Rarely Seen Richmond

About this collection
Rarely Seen Richmond: Early twentieth century Richmond, Virginia as seen through vintage postcards is a digital collection of over 600 postcard images of Richmond, most dating from 1900-1930, from the James Branch Cabell Library Special Collections and Archives. The intent of the collection is to help document early twentieth century Richmond by displaying a unique collection of images of the city. Many of these images include buildings and structures that either no longer exist or have since been altered. The subject matter of these postcards also lends insight into the social and cultural attitudes of those times.

Postcards began to be widely used in the United States soon after the passage of the Private Mailing Card Act in 1898. It freed private publishers from what was considered unfair competition from government issued cards. In the next few years the demand for postcards grew as a craze for collecting them spread throughout the country. Dozens of postcard printers, both American and European, began producing postcard views. This "golden age" of postcard publishing and collecting lasted from 1898 through 1912 when thousands of cards were produced, mailed, and collected by the public. According to figures issued by the U.S. Post Office for fiscal year 1907-1908, 677,777,798 postcards were mailed in the United States in that year. Though the craze for postcards diminished by the time World War I began, postcards continued to be published and collected. One estimate has put the number of Richmond, Virginia postcard views at 2,000.

Many of the postcards in this collection were colorized, as in these two views of the 1000 block of West Franklin Street in Richmond, ca. 1905. The view on the right is the original black and white image taken by the Detroit Publishing Company, one of the nation's largest postcard publishers at the turn of the last century. The color image on the left is how the view was presented as a postcard after it was converted from the black and white photograph.

Postcard of buildings and road on Franklin Street, Richmond, Va.Small black-and-white image of of buildings and road on Franklin Street, Richmond, Va.

Copyright
This collection is of mixed copyright status and includes items that are in the public domain, in copyright, and of unknown copyright status. See individual items for item-specific copyright information.

Additional research information
For more information about Virginia postcard history, see Kelly Henderson, "The Art of the View: Picture Postcards of Virginia, 1900-1925," Virginia Cavalcade, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Autumn 1990), 66-73.