By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Before collecting baseball cards became a craze, post cards stole the show from the early 1900s to World War I.
From city views to holidays to famous folks from the past and present, the “First Post Card Craze” depicted anything that was significant to society during that time period. Germany first produced these cards before the U.S. caught wind of the technology that was used to publish them. In Bristol alone, the former New Departure would publish at least five sets of post cards to advertise its coaster brakes. Tom Dickau, the past president of the Bristol Historical Society, said he has every one of these post cards.
“Post cards really reflect society,” said Dickau. “It’s not just pretty pictures—it’s historical. It also was the best form of communication.”
These days, the U.S. is in what Dickau called the “Second Post Card Craze,” as collecting and post card clubs have formed nationally and internationally. Dickau has been collecting post cards for over 40 years now, and has around 5,000 cards that depict Bristol, Forestville and Lake Compounce. Some of these post cards contain autographs of notable Bristol folks—like Thomas Patterson, principal of the former Patterson School.
“It tells a story,” said Dickau.
During the Bristol Historical Society’s 32nd Annual Post Card Show this Sunday (July 23), 400 of these images from Dickau’s collection will be displayed on a screen. Although he once owned as many as 100,000 post cards, Dickau said he never stops stumbling upon new ones.
“I found about four this month,” said Dickau, who receives phone calls from people looking to donate post cards.
The value of a post card depends on the image that is depicted. But events like the post card show, said Dickau, educate people about this.
“We have people who just want to learn,” said Dickau.
The longest running event at the Bristol Historical Society, the post card show was first presented at the Terry Homestead by members Pete and Marion Maronn before Dickau continued the annual tradition. During the show, at least a handful of regional post card dealers will be available to sell, buy or trade postcards and other Bristol memorabilia. Many items will be available for sale, including over 200 old Bristol business letterheads from the early 1900s. Folks are welcome to bring their postcards or other paper collectibles for appraisal, to donate or to sell.
Dickau said he hopes to add a post card depicting “Bonnie’s Inn” to his collection, so anyone who would like to sell one can bring it to the show. The best part of the event, said Dickau, is the camaraderie between people who stop by there—whether to sell or buy post cards.
“It’s just a day of sharing and reminiscing about old Bristol, and our community,” said Dickau, who has served as director of the post card show for nearly 20 years now.
Besides post cards, visitors can explore the entire historical society’s Summer Street facility, which is now the home of the newly renovated reference library and general store. The Memorial Military Museum and the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame also will be open.
The 32nd Annual Post Card Show will take place on Sunday, July 23, 1 to 4 p.m. at the Bristol Historical Society, 98 Summer St., Bristol. Admission is free, but donations to support the historical society will be accepted. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, contact Tom Dickau at (860) 582-1537.