Blog—Source Material

Saving Ferris

A postcard display rack, on display in the Wheels exhibition, pays homage to the World's Columbian Exposition and offers a lens into the Newberry's broader postcard holdings.

Ferris display rack

The souvenir shops of the early twentieth century faced a practical problem in displaying a wide range of postcards effectively to customers. The answer? A Ferris wheel postcard display rack, of course.

The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 helped trigger a postcard craze while also being the place where the Ferris wheel made its world debut. In some ways, postcards were akin to the Instagram of the early 1900s. Wildly popular, they offered a quick and easy way for people to stay in touch. The pressed metal Ferris wheel is just one of the artifacts, in addition to thousands of postcards, that came to the Newberry in 2016 with the Curt Teich Postcard Archives Collection. The Newberry also holds dozens of additional postcard collections, such as those of prolific photographer, poet, and teacher David J. Thompson. Our own Will Hansen, Vice President for Collection and Library Services and Curator for Americana, noted details of the Thompson collection in a recent blog post

The Ferris wheel display rack offers a lens into the Newberry’s broader postcard holdings. Postcard dealer, collector, and historian Lee Cox originally owned the rack. Upon his death, his wife, Shirley Cox, sold it to collector John I. Monroe, who later donated the rack to the Lake County Forest Preserve District in Wauconda, Illinois, where it became part of the Teich collection. Monroe’s postcard collections also reside at the Newberry — Artist-Signed Postcards, Sports Postcards, Fantasy Postcards, Exposition Postcards, and Postcards about Postcards—and are available digitally.

The postcard display rack has been moved downstairs from its home on the library's third floor for the new exhibition Wheels, running through September 23. Wheels highlights a variety of the Newberry’s holdings across formats, genres, and time periods that feature wheels. From postcards to pamphlets, the humble, uncomplicated wheel has inspired creativity, innovation, and expression through the ages.

Wheels is now open in the Newberry’s Hanson Gallery; hours are 10am to 7pm Tuesday through Thursday and 10am to 5pm Friday and Saturday. Entrance is free of charge.

Explore more than 50,000 postcards in our Digital Collections.