In the pre-digital era before cell phones, satellites and the internet allowed travelers to instantly transmit their photos and comments to family and friends, Americans relied on "snail mail" and the picture post card.
More than 200 examples of Kansas City post cards from the '30s and '40s are on display starting Monday, January 21, 2013, in the exhibit Greetings from Kansas City, running through late May in the Central Library, 14 W. 10th. Eli Paul, manager of the library's Missouri Valley Special Collections, discusses the exhibit and the stories behind its images on Wednesday, January 30, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library.
Organized by subject matter, the cards depict hotels, public buildings, parks, the city skyline, amusement parks, and other destinations. In the process they provide a sort of time machine into Kansas City's past.
"These are the cards that Kansas Citians would have sent to the world to explain their city and to express their civic pride," Paul explained. "That became our hook, our story."
The cards on display have been drawn from the Mrs. Sam Ray post card collection in the holdings of the Library's Missouri Valley Collections.
For 23 years Mildred Ray produced a weekly column - A Postcard from Old Kansas City -- in the Kansas City Star and Times. Each column featured a post card from her extensive personal collection; in very personal prose Mrs. Ray wrote about the historic background of each image.
This feature proved so popular with readers that two books based on Mrs. Ray's columns were published.
Mrs. Ray did much of her research in the Missouri Valley Room and upon her death in 1996 at age 100, her collection of 16,000 postcards were turned over to the Library. More than 600 of the cards and accompanying articles are now available to the public through the Missouri Valley Special Collections Digital Gallery.
Eli Paul has served as museum director of the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial and at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is a past senior historian/deputy editor at the Nebraska State Historical Society. Paul is the author of the Robert M. Utley Award-winning book Blue Water Creek and the First Sioux War.
Admission is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available at the Library District Parking Garage at 10th & Baltimore.
Major funding for programs at the Kansas City Public Library is provided by a generous grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.