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Cool Things - Exaggerated Postcards

Conard postcardKansas photographers with retouching skills and a good sense of humor created these over-the-top postcards.

When a swarm of grasshoppers descended on Garden City in 1935, Frank "Pop" Conard had a vision.

The photographer made a montage of giant insects with humans and sold the postcards 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 20th-century photographers also sold altered images. William  Martin of Ottawa, Kansas, 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 postcardMartin'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 such as "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.

Entry: Cool Things - Exaggerated Postcards

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: November 1996

Date Modified: April 2015

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.