The Asheville Postcard Company, founded in downtown’s Carolina Lane in 1910, helped put its hometown on the map with small depictions that delivered big impressions. Now a collector has helped historic N.C. postcards enter the digital era and taken Asheville along for the ride.
In the era of e-mail and text messaging, postcards may seem a quaint relic. Of course, they’re still circulating at a most-affordable rate (it costs 26 cents to mail one), but it seems fair to say their golden age has past.
But what an age it was: “At a time when newspapers published few photos and few people owned cameras, the images of people, places, and events on picture postcards could be purchased and enjoyed by citizens from all walks of life,” notes an online description of “Greetings from North Carolina: A Century of Postcards From the Durwood Barbour Collection,” a new exhibit at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library. Now, thanks to Barbour, a UNC alum who lives in Raleigh, and the library’s North Carolina Collection, historic N.C. postcards have a new lease on life on the Internet.
Barbour recently donated his assortment of almost 9,000 postcards, which dates from 1892 to 1994, to the collection, which placed images of many of them online. The WNC highlights, many of which were produced by the Asheville Postcard Company, include stark images of the flood of 1916, boosterish portrayals of local businesses and panoramic technicolor renderings of street scenes and natural wonders.
Visit the online collection at www.lib.unc.edu/dc/nc_post ; an interactive map there allows users to select cards from locations across the state. Selections of Barbour’s collection will be on display in the North Carolina Collection Gallery from now through Sept. 30.