Fred Harvey Postcards of the 1930s

The Detroit Publishing Company, which printed yesterday’s postcards, went bankrupt in 1923. Though it continued to print postcards for Fred Harvey until 1932, it no longer employed photographers to add to its collection of images. Thus, it is likely that most if not all of the postcards shown here were printed by another company, probably Curt Teich.

Click images to download PDFs of these postcards.

This white-bordered postcard showing Canyon de Chelly appears to be the oldest one here, as it uses Fred Harvey’s older logo and says Canyon de Chelly is in the Navaho Indian Reservation. In 1931, the canyon was made into a national monument, though still part of the reservation. Since this isn’t mentioned on the card, it is likely from the late 1920s or 1930.

This card and the next must date between 1932 and 1934, as the Watchtower wasn’t built until 1932 and Gunnar Widforss, who painted the two pictures, died at the young age of 55 in 1934. Widforss was a native of Sweden who came to the United States in 1921 where he painted watercolors of scenes in Yosemite, Crater Lake, Yellowstone, and many other parks, but his favorite was the Grand Canyon.

The Park Service says that these are two of ten Widforss paintings of the Grand Canyon that Fred Harvey published as postcards in 1932. The Park Service’s reproductions of nine of the cards (minus the white borders) appear to be in much more colorful than the ones shown here. This could have been because they were in different print runs, or perhaps the colors on the cards shown here have faded.

This linen-style postcard dates from after 1930, when printers started using better paper which allowed for brighter colors. The petrified forest was made a national monument in 1906 and a national park in 1962.

For this card, the printer superimposed the head of a mule over an image of the Grand Canyon. The back of the card contains a poem that is almost a riddle: the mule began working in the park in 1906, has “been around” for 20 years, then retired, “but for thirty-five years I have kicked each day.” So was the poem written 20 years or 35 years after 1906? Twenty years would be a reasonable interpretation if the mule was 15 years old when he began working in the canyon. But according to a paper on Grand Canyon postcards by historian Yolanda Youngs, the card was published by Curt Teich in 1940, which would be 35 years after 1906.

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