Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Exaggeration Cards

Minnesota has Paul Bunyan and Babe, the Blue Ox. Florida has its gators, the world’s largest reptiles. And, of course, they say that everything is larger than life in Texas. But in California, home of the world’s tallest trees and an agricultural wonderland, it’s the plant life—cultivated or wild—that grows really, really big.

Image manipulations began long before the digital magic of Photoshop made it possible for everyone to become visual fantabulists and tellers of tall tales. A prime example can be seen in the exaggeration (tall tale) postcards that first appeared in Fresno in 1905. The appeal of outsized produce and livestock struck a chord throughout the West, where many printers began publishing “Bunyonesque cards utilizing props and darkroom legerdemain,” as Lewis Baer of the San Francisco Post Card Club has described the cards.

CHS’s exaggeration cards are pristine, never-scribbled-on, and never-mailed examples of the maker’s craft. They are mostly the productions of the San Francisco printer Edward H. Mitchell. Part of CHS’s Kemble Collections on WesternPrinting and Publishing, these and more postcards are accessible to researchers in the North Baker Research Library at our headquarters in San Francisco.

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