Several years ago, I started to collect postcards produced by The City Club of Denver showing images photographed by members of the Denver Camera Club. Each time I acquired one of these cards I was more intrigued with them and wondered why were they produced and how many different cards there were. I did some research and stumbled across the book, The City Club of Denver – 1922-1997, by Barbara Gibson. This excerpt explains the origins of the cards:
In 1930, the Denver Fine Arts Committee began to consider various projects they could undertake to promote the wide array of artistic achievements in and around the city of Denver. One idea was to compile a group of photographs of buildings, public statuary and views of Denver and publish them on postcards. The postcards would be sold at no profit to the Club, the goal being to get “the best grade of postal card available for purchase by discriminating buyers.” The committee worked jointly with the Denver Camera Club, an organization formed in 1922 to “stimulate and encourage those interested in the art of photography, and particularly pictorial photography.”
A number of local photographers submitted their photos for this project. More than 100 were assembled in a portfolio. With the assistance of Cyril Kay-Scott, director of the Denver Art Museum, The Fine Arts Committee selected thirty-four of the photographs to be used for the postcards. Although it is stated that thirty-four images were selected for the project, only thirty-three images are listed in the book. The photographers who participated in the project were Clark Blickensderfer, Laura Gilpin, Theodore Fisher, Oscar Marinoff, Harold D. Roberts, Robert R. Nelson, S.S. Newbury, H.M. Stanley, and R. Ewing Stiffler.
The committee contacted several printing firms in the U.S., London, and Munich ultimately choosing the Beck Engraving Company of Philadelphia as producing the best quality card at a reasonable price. The images were printed using a photogravure process. At the time, color postcards were popular so many of the prints were hand colored by artists in residence at the Beck Company. (These color tinted cards are similar to but not quite the quality of the Albertype hand colored postcards.) Two of the examples included here have been tinted.
Initial funding for the project was presented as a $425 loan by City Club member John Lowe who was committed to the project. An order of 80,000 cards was received by the Club in July 1931 and distributed to thirty-four shops in Denver and three in Estes Park. All of the cards carried the seal of the City Club, which was designed by artist, Dean Babcock.
Members of the Club received one of the postcards along with their September 18, 1931 newsletter. Complete sets of the colored cards could be purchased by Club members at a special price of $1 per set or 75 cents per set if five or more were purchased.
The postcard project publicized the City Club, provided artistic views of the area, and highlighted local photographers. As stated from the onset, the Club did not make money on the cards. Of the $425 loan presented by Club member, John Lowe, $325 was forgiven. Eighty thousand of these cards were produced, yet they are not easy to find. Rarer yet, is a complete set of cards in their original packaging.
The original plan was to produce 33 (or 34) different images. Most of these were of the Denver area with the rest being locations around Colorado. Then the Denver Library Board asked that postcards also be made of the six Denver Library Buildings which would be sold at all the branch libraries. So when these library images are included the total count is 39 which is an unusual number for a set like this. I still wonder if that fortieth image is out there somewhere. Maybe I’ll find it at the upcoming Denver Postcard and Paper show.
Show times are Friday, July 15 and Saturday, July 16 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall,15200 W. 6th Ave. in Golden. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 on Saturday. Admission is $5.00, good for both days. Children 12 and under are free. Bring a copy of this article to the show to receive $1.00 off admission.
If you’d like to see this set of postcards, stop by my booth at the show. If you have vintage cards you’d like to sell, please contact me, Dede at 303-667-6212. See you at the show!!