Picture postcards served as the text messages and Snapchats of their pre-digital time. Thousands of different images appeared–and still do–on postcards, from natural wonders to scenes from everyday life. Nyack offered a wide range of postcard subjects. Hundreds of examples exist, but the corner of Main Street and Broadway may be the most common. Arranging the images from the 1890s to the 1950s shows Nyack, an iconic American village, undergoing profound and rapid change.
Brief History of Picture Postcards
Postcards were invented by the British and French, with the first picture postcard made around 1870. Most printing was done in Germany before WWI because of the Germans’ expertise in chromolithographic printing, especially after colorized images became a postcard standard. The golden age of American postcards occurred just before World War I and continued into the “white border” era of 1916-1930.
Until 1901, the U. S. government restricted the use of the word “postcard” to government-prepared cards only. Writing was allowed only on the image side until 1907, when senders could write on the address side. Printing from color photographs became the standard around 1939, using paper with a glossy coat on the image side.
Main Street Postcards
The heart of Nyack is the intersection of Main Street and Broadway. We are lucky to have numerous views of Main Street taken from this intersection. It is important to note that the dating of post cards is difficult. New postcards often used much older images. The following views of Main Street are arranged by the date of the subject, not the date the postcards was made or when it was mailed.
1890 Main Street
1895 Main Street
1900 Main Street
1905 Main Street
1910-1920 Main Street
1920s Main Street
1950s Main Street
Michael Hays is a 35-year resident of the Nyacks. Hays grew up the son of a professor and nurse in Champaign, Illinois. He has recently retired from a long career in educational publishing with Prentice-Hall and McGraw-Hill. Hays is an avid cyclist, amateur historian and photographer, gardener, and dog walker. He has enjoyed more years than he cares to count with his beautiful companion, Bernie Richey. You can follow him on Instagram as UpperNyackMike.
Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is brought to you by Sun River Health, and Weld Realty.