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Boston Public Library

Why Boston? Simply, there are some very strange advertising post cards using Boston library images as their base. They are odd, and interesting.
Why so many? These are the sort of cards which pop up in quarter boxes at postcard shows and flea markets.


Much history taken from the BPL web site.

Architect: Charles Follen McKim. Built in 1895. Expanded in 1972; the addition is called the Johnson building, and holds the circulating collection. The McKim building houses the research collection.
This seems odd to me, as it would seem that climate control would be easier in a newer building.

Main (Copley Square)

The postcard is known as a 'Pioneer,' and was published in 1895 by the American Souvenir Company of Boston.
It was lithographed by Armstrong & Company, also of Boston.
It also displays an art museum, Trinity Church, and the New Old South Church.

Interior views

These are views of the Grand Staircase, and its mural Moses Welcoming the Genius of Enlightenment

(L) A Reichner Bros. postcard, with a special metallic German ink which renders windows luminous. When holding the postcard, the effect is striking.

(R) A Valentine & Sons postcard of the inner courtyard.

Exterior views

These postcards are arranged in roughly chronological order. 

Founder's Medal and an inkwell.

Mailed in 1905.

Postcard by Metropolitan News.

A Phostint view adds a trolley car.

Card mailed 1906, 
with horse cart and trolley.

1940s Colourpicture linen card.

1933 Curt Teich linen card.

Chrome postcard from the 1940s or early 1950s.
Annotated 6-21-62.

Newer, linen finish card displays the
entirety of Copley Square.

Chrome postcard from the 1950s or early 1960s.

Artistic renderings

Neither of these cards are easily dated: post-1907 is the most accurate range.


Hugh C. Leighton Card advertises the McPhail Piano Company.
Postmark: 1910.

Shoe advertisement for a store in Muncie, IN.

This card is one of the originals which feature the beanpot logo of Boston's 1907 Old Home Week. This celebration resembled the Homecoming weeks of universities and small town America.

Branch Libraries

The branch system began in 1870. Although the chrome postcard above boasts of 34 branches, the current total is 26.


Brighton is still a free-standing municipality; however, upon its replacement in 1969, the Library became a branch of BPL. Its web page has a nice Flickr show of images of this Gothic building.

American Art Post Card, never mailed. 

Dorchester (Codman Square Reading Room)

The sign over the door reads 'Boston Public Library Codman Square Reading Room.'
The card's caption reads '
Public Library and Reading Room, Dorchester, Mass.'
The library building appears to be Dutch Revival, but has Tudor and Romanesque touches.


Monochrome German cards are scarce: this was produced for the Rotograph Co. of New York City.

Franklin Park

(L) Other postcards call the front section an 'overlook.'
(R) Reighner Bros. card, mailed 1911.


Franklin Park itself was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Apparently the Library function ceased before 1988.

Hyde Park

Opened as the Hyde Park Town Library in 1899: incorporated into BPL in 1912, upon annexation.

Renovated and expanded in 1997-2000. Of course, it's still in use.

Card printed in Germany.

Jamaica Plain

Burned in 1908: replaced in 1911.


This card was mailed in 1906, so may have been a rendering of Curtis Hall.

1911 replacement building: still in use, with a 1936 expansion and a 1963 remodeling. 2015 closure for extensive renovations.

Despite its timing and appearance, this was not a Carnegie building.

The Curt Teich card was mailed in 1919.


Since this postcard was mailed in 1917, it's not entirely clear which building this actually was. Between 1900 and 1918, according to the BPL website, it was located in Old Taft's Tavern Building. In 1918, it moved to a municipal building. It's not impossible that this card, by J.S. Potter, was printed in anticipation.




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