Advertising postcards were social media of the day

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News

“This house roofed by Northwest Ready Roofing Company,” reads the description on the front of this postcard showcasing the Northwest Ready Roofing Company of Kansas City, Mo.

The back of the card indicates all of the company’s work is guaranteed and all employees are covered by liability insurance. Located at 3332 Michigan, the company specializes in diamond point roofing shingles that are mineral surfaced.

The image shown on the card seems to be a fashionable, two-story home with stucco or gunite siding, sporting a new diamond point shingle roof. Such postcards were an integral part of the landscape almost since the introduction of Private Mailing Cards at the Chicago Exposition in 1893.

During what is known at the “golden age” of postcards between 1907 and 1915, millions of postcards were produced bearing images of everything from street scenes, animals, buildings, tranquil parks and of course, advertising for businesses. E.H. Corwin Studios in Ottawa, Kan., was one of the most prolific advertising and Real Photo Postcard publishers of the era. The studio was purchased by W.H. “Dad” Martin in 1895 and became one of the region’s most successful postcard companies in the country, cranking out over 10,000 Real Photo and exaggeration postcards a day at its peak in 1908.

Martin also owned the North American Postcard Company headquartered in Kansas City. Photographers working for Martin and other card producers would walk along the city’s boulevards and streets taking portrait photos of local businesses and prominent homes. The pictures would be developed, made into postcards, then a salesman would call on the business and sell the card back to the business for advertising purposes. Such cards were used by car dealers, churches, window and sash manufacturers and most any business interested in cultivating their customer base – much like email and social media is used today.

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