The Oct. 1, 2021 Now & Then in Ripon column featured two postcards from the early 1900’s of Ripon with “trick photography.”
One was of Watson Street with a street car that never existed and the other was the same photograph showing a “skyscraper,” where Patina Vie is now located at 205 Watson St., that was never located in Ripon.
Diane Egbert of Green Lake and author of “Dartford Days, A Postcard History of Early Green Lake, Wisconsin” contacted the Ripon Historical Society with more information on these altered photographs.
“Both cards were made by the postcard photographer Harris Montgomery (1880-1944),” Egbert noted. “They would date between about 1909 and 1917. During those years he was living in Hartford, Wis., and traveling extensively throughout Wisconsin to take photographs for his postcard business.”
Egbert also noted that Montgomery used the same tall buildings, trolley car, steam boat and biplane “in scenes of many Wisconsin downtowns.”
She went on to state that “I have seen the tall building superimposed on Berlin’s Huron Street shown in a photograph at least three or four times.”
Today, this type of photographic changes would be easy to create using software platform programs like Photoshop on a computer. However, years ago “photo manipulation” and “trick photography” were more complicated and required a lot of time and money.
Montgomery attended the Illinois College of Photography in Effingham.
“An ambitious, creative and energetic man, he put 164,000 miles in seven years on his 1908 KisselKar while photographing Wisconsin communities,” Egbert’s book noted. “In 1909, he hired an assistant, Joe Seidl, whom he trained in the photography business. They did their darkroom work in the low-ceilinged basement of Montgomery’s house.”
Why were the photographs placed onto postcards?
Postcards were very popular between the late 1800s and into the 1920s. The years between 1907 to 1915 was known as the “Golden Age of Postcards.”
Postcards were used like the modern day phone text; they were a quick and easy way to keep in touch or deliver a short message.
The U.S. Post Office estimated that a billion postcards were mailed each year during the peak years of the postcard craze. In 1898, Congress changed the rate of postage on postcards to $0.01. Soon, postcards became known as “penny postcards.”
The rate changed to $0.02 between 1917 and 1919 and 1925 to 1928, but remained at $0.01 until 1952.
The Ripon Historical Society has a large collection of penny postcards which were mailed for everything from saying hello and expressing brief information to extending birthday, anniversary, and holiday wishes.
The Ripon Historical Society is the oldest continually operating historical society in Wisconsin.
It is temporarily closed due to COVID-19. For more information follow it at Facebook/riponhistory or www.riponhistory.org or leave a message at 920- 748-5354 to request an appointment in person.