Photographing Freetowns: African American Kentucky Through the Lens of Helen Balfour Morrison, 1935-1946

Postcards of the Kentucky Bluegrass

Between 1898 and 1974, the Chicago-based Curt Teich Company produced over 2.5 million postcard images of late 19th and 20th century American towns, rural areas, and scenic locations. In the 1920s and 1930s, the company printed a number of views of the Kentucky horse country, including images of the specific farms that Helen Morrison photographed. The cards displayed here represent two lithographic processes, “C. T. American Art Colored” and “C. T. Art Colortone.”

Teich postcard images depict different, more romantic views than Helen Morrison's photographs. Interested in the people who worked on the farms, Morrison uses the bucolic scenery as a backdrop. The postcards intentionally omit people, choosing to focus on the landscape, architecture, and winning horses. In fact, company artists removed the African American groom who held Man O'War's reins in the original photograph from which the postcard was made.

The Curt Teich Postcard Archives Collection, widely regarded as the largest public collection of postcards and related materials in the United States, was acquired by the Newberry in 2016.
 

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