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“having Wonderful Time”: Topeka In Postcards, 1907–1914

May 2024
1min read

by John W. Ripley; Shawnee County Historical Society, P.O. Box 56, Topeka, KS 66601; $5.50.

In 1907 Annie Parry Bundy—who ran the School of Pianoforte above the E. B. Guild Music Store on Kansas Avenue in Topeka—began, like half the world at the time, to collect postcards. She specialized in “scenics,” and her favorites were of her hometown. When she died, in 1937, the collection went to the Topeka Public Library, and some fifty of them make up most of the views in this handsomely produced booklet. All the cards are reproduced in color—the colors imparted to them by the German lithographers who issued most of the hundreds of thousands of postcards that flooded the country in the years before the First World War. As Ripley shows us, those same lithographers would insert stock pictures of motorcars into actual street scenes to give the card a satisfying modern look. Despite this deception—and the seething, utterly spurious night skies occasionally painted over daytime streets—the cards are a true and revealing record of the America they so exhaustively chronicled. These scenes of Topeka, each bearing a knowledgeable caption, will, of course, interest residents of that town. But they will also appeal to anyone who is drawn to the impregnable, foursquare cities of our Beaux-Arts age, when people knew what a business block should look like.

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