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African American women real photo postcards

 Collection — Folder: 1
Identifier: C0396

Scope and Content

A group of 25 real photo postcard portraits of African American women, in both studio and informal settings. Professional portraits were taken in a variety of locations including Riter’s Studio in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Peoples Photo Studio in Parkersburg, West Virginia, Bell Studio in New York City, New York, Elite Studio in Farrell, Pennsylvania, and Hoover Studios in Carlisle & Newville, Pennsylvania. Other possible locations include Cincinnati and Cleveland, Ohio, Morgantown, West Virginia, Savannah, Georgia, and Chicago, Illinois. Many contain personal inscriptions and identifications written on the back, and one is largely covered with black backing paper residue on top of pencil markings and drawings, likely from a child.

Date range estimates are based on stamp box markings where possible (see “How to Date Real Photo Postcards” for more information).


  • Creation: circa 1910s-1940s


Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions.

Use Restrictions

The copyright and related rights status of this collection have not been evaluated (See

Historical Information

In 1903, Eastman Kodak Company released a new camera to capitalize on the current global interest in postcards: the No. 3A Folding Pocket Kodak. This small camera was portable and designed specifically for postcard sized film, allowing the real photographic images to be printed directly onto a blank card, making it possible, and affordable, for anyone to create their own, mailable postcards, either for personal use or as a business. As such, the subjects of real photo postcards were widely varied, including slices of everyday life, such as local shops and humorous antics, but the majority served as formal family portraits to distribute to friends and relatives.

In the early 20th century, there was also an increased emphasis on capturing photographs that portrayed Black subjects respectfully and affirmingly. Within the African American community, posing for a photograph was a way to push back against the overly “sympathetic” images captured by earlier white photographers and counteract racist caricatures. The affordability of Kodak’s postcard camera increased the ability for African American families and individuals to commission and share personal and family images on their own terms.


.1 Linear Feet (1 folder)

Language of Materials



A group of 25 real photo postcard portraits of African American women, in both studio and informal settings.


This is a single folder collection.

Physical Location

R 72, C 3, S 6

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Schubertiade Music by Lynn Eaton in April 2023.

Related Materials

The Special Collections Research Center holds many other portrait and general photography collections such as the Jack Rottier photograph collection.

The Thomas Balch Library holds many collections of photographs documenting Black history in Loudoun County and Northern Virginia.


Hill, Samantha. 2021. “How Black People in the 19th Century Used Photography as a Tool for Social Change.” School of Information, University of Michigan (blog). March 1, 2021.

“How to Date Real Photo Postcards.” 2017. Sports Collectors Daily. September 5, 2017.

“Real Photo Postcards.” n.d. Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Accessed October 4, 2023.

“These Pictures by Early African-American Photographers Did More Than Capture a Moment.” 2019. Time. March 5, 2019.

Processing Information

Processing and finding aid completed by Meghan Glasbrenner from September - October 2023.

Guide to African American women real photo postcards
African American women real photo postcards
Meghan Glasbrenner
October 12, 2023
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections Research Center Repository

Fenwick Library, MS2FL
4400 University Dr.
Fairfax Virginia 22030 United States
703-993-8911 (Fax)