Collecting Postcards
    BY James F. Leiner
    FEB 2017
    Do you have a hobby? Many people do. You might guess one of my hobbies is Nyack History. I
    enjoy researching about the people of Nyack. One of my other hobbies goes along with my love
    of history; collecting postcards. I am sure you’ve heard the expression, “a picture is worth a
    thousand words.” This might be an exaggeration, but photographs are a fascinating and important
    source of primary information about not only Nyack’s past, but just about any hometown across
    America. Postcards are an easy to find and relatively inexpensive way to collect photos of what
    Rockland County looked like years ago.
    From the 1890’s to the early 1950’s, picture postcards were a major means of communication.
    Sending a penny postcard (wow has the price of postage gone up) was an excellent way to let the
    folks back home know when and where you went on vacation. During those times an infinite
    variety of picturesque local scenes were captured forever on postcards. The cards showed the
    pride of a particular location, some of the most beautiful landscapes and views of the area. There
    are Postcards of the town or village’s major hotels, churches, and schools. You can find views of
    Main Street, Broadway, the trains and steamboats who brought tourists and travelers to the
    village. In Nyack, one of the prominent photographers of the early 20th Century was Norman
    Burke. His studio was on Broadway just south of Main. He not only took photographs of Nyack
    and the residents, he put them on postcards and sold them for a penny. Some of his works like
    the scant few postcards of the New York National Guard units practicing their shooting at Camp
    Bluefields are sought-after collectibles today.
    In our face-paced life today, a three minute phone call or a quick text has replaced postcards.
    Today we can snap photos while on vacation and in a mere few minutes have them sent home to
    a friend or posted on a social media site. Oh, you can still buy a postcard if you look hard
    enough, but few are sold around Rockland today. No, the postcards of today are not very useful,
    but over the past 15 to 20 years, picture postcard collecting has become a popular hobby in
    Rockland County. There are even postcard clubs in the area where members meet to buy and sell
    cards and learn about their history. Many early postcards are fetching prices far in excess of their
    original value. Views of early Nyack are in demand. Postcards of the Hook Mountain Quarry,
    the Clarkstown Country Club and the disastrous fires in Nyack like the Harrison-Dalley
    Department Store and Analine Plant Explosion can bring a pretty price. Early cards of the
    Christian Herald Camp for children have also become collectible. Some of the rarest cards are
    the Norman Burke postcards of Nyack people from the early 20th century. Fortunately for an
    historian like me, postcards are a valuable source of history being brought down from musty
    attics, sold and carefully preserved rather than being tossed into the trash. I can find picture
    postcards from as old as 1900 at postcard shows around the New York and New Jersey and even
    across the country, and, of course, postcards are for sale on Ebay and Craig’s List as well as
    inter-net sights of larger postcard dealers.
    So, maybe like me you will start a Postcard collection. A good place to start is at the Nyack
    Library. In the local history room you will find a collection of several hundred Nyack postcards.
    No, they are not for sale, but you can get an idea of what cards might be found. You might want
    to attend a monthly meeting of the Rockland/Bergen Postcard Club. The club meets the 1st
    Wednesday of every month at the Pearl River Library’s Community Room starting around 7 PM.
    Members almost always have Postcards from all over our area for sale and can provide you with
    places to look. There are Postcard Shows in the area. One of the closest is the Half Moon Show
    held each May in Orange County. One of the largest Postcard Show Producers is a company
    called Mary Martin Productions. Google the name and you will find the location of their shows
    all over the country. You can always purchase postcards on line. Just a word of caution: shop
    around on the different sites. Prices for Nyack postcards can be a bit higher on-line than you will
    find at some postcard shows.
    I hope you might be interested in cleaning the attic or basement and start collecting
    postcards. You can always get in touch with me for some advice or with questions about
    Postcards. Of course there are “thousands” of other picture postcards available. One of my wife’s favorite collections is “Ladies in Red Dresses.” Lots of fun.