MCNY Blog: New York Stories

Iconic photos of a changing city, and commentary on our Collections & Exhibitions from the crew at

The Age of Innocence?

Before I started cataloging postcards, I thought I had a fairly good idea of what was in store for me: numerous souvenir type views of the greatest hits of everything New York City. After cataloging nearly a thousand postcards, this does make up a vast majority of our collection, but what I definitely did not expect was being fascinated by melodramatic, turn-of-the-century  images of love and romance. In these postcards, the longing, confusion, and excitement of summer romances and relationship dramas are brilliantly encapsulated. 

Life Publishing Co. | Detroit Publishing Co. When the Hunting Season Opens. Charles Dana Gibson. 1900. X2011.34.583.

Life Publishing Co. | Detroit Publishing Co. The Dog: Here he has been hanging around us for a month, and we leave to-night. Charles Dana Gibson. 1893. X2011.34.578.

Summer love is not a new trend–vacations, beaches, warm weather sports, and girls in bathing suits have always held appeal. Many of these postcards are images originally drawn by Charles Dana Gibson, an illustrator for Life Magazine, who is credited for the creation of the “Gibson Girl” – the tall, gorgeous, corset-clad, bouffant-haired women who epitomized the ideal of beauty in the early parts of the 20th century. These images show summer love at its best, and the heartbreak that comes when Labor Day arrives.

Life Publishing Co. | Detroit Publishing Co. Here it is Christmas and they began saying good-bye in August. Charles Dana Gibson. 1901. X2011.34.581.

As a contrast to the summer loves of Gibson Girls are the slightly darker, both literally and figuratively, postcards by William Balfour Ker, who was also an illustrator for Life Magazine. From hesitation to making the first move, to what appears to be the beginning of an affair, these scenes make it clear that the beginning of the 20th century was just as scandalous as today.

Life Publishing Co. | Detroit Publishing Co. That Horrible Moment - when, having had the nerve to turn down the light, you find that you haven't the nerve to make the next move. William Balfour Ker. 1906. X2011.34.594.

Life Publishing Co. | Detroit Publishing Co. Another Monopoly. William Balfour Ker. 1899. X2011.34.569.

About Susannah Broyles

5 comments on “The Age of Innocence?

  1. Kathy Benson
    September 20, 2011

    Never knew such postcards were in the collection! What fun!

  2. Asta Sinusas
    September 20, 2011

    A great post, especially as Valentine’s Day is 6 months away…

  3. Louise Partain
    September 25, 2011

    Love the “Best Wishes from Louise” on the first postcard. Wonder what the wishes were for?

  4. Sherrie Hermann/ Catoosa OK
    March 23, 2012

    Dear Susannah,My Daughter was given a portrait of her grandparents, it was in an old frame. I wanted to clean the glass and when I removed the back I found a 8X10 card like pitcher behind their portrait. After visiting your site I find it is the “Another Monopoly” and on the back of the frame it is labeled Another Monopoly. On the front lower left printed, copyright 1899 by Life Publishing Co. I couldnt figure out the autograph and it was a shot in the dark but I searched for the coyright information and the label off the frame and that brought me to this site. I want to thank you, the peices now fit and we love the copy that was keeped with the frame.

  5. Susannah Broyles
    March 23, 2012

    I’m so glad you found what you were looking for on our site!

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This entry was posted on September 20, 2011 by in Digital Project, Postcard Collection and tagged , , , , , .

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