Across The USA

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Across the USA

At the early years of the 20th century, more than 40% of Americans lived on farms. Fewer than ten percent of households had a telephone; fewer still owned an automobile. Nevertheless, a period of rapid change was beginning. Many more people were “on the move”.

Railroads were expanding at a rapid pace. The Reading Railroad was the world’s largest corporation; soon to be overtaken by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Most persons living in the 21st century have a very limited appreciation of the vast network of railroad
lines that connected cities and towns of all sizes across the nation. Millions of postcards refer to correspondents arriving or departing by train; hundreds of thousands of postcards were postmarked at railway stations.

Around cities, trolley systems linked miles of outlying areas to the city centers. Postcards messages refer to everyday travel for business and pleasure across the network of trolley lines. Trolley companies created “trolley parks” in rural areas at the “end of the Line” and these amusement parks drew thousands of pleasure-seekers each day.

The extent to which families and friends were separated by distances can be tracked in the large volume of interstate communication by postcard.

The dawn of the 20th century saw enormous increases in the number of people traveling for leisure or for recreation.

Camp Meetings, Bible Conferences, and Open Air meetings at resorts like Ocean Grove, NJ or Asbury Park, NJ drew thousands of attendees who had never considered a seaside vacation in the past.

The growth of the ocean-side amusement parks such as Atlantic City of Venice Beach can be traced by observing the vast quantities of souvenir postcards and photographs that were posted each summer day.

And people traveled for enrichment and curiosity.

To entice customers seeking uplift and refreshment, the railroad companies distributed postcard pictures of scenic wonders in the new US National Parks or in other beautiful places reached by rail.

Thus, the curious collector can see in postcards all the ways that people were moving across the

Most importantly, perhaps, are the stories contained in postcard messages:

People moving between states to find employment; young men on threshing crews following the. harvest across the Great Plains of the US and Canada; persons visiting the great exhibitions in St. Louis, California, Chicago, and the Northwest -and deciding to stay.

Through postcards we can experience the delight of visitors and newcomers encountering the climate and crops of California and Florida. We can feel the trepidation of newly-weds setting out on new ventures; we can share the wonder of those who explored historical and natural landmarks for the first time.