Acquisition From Postcards’ ‘Golden Age’

Thumbnail Head Postcard push ball front

A postcard featuring push ball is among the items recently donated to the Newberry.

Warren and Katherine Head’s postcard collection features depictions of small-town American life as well as images from Africa, South America, and other points on the globe. The longtime Palmyra, Missouri, residents delighted in attending postcard-club meetings and auctions and displaying their collection to others. Now, 2,000 of the postcards have been donated to the Newberry thanks to the late couple’s sons, Wallace and John.

“The postcards recently contributed from the Warren & Katherine Head collection, dating mainly from the first two decades of the 1900s during what is known as the early ‘golden age' of postcards, are a welcome addition to the Newberry’s postcard archives,” said Will Hansen, Roger and Julie Baskes Vice President for Collections and Library Services and Curator of Americana at the Newberry.

The postcards donated to the Newberry are “the cream of the collection,” according to Wallace Head. Adds John, “Placing some of the postcard collection with a library of the Newberry’s caliber and public-facing character ensures that our parents’ work can be appreciated by many people, and within a cultural and historical context.”

One of the postcards shows the turn-of-the-century pastime of push ball, wherein two teams attempt to push a giant ball through goal posts on either side of a field. The snapshot from 1910, along with nearly all of the postcards in the Head collection at the Newberry, is an example of a real photo postcard, or a postcard printed from a photographic negative on postcard paper, usually made in much more limited numbers than mass-produced postcards.

At the center of the Newberry’s extensive postcard holdings is the Curt Teich Postcard Archives Collection. Widely regarded as the largest public collection of postcards in the United States, the Teich materials include hundreds of thousands of postcards produced by Chicago’s Curt Teich Company between 1898 and 1978.

The Head collection has since been accessioned and is now available for viewing in the Newberry’s Special Collections Reading Room.

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Katherine & Warren Head displaying some of their postcard collection, as appearing in the December 20, 2000, edition of the Quincy Herald-Whig.