Greetings From the Land of the Make-Believe Species

Postcards provided proof of lake serpents, jackalopes and assorted curious monsters

(Nebraska State Historical Society)
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A Kansas Air Ship

Kansas Air Ship
(Wisconsin Historical Society, WHI-44534)
Swarms of locusts descended on the Great Plains in the 1870s. Vast clouds darkened the skies and devoured crops all across Kansas. Farmers lost it all. Twenty-five years later, the plague of locusts disappeared as mysteriously as it had arrived—the last one reportedly seen in California.
But no one in 1909 could have expected this giant insect, or rather, “A Kansas Air Ship,” to reappear and loft a baby girl in an American flag-clad basket high above the plains. Imagined by Marion W. Bailey, a photographer based in Hutchinson, Kansas, this illustration was similar to other “exaggeration” or “tall-tale” post cards that proliferated across the region. The images of giant insects doing battle with humans provided both a thinly veiled analogy and some levity in dealing with disaster.

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