Archive for Thursday, July 27, 2006

Postcard brings back memories

July 27, 2006

Some members of the Votaw family may not even know an exaggerated postcard from Ralph Votaw to his grandfather in Wichita exists.

The postcard has a Eudora 1909 postmark. It was sent by 11-year-old Ralph Votaw of the Hesper community to his grandfather Joseph Votaw in Wichita.

Ruby Blann, Lawrence, submitted the postcard because she knew there were still several family members in the area. She thought they might like to see it.

The postcard reads, "Dear Grandpa, How are you my colt is all right it didn't have the distemper I wish you a very happy Birthday. Ralph V."

Blann said there are approximately 100 direct blood line descendants of Ralph Votaw's father, Irvin, and Irvin's brother Oscar, who are living within about 15 miles of Eudora.

The descendants include Eudora residents Everett Votaw and Blanche Knabe, the brother and sister of Ralph, and Ralph's daughters Eva Lancaster and Lela Morley, who also live in Eudora. Another daughter Dorothy Baldwin lives in Clinton.

According to the Kansas State Historical Society's Web site, Photographer Frank D. "Pop" Conard made montages of giant insects with humans after a swarm of grasshoppers descended on Garden City in 1935. The postcards sold like hotcakes.

A master retoucher, Conard continued to print "hopper whoppers" until his retirement in 1963.

Grasshoppers were enlarged to battle a man, fit on the bed of a pickup, and hold up a train.

Other early twentieth-century photographers also sold altered images. William H. Martin of Ottawa, is considered to be the best at producing exaggerated postcards. His work featured huge ears of corn and peaches, a giant rabbit being tracked by a car, and pumpkins uprooting a farmstead.

Martin's photography studio began experimenting with trick photography around 1908. He was so successful that he established the Martin Post Card Company in 1909 and reportedly produced seven million cards the next year.

Tall tale postcards required creativity and skill. A photographer took two black-and-white pictures: a wide shot and a close-up. The enlarged image would be cut, placed and glued over the wide shot to create the exaggeration. Headlines like "Shipping a Few of Our Peaches" and "Harvesting a profitable crop of onions in Kansas" helped further the flight of fancy.

Considered Western humor, exaggerated postcards were extremely successful in the Great Plains. Their puffery depicted the fertile farming for which many settlers had come to Kansas. They also showed a sense of humor in dealing with disaster in the state.

Blann's postcard was created by Arthur King of King Photo in 1908.

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