As a scientist in the paper and printing industry, I have always had an attraction to colorfully printed vintage examples of the art of lithography. In particular, I used to collect old baseball cards, advertising pieces, sales promotional cards, Sunday school cards, and other collectibles. I have over the last few years turned my attention to collecting old postcards with Civil War images, which have relatively little value and can be obtained cheaply, and are still quite interesting to me as examples of period art and graphic design, as well as history.
I was fortunate enough to be guest keynote speaker at the graduation ceremonies this past Saturday of the Art Institute of York, which is one of the best graphic arts programs in this immediate area. I had a chance to speak with some of the professors, including one that I shared my love of old Civil War lithographs, postcards, and prints.
Civil War postcards are incredibly easy to find for the novice collector, as nearly every antique shop in the area has a selection of postcards. I picked up quite a few at the Black Rose Antiques Mall in Hanover, in particular.
Postcard depicting the fighting at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. That’s the McPherson barn in the background, and the Pennsylvania infantrymen along the fence are the “bogus bucktails” of Roy Stone’s brigade.
Peace was a common theme in the postwar postcard era…
…as was the revered President Abraham Lincoln, who had earlier been mocked repeatedly by artists and cartoonists.
Robert E. Lee is surrounded by the U.S. flag in this iconic postcard that idealizes the postwar reconciliation between the Blue and Gray.
These kinds of old postcards can usually be found for a buck or two at flea markets and antique shops; special plastic pages similar to baseball card pages can be used to protect and display the postcard collection in a 3-ring binder.
I also collect modern Civil War postcards as well, so if you are out visiting Civil War sites around the country, perhaps you might want to start your own collection!