Past Event

The Happy Invention: The Documentary Value of Picture Postcards

A Road Scholar Program by Katherine Hamilton-Smith

The first picture postcards were published for the 1889 Paris Exposition, celebrating the completion of the Eiffel Tower. In America, the first picture postcards were printed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago- making Illinois the birthplace of the American picture postcard. Since those flowery Victorian originals, uncountable billions of postcards of every aspect of life have been printed; depicting train stations and bandstands; street views and cartoons; ads for products and conveniences; beauties and freaks; social history both whimsical and dark; and everything in between. An early mention in writing postcards is in the 1870 diary entry of a Welsh curate, who called postcards, “A happy invention.” In 2016, the world’s largest public collection of postcards, the Curt Teich Postcard Archives, was given to the Newberry Library by the Lake County Forest Preserve District. Katherine Hamilton-Smith, the founding curator of the Teich Archives, presents a look at the documentary power and significance of picture postcards, the history of the Curt Teich Company of Chicago, and the curatorial development of the Teich Archives collection.

This event is Free and Open to the public. For more information, please contact Nayeli Benitez at