Postcards from the Great Smoky Mountains

In the early to mid-twentieth century postcards were an essential component of the travel experience for many visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains. While cameras and photography in general were financially out of reach for some, postcards were a readily accessible medium for sharing travel experiences with others. Before the introduction of color photography, postcards with color images were tinted versions of black and white pictures. They depicted mountain scenes more true to life than did amateur snapshots. As important as the image on the front of the postcard, the reverse captured the personal message of the sender, often an intimate moment in time.

Postcards from The Great Smoky Mountains has been formed by selecting postcards from a variety of manuscript collections, primarily the Ridley Willis Postcard Collection (MS. 3781). The online collection contains souvenir accordion-style folders as well as the fronts and backs of individual postcards. Several prominent photographers, including Jim Thompson and Walter Cline, and Smoky Mountain residents like Jack Huff are represented in the collection. The images document prominent landmarks, geographic features, and man-made improvements such as roads complete with vintage automobiles.