Naturalist publishes book of historic Wichita postcards

09/09/2012 6:35 PM

09/09/2012 6:36 PM

At some point in Jim Mason’s life, collecting historic postcards about Wichita went from a casual hobby to obsession.

No problem, he’s turned his collection into a book, “Wichita’s History in Picture Postcards” that features 200 vintage postcards from nearly a century ago.

Mason, who serves as a naturalist at the Great Plains Nature Center, first published a book in 2011 on “Wichita’s Riverside Parks,” chronicling how Wichita has used the areas along its rivers for recreation. In that book he used several historic postcards. And that’s when, he said, he decided to do one documenting Wichita’s history.

“I got serious about doing this about a year ago,” Mason said. “I got the majority of the cards on eBay. But I also got a bunch at the annual postcard show.”

Most cost now between $1 to $5 to buy; older ones in mint condition can claim upwards of $40 or more.

One in particular is his favorite. It shows two families picnicking along the river called Walnut Grove on July 4, 1913.

“That one warms my heart every time I see it,” Mason said. “It is a real photo postcard that somebody took with a camera and went to a local vendor to make into a postcard. It is wonderfully well-exposed. Everybody is smiling. It is almost like everybody is saying ‘Howdy’ from 100 years ago.”

The inspiration for doing the book came from one published in 1976 by three Wichita collectors: Hal Ross, Hal Ottaway and Jack Stewart. Their book was titled: “The Peerless Princess of the Plains.”

Mason’s book shows downtown views, buildings, depots and hotels, residences, churches, hospitals, schools, industries and pastimes of 20th-century Wichitans.

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