clocks - Mechanical clocks have been around in one form or another since the 9th century. While many of these earlier models are now in museums others are part of more public displays in such forms as clock towers. Even though many modern clocks can be found on postcards it is often their more ancient incantations that prove most visually striking when found on cards. Since clocks have been used longer in Europe they are depicted on their cards more often.
Clubs - While clubs are generally defined as businesses that provide live entertainment along with food or drink, many add the modern gambling casino to this genre. Even though many cards depicting casinos are not very old there has been so much growth in this industry that most of the original structures have disappeared.
Coaching - Even though the beginnings of the automobile industry coincided with early postcards the horse remained paramount on city streets for many years. While horse drawn buggies were a common sight throughout the Country the more expensive covered coaches were used by the well to do in all large cities. Coaches were also used in resort areas to convey tourists from rail stations to their hotels. The romanic aspect of this form of transportation has kept it alive for the use of tourists well beyond any practical applications. Images of individual coaches are displayed on postcards, but they can also be found as a general inhabitant of many ordinary street scenes.
Coastal Defense - Throughout history all nations with ports have built fortifications to protect them from attack by sea. In the years leading up to the Spanish-American war to the end of the First World War Americans were in great fear of invasion and our costal defenses were greatly strengthened. Many of these fortifications and gun batteries placed in them appear on postcards. By World War Two these defenses were made obsolete by advances in airborne weponry and these guns started being melted down for badly needed scrap metal. In the years that followed the remnants of these fortifications would be destroyed, buried, or turned into public parks. The production of these cards was at its highest during the two World Wars.
Cockfighting - This blood sport between two gamecocks has been popular around the world for thousands of years. While roosters are naturally aggressive toward one another the birds used in this sport are usually bred specifically for fighting. The accompanying rules vary over location and through time but it often involves fights to the death and gambling. Cockfights appeared regularly on early postcards, especially those depicting foreign types or depicting local customs for the tourist. Shifting public attitudes toward animal cruelty has forced the a decline in the sport along with images of it as being acceptable for postcards. Since 2007 cockfighting has been banned in all 50 States but it remains an underground practice.
Comic - These cards are sometimes classified under the category of humor. It is a popular genre having being produced constantly for over a century. Only what has been considered socially acceptable or for that matter even funny has changed over the years. Many early comic cards placed their emphasis on the drawing while the cards created after World War One were less subtle as the one line joke took the forefront.
Commemorations - Postcards were sometimes issued to acknowledge and commemorate events of years past. Some of these cards depict the past deeds of national leaders, some of whom may still have been alive when the card was published. Others highlighted the anniversaries of a great military battles. These cards were most popular in Europe prior to the first World War and were no doubt an expression of the growing sense of nationalism evident at the end of the 19th century. Commemorative cards were made on the 100th anniversary of the American Civil War but only in small numbers.
Coney Island - Although postcards were produced of all amusement parks and recreational areas, nowhere were they made in as great of numbers as those depicting Coney Island. It was the great summer escape for America’s largest metropolis and millions of tourists required millions of postcards. None of the great parks, Dreamland, Luna, or Steeplechase exists today though they were all captured on postcards along with the streets that surounded them. Despite the great number of cards produced some images remain quite rare. Even as Coney Island’s future as an amusement area remain uncertain these cards remain highly collectable because of the enormous amount of personal connections made with this special place.
Conundrum - These are a form of novelty cards on which a riddled is put forth. The answer lies within the clues on the card and is meant to be humorous.
Copper Window - The windows and highlights on these view-cards were coated with a metallic sheen though a process called bronzing. It was supposed to simulate the effects of indoor illumination or shimmering sunlight. Multiple types of metals were used, sometimes on the same card. Reichner Brothers held the patent on this process.
Covered Bridge - The covered bridge has held romantic connotations for a long time. Largely thought of today as a symbol of New England, these bridges were built over a more far ranging area. They were still confined to cold weather regions however as they were meant to protect bridges from snow. Most covered bridges depicted on postcards no longer exist due to years of neglect or from the modernization of roads. As their numbers decreased they became ever more popular as subject matter and large numbers of them can now be found on photochromes.
Cowboys - The tradition of cattle herding on horseback came to the Americas with the Spanish settlement of Mexico. After the American Civil War the opportunities and need for ranching grew in the American West and so did our own style of herding. Though real life cowboys still played a significant role in the United States when postcards became popular, they were already an important part of American mythology and were most often portrayed in a Romantic manner on cards. Some publishers however produced images of cowboys in more realistic work situations. Although Mexicans and Blacks made up a large percentage of those working as cowboys they are rarely represented on postcards because such images were not in line with popular expectations.
Cowgirls - Though it is known that women worked in cattle ranching there is little historical evidence passed down to give us a clear picture of their numbers or role. There depictions on postcards usually suffer from the same Romantic notions applied to cowboys only more so. They were however a popular subject for early postcards due to wild west shows and the general public fascination with changing gender roles. Real photo postcards captured many women as cowgirls, some posed with props in studio photographs, and the stars who worked in actual rodeos.
Cranberries - The harvesting of cranberries is a small but popular genre because it’s a very localized activity in areas sometimes heavily visited by tourists. Most cards on this topic are generics from the Cape Cod region but cards depicting cranberry picking may be found from other parts of Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York’s Long Island as well. These cards almost always depict the harvesting process for the bogs cranberries grow in are rather nondescript.
Cut Out Toy - This was a type of novelty card where the shapes printed on it were meant to be cut out and be used as a toy. Sometimes each shape was a toy in itself and at other times assembly was required. Cut outs were also printed in newspaper supplements and were still being placed on paper products into the 1960’s. Cut outs toys, especially dolls, were popular before postcards and some publishers continued to have them printed as a seperate type of item alongside their postcards. A variation of this is the punch out toy, where the printed edges come perforated.
Cyclorama - Large scale 360-degree paintings within a cylindric structure were introduced to Europe in 1787. They like the very long paintings created in the United States to which viewing admission was charged were meant to create an illusion of reality. By the 1880’s they took the form of cycloramas where many were built depicting battles, religious themes, and foreign views. Individual postcards were produced depicting details of these paintings as well a card sets capturing entire scenes. Folding panoramic postcards of 2 to 8 panels come out of this tradition though they usually depict views rather than reproduce paintings.