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 services; beauties and freaks; social history both whimsical and dark; and everything in between. An early mention of postcards is in the late nineteenth century diary of a Welsh curate, who called them ”a happy invention.”
In 2016, the world’s largest public collection of postcards and related materials, 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. She touches on the Curt Teich Company of Chicago, the role Illinois played in the history and development of postcards, and on the picture postcard as a cultural icon.
This presentation is a lavishly illustrated PowerPoint of about 50 minutes in length, plus questions/answers at the conclusion of the prepared remarks. Each presentation is tailored to the town or area in which it is being given, by weaving examples of postcards from that town into the program.
For the German-American Historical Society, Katherine will emphasize Curt Otto Teich (1877-1974), who was born in Lobenstein, emigrated to the United States in 1894, settled in Chicago, and founded the Curt Teich Company.
This program is free to the public. Donations are appreciated.
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About the presenter
Katherine Hamilton-Smith is Director of Public Affairs and Development for the Lake County Forest Preserve District in Chicago’s north suburbs.
Ms. Hamilton-Smith has maintained career-long professional activity in archives and museums, including service on the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council, the Illinois State Archives Advisory Board (former chair), the Visual Materials Section of the Society of American Archivists (former chair), the Society for Commercial Archeology (Board of Directors; journal editor), and the David Adler Art Center (Board of Directors). She is a recipient of the Curator of the Year Award for the State of Illinois. She studied art history and music history at St. Andrews University in Scotland, holds a B.A. in art history from the University of Nebraska, an A.M. in art history from the University of Chicago, and is a Certified Archivist. She was a contributor to the American Alliance of Museums’ National Research Demonstration Project to Expand Education in American Museums.
Ms. Hamilton-Smith was responsible for creating and developing the Curt Teich Postcard Archives for the Forest Preserve District. For over three decades, she managed its growth, working with private collectors and other institutions to create the magnificent and unparalleled assemblage that was acquired by the Newberry Library in October 2016, and is now one of the Newberry’s 11 core collections.
Ms. Hamilton-Smith is a native Nebraskan and lives in Libertyville with her two sons.