Postcards are a window into the past. In the early 1900s, sending a postcard was like sharing a Facebook post. It seemed like everyone was doing it. We found some great examples of vintage postcards of Michigan small towns worth a quick peek.
Despite the size, color, and other restrictions, postcard manufacturing exploded in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Postcards were popular because they allowed people to communicate quickly and easily.
The Postmaster-General issued Order No. 539 in 1907, allowing messages on the left half of the address side of government-produced postcards. The Divided Back Period, which lasted from 1907 to 1915, was ushered in by these alterations to postcard backs. Due to the widespread popularity of postcards during this time, the Divided Back Period is also known as the “Golden Age of Postcards.”
Today, deltiology (the study of postcards) is a popular pastime, and many people collect postcards of their favorite states or places they have visited or grew up. This collection was found on the website SkurfanPostcards on eBay. Note: Most of the postcards on this site are copies of postcards, not orginal.
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Birch Run was established in 1852 as a Pere Marquette Railroad station by John Moore, the first Postmaster. The settlement was named after a brook that passes through a densely forested area. The town was renamed Deer Lick in 1863 and stayed that way until 1868 when it was renamed Birch Run again.
Brown City began as a rail stop on the Port Huron and Northwestern Railway, which ultimately became part of the Pere Marquette Railroad in 1879. The location immediately established itself as a reliable shipping hub for timber and grains. Much of the village was destroyed by the second Great Michigan Thumb fire in 1881. Drought and mounds of trash left by lumber businesses, including sawdust, abandoned dry timber, fallen trees, and dried pulp, were thought to have spread the fire. Brown City began as a town in 1887 and became a city in 1907.
Brown City is recognized as the “Motor Home Capital of the World.” Ray Frank, the proprietor of a small trailer firm, developed and manufactured a small bespoke “house vehicle” that could be driven in 1958. While Frank meant for the car to be used and enjoyed by his family, he changed his mind. It was dubbed his “mobile home” by him and his family. It was a hit at campgrounds, and Frank soon began building motor houses on Dodge truck chassis. Frank had manufactured 131 units by 1961.
The Village of Capac was incorporated in 1873. In 1881, a disastrous fire destroyed most of the buildings in the center of town, but it was rebuilt and thriving by the turn of the century.
Preston Tucker, the designer of the 1948 Tucker Sedan, was born near Capac in 1903. He lived in Detroit and founded Preston Tucker Corporation. In 1949 he went on trial for fraud. The movie “Tucker: A Man and His Dream” is about him and his car.
Capac is also known as the home of Kempf Model City, an attraction that, during the turn of the 20th Century, was a top money-maker, touring with carnivals and circuses all over the United States. It featured miniature buildings with lights inside them.
Caro, Michigan, was founded in 1847 as a logging camp on the Cass River.
The Caro Michigan Dam and the surrounding landscape is what one might call “Caro’s Energy Alley”—or “Caro’s Heart”—it is the place in the past and today where raw energy and power have been received and generated, refined, stored, and distributed.
In 1898, Caro Electric Light Works was incorporated under the title of Caro Light & Power Company. There has been a power plant at this site since then.
November 1, 1922, Consumer’s Power Company acquired the Caro Light & Power Company along with the Caro Michigan dam. November 1, 1935, Detroit Edison took ownership and maintained an office in Caro.
In the 1960s, the Caro Michigan dam reservoir, or Caro Lake, was a popular site for boating, fishing, and even water skiing. Today, however, due to budget constraints and changing ownership of the dam itself and its nearby land holdings over several decades, the dam has fallen into languishing and disrepair.
“In 1864, on the site now occupied by the Cass City block a small log schoolhouse, one of the first built in the town of Elkland. It had witnessed the toils and trials of the early settlers, the gradual disappearance of the forest, and the opening up of farms, and within its walls, the minds of many who are now active businessmen and farmers had received their early training. It soon disappeared, and in its place is a thriving village.
