Publisher’s Note: Historical Images


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A new book spotlights rarely seen postcards from Fort Payne’s storied past.

For more than a century, postcards served two main purposes: to provide a cheap souvenir of places visited or a quick note to family and friends back home. They were essentially the pre-cell-phone version of social media apps like Instagram or SnapChat. “Hey, look where I’m at.”

Because they are tangible, postcards have value in terms of being collectible as an art form as well as for their historical significance.

Deltiology, the official name for postcard collecting, falls just behind coin and stamp collecting in the list of most popular collectible hobbies.

The evolution of the postcard is long and complex because of federal post office regulations, but the short version is the first copyrighted postcard in the United States appeared in 1861.

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[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()]It was not until 1907 that regulations allowed note writing on the address side of the postcard. In 1908, more than 667 million postcards passed through U.S. post offices – simply an amazing number considering the population was a mere 88 million.

Postcards depicting places and scenes from rural towns and lesser-known tourist areas are fewer in number than those from higher-population areas and nationally known attractions – and often are rarely seen by the general public because they are usually in the hands of collectors or private individuals.

But now, thanks to a series of postcard books from Acadia Publishing, many of these postcards can be seen and enjoyed by the masses. The latest book in this genre to hit the store shelves focuses on Fort Payne, Ala.

DeKalb Tourism president and CEO John Dersham, who is a regular contributor to this magazine, contracted with Arcadia Publishing to produce a Fort Payne postcard book. The 120-plus-page book contains more than 200 images.

Postcards in the book range from Fort Payne’s “boom period” of the late 1800s to the modern era. The majority of the postcards and historical content were provided by DeKalb County native and postcard collector Collins Kirby.

Dersham considers the book important because it helps tell the city’s history.

“There has been a lot of history written about Fort Payne, but there has never been a postcard history book,” Dersham says. “There has never been a way for the population of Fort Payne to have a retrospect on actual postcards. These cards have been out of print long enough that the average citizen has probably never seen them.”

Among the images are photos of government buildings, schools, churches, motels, downtown street views, Desoto State Park, Little River Canyon and past attractions like Manitou Cave, Sequoyah Caverns and Canyon Land Park, which is no longer in existence.

Some of the postcards were actually mailed and have writing on them.

“Each image in the book has a paragraph or text with it telling about the era from which the postcard originated,” Dersham says. “Many people are very visual, so they are going to love the images, and there is enough text with it to give it some perspective.”

Dersham says in addition to Kirby, Landmarks of DeKalb board members Olivia Cox and Judy Brown as well as Dr. Stephen Brewer and former judge David Rains provided a great deal of assistance with the book. Local stores that are carrying the book include The Book Shelf, Big Mill Antiques, Fort Payne Depot Museum and the Little River Canyon Center Gift Shop.

“I think it will also be something that tourists visiting the area will want,” Dersham says. “They will buy it as a keepsake.”

We encourage you to check out the postcard book when you’re in the area.

You can also visit or to order online.

Randy Grider is publisher of Lookout Alabama.