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Exaggeration and Tall-Tale Postcards

Since picture postcards were first created, they have been instrumental in documenting a locality’s history. Dating from 1905-1950, exaggerated and tall-tale postcards originated from the pioneer bravado of the western expansion and were extremely popular in the Great Plains and rural communities hoping to form an identity for themselves as a place of agricultural wealth.

Exaggeration and Tall-Tale Postcards

These postcards promoted agrarian and wildlife benefits to a public that was aware of the exaggerations, and were used to facetiously advertise the products and unique aspects of a region. The common theme among the postcards was immensity; fishing, hunting and riding oversized animals, harvesting gigantic fruits and vegetables, or wheeling in massive sheaves.

While exaggeration postcards illustrated an object of disproportionate size, the tall-tale postcard added a caption, bringing the whole scene to life with anecdotal referential humor. The most well-know creators of these cards were Alfred Stanley Johnson, Jr., and William H. Martin. They created their masterpieces using trick photography, usually taking two black and white pictures, one a wide shot and the other a close-up. The enlarged close-up image was then cut and glued over the wide shot to create the embellished result.

Titles such as "Great Sport Fishing Here" and "Harvesting a profitable crop of onions in Kansas" helped further the intent of the image. Other designers painted their unlikely scenes or used a combination of photography and painting (an early day exercise in Photoshopping!).

Exaggeration and Tall-Tale Postcards

Larger than Life: The American Tall Tale Postcard, 1905-1915 by Morgan Williams is a great volume on the exaggeration postcard, capturing “many facets of life in turn-of-the-century, small-town America and vividly bears witness to a unique form of creativity.” To check out more of legend William H. Martin’s work, visit

By the way, all the images illustrating this blog post come from Brenda's wonderful collection - check out her website for many more!

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Posted by on 29 Nov, 2012

23 comments so far

moonlessnite, Canada
Hahaha! And we were always told pcitures dont lie!
Posted by moonlessnite on 29 Nov, 2012

9teen87, United States of America
Great blog post! :D
Posted by 9teen87 on 29 Nov, 2012

phuleshouse, Canada
Love these larger than life tales
Posted by phuleshouse on 29 Nov, 2012

postmuse, United States of America
I like the mailart look of those kinds of cards! A friend of mine does a mailart sort of exaggeration postcard she calls Tiny Town. There are a number of them on her blog,
Posted by postmuse on 29 Nov, 2012

bornokyo, Philippines
Nice post, I would love to have one of those.
Posted by bornokyo on 29 Nov, 2012

micklpickl, United States of America
Ooh, I love these! We still see a lot of these for sale in shops in Texas. Here's one I sent of Hope, Arkansas and its large melons:
Posted by micklpickl on 29 Nov, 2012

marica_t, United States of America
Haha, these are very amusing! :D
Posted by marica_t on 29 Nov, 2012

ganderson, Australia
Wow what great cards. I would love one .
Posted by ganderson on 29 Nov, 2012

rosenbusch, Germany
Funny postcards. I like them....
Posted by rosenbusch on 29 Nov, 2012

geminiscp, Portugal
cute cards! :D
Posted by geminiscp on 29 Nov, 2012

fisherman, Ireland
Love the fishy one
Posted by fisherman on 29 Nov, 2012

hmthompson, United States of America
Exaggeration ??? How pointedly ironic in view of Postcrossing's official list of actively participating countries and list of users for each nation. Both of these lists are archaically outdated and inaccurate. Your statistics require updating/culling to reflect true numbers. What do you gain by citing incorrect
overblown information?
Posted by hmthompson on 29 Nov, 2012

linku, Germany
Posted by linku on 30 Nov, 2012

Nells250, United States of America
I have a few cards like those, but from the east coast of the USA. One has a huge potato on a flatcar in Maine. That top card uses model railroad cars and real corn!
Posted by Nells250 on 30 Nov, 2012

zeroday, United States of America
I love these cards. I have seen some like these offered on eBay...
Posted by zeroday on 1 Dec, 2012

alterego, Canada
These are hilarious! I love them. I wonder about the contest cited in Brenda's blog, though; is the date meant to be facetious? There is no November 31!!
Posted by alterego on 1 Dec, 2012

9teen87, United States of America
my bad, I have this months winner, and now it is Decembers turn :D
Posted by 9teen87 on 1 Dec, 2012

medusa242, United States of America
Posted by medusa242 on 2 Dec, 2012

AdirondackJoe, United States of America
Love these postcards! Might have to pick a few for the collection...
Posted by AdirondackJoe on 5 Dec, 2012

nugget, United States of America
Fun article! Made me think of the Jackalope cards found in my area.
Posted by nugget on 6 Dec, 2012

antintin, China
It reminds me of China's Great leap movement's poster,such as this one
Posted by antintin on 8 Dec, 2012

Dive, Netherlands
I like those cards!
Posted by Dive on 31 Dec, 2012

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