Postcards featuring urban destinations surged in abundance at the turn of the twentieth century. Travel to and within cities became easier during this period as railroad and trolley services expanded, and as railway cars and hotels offered more refined facilities. Cities appealed to tourists for the same reasons they do today: grand parks, colossal buildings, historic sites, museums, shopping, and theatrical, musical and sports performances. More so than other vacation sites, cities offered a wide variety of attractions all in one place. A postcard describing a city tour reveals a whirlwind of activities. The thousands of surviving cards with urban scenes demonstrate the growing popularity of American cities as vacation destinations.
"Such good times in the City. Lunch. Play. Shopping.
Hunting. Picture Postals...story upon story of Good Times."
1903 - 1905
This rail tour of New York, Chicago, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia is modeled on one of many options—urban and rural— provided in the 1904 edition of Baedeker’s United States. According to the Baedeker Guidebook, "The plan of tour must depend entirely on the traveller’s taste and the time he has at his disposal." The vacationer interested in this tour would certainly have an affinity for the urban milieu. In the first decade of the twentieth century, only a well-to-do person would be able to budget the time and money required for this multi-week tour.
Click map to see enlarged version.
New York City, NY
Opened in 1883 and spanning the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge immediately became an iconic sight in New York city. This postcard view of the Bridge (below), from the early 20th century emphasized its majesty and beauty. The standard tour of the city included a stop at the Brooklyn Bridge, and visitors often acquired souvenir postcards after seeing this marvel of American engineering.
Every year, Special Collections and University Archives staff work together to create relevant and interesting exhibits on topics that are of interest to the University, the community, and to scholars.
If a picture tells a thousand words, then the millions of postcards sent over the past century suggest that postcards are a significant source for understanding how Americans spent their leisure time. This online exhibit, based on an earlier physical exhibit, features early postcards of national parks and other natural wonders, scenic resorts, amusement parks, historic sites, world's fairs and American cities.
The exhibit team includes Joanne Archer, Peter Curtis, Melissa Lindberg, Doug McElrath, and Blaise Odle.
Hornbake Library is located on University of Maryland’s College Park campus. This library is home to the Exhibit Gallery, Special Collections & University Archives and Library Media Services.
For general information about the library and our collections, contact us
For questions about the exhibit and related events, please email Doug McElrath or call 301-405-9210.