About 1866, Nathaniel Clark started a store in a small board shanty on the spot now stands the store occupied by Wilsey & Stewart. This establishment he sold to Jesse Fox shortly after, and he in 1867 to Laing & Weydemeyer, who for some time continued business in the same building. This was the origin and the nucleus of the village, which was platted in 1868 by the estate of John C. Seegar, and called Cass City. The same year a hotel was built by Jesse Fox, and dwelling- houses, stores, and other buildings gradually gathered around.”
Since 1870, Coleman, Michigan, has been a hub of innovation and progress.
In 1871, the building of a sawmill laid the groundwork for a new community to rise. It was called Coleman, named after one of its first citizens, Mr. Thomas Coleman. In 1872, a station of the Pere Marquette Railroad opened, and the population grew exponentially. In 1887, the village of Coleman was incorporated, and in 1905 it was granted city status.
Located in Alcona County, Glennie also was founded during Michigan’s lumbering boom in the 1880s. Today the community remains a small rural town with several small lakes and nearby access to the AuSable River. The area is also a popular choice for outdoor recreation with its proximity to the Huron National Forest, with its numerous winter snowmobile and summer hiking trails.
Hesperia is a settlement in the counties of Newaygo and Oceana. In 1866, the community was platted and documented. Some of the greatest salmon and rainbow trout fishing may be found here. Take a stroll along the main street, stop in to see the local stores, and walk along the riverfront promenade along the White River.
The Manistee National Forest and many interior lakes and streams surround the community, providing opportunities for hunting, hiking, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and ice fishing in the winter.
According to the History of Tuscola and Bay Counties, Mayville wasn’t planned but simply appeared out of the wilderness, apparently starting as a general store. “Here, the pioneer merchant opened his doors and exposed his wares. He had only just returned from the war and was doing a small business in groceries and general backwoods stock.” January 15, 1865, the first bill of goods ever sold in Mayville was sold by H. K. Crittenden to a lady, Mrs. George Cramp. March 31, 1868, William Turner and Leonard Fox platted the village, which has had steady growth from that time to the present.
On June 19, 1873, Mayville was visited by a destructive fire. An entire city block was engulfed and destroyed in only two hours, and five families were homeless. $30,000 (over $700,000 today) worth of property was destroyed.
Port Austin was organized as a township on April 7, 1862. It is one of the oldest settled townships in the county, the European settlers coming about 1837. The land was heavily timbered with oak and beech, which furnished an excellent range for stock, but that was burned off, and the land cleared up. The township has been twice swept by fire, once in 1871 and again in 1881. The last time one-tenth of the township was burned over by the fires of 1871 and 1881. The wind changed during the latter’s progress, driving the fire backward and westward, which saved the town of Port Austin and a large portion of the township.
There are two towns in this township – Port Austin and Grindstone City, both on Lake Huron. The former is located at the mouth of the Bird Creek on Saginaw bay. There is a lake port here where vessels loaded lumber or other products.
Wildman Mills named Sandusky, which was established as a community in 1885. Mills was a lumberman and a major landowner in the region. Sandusky, Ohio, was the inspiration for the city’s name. Mills grew up in Sandusky, Ohio, which his father named after him. The city became the county seat in 1879. Previously, it was in the village of Lexington, where it was founded. The town of Sandusky was renamed Sanilac Centre in 1887. The community was established as a city on July 24, 1905, and the name was changed to Sandusky.
First platted in 1883 by Fayette Walker, who owned all the land in the area. The town grew slowly until 1888, when the Mason and Oceana Railroad extended its line into town. Like most towns in Michigan at the time, the primary industry was lumbering. When the area was deforested, it turned to agriculture. Its location on the railway and proximity to shipping ports on Lake Michigan meant the town had ready access to markets in Chicago and Milwaukee. Today the little town is surrounded by the Huron Manistee National Forest.
The postcards can be purchased on SkurfanPostcards. Skurfan has been in business for over 30 years and buys and sells vintage and interesting postcards.