Greetings From the Land of the Make-Believe Species
Postcards provided proof of lake serpents, jackalopes and assorted curious monsters
- By Peter A. Smith
- Smithsonian.com, March 29, 2012
The postcard once provided a fast, reliable means of communication. The images on the cards carried strong implications of objectivity, underscored by concise captioning. Among these postcards emerges a unique flowering of the beastly taxonomic tree: dozens of distinctive, little-known species spotted by solitary farmers, hunters and fishermen, lurking all across the country, creatures that came alive through hyperbole, exaggeration and the perceived authenticity of postcards.
(Smithsonian American Art Museum)
In the early part of the 20th century, rabbits, long known for their reproductive capabilities, appeared to proliferate in even greater size and number than usual. William H. Martin of Ottawa, Kansas captured this hunting party in 1909. He first experimented with trick photography in 1908, the year the U.S. Post Office reported more than 677 million postcards delivered. The total U.S. population was then 89 million—meaning that eight postcards were sent for every person in the country! By 1910, Martin had cranked out seven million photographic postcards—a killing in terms of more than just rabbits.