I have a small but growing collection of vintage souvenir postcard folders. Some have never been used, but I actually prefer the ones that have been addressed and stamped. It’s somehow sweeter to know they were sent to a loved one.
At first it was the kitschy Americana that originally drew me to them. But it’s the overly saturated coloring that makes each of these feel special, like tiny paintings.
Warning: Print Geek Alert
Color photography was not as advanced as printing techniques for the first half of the twentieth century. Black and white photographs required coloring in the printing process. New colorants, more like dyes than inks, were being experimented with in the late 1920’s. Their watery quality meant they absorbed into the paper too quickly and were slow to dry… making images blurry,
Printer Curt Teich & Co in Chicago, discovered that embossing the paper with a linen texture before printing created more surface area, and new heat set inks meant faster drying times. This meant that the dyes were set on the linen surface quickly before they had a chance to absorb into the paper. This is what gives these such vibrant colors.
Teich developed a technique called Art-Colortone. This a five-color printing process on a linen-finish stock from a black and white photo. In addition to printing with the usual CYMK colors, a lighter cyan was sometimes used to give the images extra punch. Just look at those skies!
The photograph-based cards also employed handwork by artists who brought them into production. Perhaps it’s this touch of the human hand that makes them feel like tiny paintings to me.