Some months ago, we received a message from Janna (aka revode) who told us about her visit to a wonderful postcard exhibition at the Porter County Museum in Indiana! Sadly, we couldn’t go there ourselves… but the cheeky Little Mail Carriers were happy to jump in and volunteer for a guided tour. 😍 Here is the report from their latest adventure!
Hello everyone! We have arrived at the Porter County Museum in Valparaiso, Indiana! We heard that the PoCo Muse has an exhibit with hundreds of postcards on display until January 7, 2024 so we decided to come check it out!
The Porter County Museum was founded in 1916 and has over 20,000 objects in their collection related to the history and culture of Porter County, Indiana. With so many objects in the collection they rotate through what is on display frequently in order to tell as many stories as possible. When we visited, the Robert Cain Gallery was featuring art from the museum’s collection, the Eunice Slagle Gallery had the exhibit “Connections: Take a Closer Look”, and the Montague/Urshel Gallery featured (the exhibit that we traveled here for) “Ever Yours: Postcards from the Golden Age”.
Before searching out the postcards, we explored the Robert Cain Gallery, admiring the work of many Porter County artists who worked to capture scenes from the area. The art in the Cain Gallery rotates out every three months, so that there are always new things to see.
Walking through the museum to get to the postcards, we had to journey through the “Connections” exhibit where seemingly different objects from the museum’s collection are paired together with a variety of connections between them. This concept allows for a wide range of objects to be on display. Did you know that there has been a Popcorn Festival in Valparaiso every September since 1979?
One of the first objects we came across in “Connections” was just our size! It is a scale model of the Maxwell/Remster Dairy Barn which was made by John Remster Sr. for his son John Remster Jr. in the 1950s. The barn can be opened up and played with and has been played with by every generation of the Remster family since its creation! Unfortunately, the barn it is modeled after no longer exists, though the milk house that was connected still stands.
These two pieces are connected by being not the final product. The linocut block (right) shows the artist, Hazel Hannell’s home that was in Furnessville, IN. No prints made from this block are known to exist, though you never know what might be in someone’s attic. The “Brenda Starr Reporter” comic strip was written and illustrated by Dale Messick who lived in Ogden Dunes, IN and inserted many local and personal references into her strip. The comic is in the final stage when it comes to the artist but not for the reader who ultimately would have seen this in the newspaper.
I swear that dog is watching us… 🤨
Check out this postmark stamp! It is from a town that no longer exists! The Tassinong Post office was founded the year after Porter County was founded in 1836, making it one of the earliest European settlements in the region. By 1884, almost all of the Porter County post offices were receiving their mail by rail, Tassinong was one of two still serviced by horseback. At the turn of the 20th century, when the Kankakee Marsh was being drained, the people of Tassinong refused to allow a proposed rail line to come to their town. The railroad, instead, bypassed the village and promoted a new town called Kouts. In 1903 the Tassinong post office was discontinued with all of the people relocating to somewhere serviced by rail.
Can you imagine checking someone out on this cash register? This is a nickel plate brass National Cash Register manufactured in 1914 sold to Wark’s Hardware in Valparaiso. The register worked perfectly at Wark’s until the early 1990s when someone broke into the store and broke the machine. Mr. Wark was not one to throw things away just because they didn’t work, so he disconnected one of the cash drawers from the machine and then it became a very large cash drawer until the store closed in the early 2000s.
Turns out she WAS watching us! This is Daisy the taxidermied dog and her eyes follow you! She is 90 years young and belonged to Helen Slanger of Portage, IN. She has been in the museum’s collection since the 1970s and has become an unofficial icon of the museum.
After journeying through ‘Connections’, we finally made it to “Ever Yours: Postcards from the Golden Age” — the exhibition we had been looking for! I don’t think that that postcard will fit in a regular mail slot…
Did you know that the first postcard was created in 1869!?
The PoCo Muse has over 2000 postcards in their collection. How did they narrow it down to the couple hundred on display? The wall of postcards that are behind us here were all received by one man, John Griffin, from Valparaiso, IN!
Did you know that approximately 1 billion penny postcards were sent every year between 1907 and 1915?
All of these flip books have both sides of a historic postcard with transcriptions! This one is a real photo postcard showing Lila and Thaddeus Whitlock posing with their dog Maxie. Lila sent this to her daughter Olive who was studying Nursing in Iowa in 1912. It is nice to see that people have felt conflicted about their selfies from the beginning; “I was so engaged in trying to keep Maxie still, I forgot to look pleasant.”
The exhibit makes the comparison of postcards to social media of today. The message is public since there is no envelope, the amount of text is limited to the space available on the card, and it is accompanied by an image which might be compared to today’s use of memes. Just like social media today there was pushback to the use of postcards with detractors saying that postcards symbolize “the triumph of the commonplace.”
This binder of postcards shows an individual’s collection of historic postcards that they loaned for the exhibit. In the early 20th century it was common to invite guests over and flip through your postcard collection. Similar to showing friends vacation photos.
After reading all of those postcards it was nice to color some for ourselves. Plus once we are done coloring the booklet, it can be turned into a postcard — just tape it shut and add a stamp on the back! On the wall above, the many postcards sent to the museum are on display, which helps to show that postcards are still thriving today! Hurray! 🎉
Thank you to the wonderful team at the Porter County Museum, and especially Visitor Experience Manager Quinn, for opening their arms to the Little Mail Carriers and showing them around. If you’re in the area, the exhibition will be there until January 7th, so don’t miss it!
The little ones are back on their envelope and on their way to their next adventure… who knows where they’ll pop up!