William H. “Dad” Martin of Ottawa, Kansas, is considered to be the father of the exaggerated postcard.
Some of his better work featured huge ears of corn, giant apples and peaches, stalks of wheat taller than any man, and massive pumpkins uprooting a farmstead.
Such cards were hugely successful throughout the Great Plains states where agriculture was the life’s blood of rural America.
W. H. Martin moved to Ottawa in 1900 to serve as an apprentice under E. H. Corwin.
Eight short years later, Martin purchased Corwin’s studio and began crafting the tall tale postcards that would eventually make him a millionaire.
This week, we feature one of Martin’s exaggerated Real Photo postcards titled “Prosperity.”
It depicts then-President Theodore Roosevelt on the back of a train, addressing a throng of people, flanked by huge onions, potatoes, cabbage and ears of corn. It was produced by Martin’s studio in 1909.
The exaggerated image is achieved by the photographer taking two black and white pictures of his subject, one a wide shot and the other a close-up.
The enlarged close-up would be cut, placed, and then glued over the wide shot, creating the illusion of giant ears of corn or men dwarfed by huge animals, such as fish, squirrels, birds or rabbits.
This card is an excellent example of the genre that Martin worked hard to establish. At the zenith of its short, four-year existence, Martin Postcard Company reportedly produced more than seven million exaggerated real photo postcards.
They were so popular that other postcard companies reproduced the images without permission and stamped their brand on the back and sold them as their own.
Martin also owned the North American Postcard Company of Kansas City, Missouri, which widely produced Real Photo postcards of views in and around the Kansas City area.