Guide to the Jan Wolff Collection of New York City Photographic Postcards

Summary
Collection ID:
NMAH.AC.1165
Creators:
Rotary Photo
Frange, William
Fairchild Aerial Surveys
Brown Bros.
Wolff, Jan
Jonas (L.) & Co., Inc. (Woolworth Bldg., New York City)
Dates:
circa 1927-1930
Languages:
English
Some materials in German.
Collection is in English.
Physical Description:
0.33 Cubic feet
1 box, 53 items
Repository:
Photographic postcards collected by Dr. Rudolf Wolff, a pediatrician from Krefeld, Germany during a trip to the United States in the early 1930's and brought back to America when the family immigrated in 1936.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The collection consists of fifty three photographic postcards of New York City buildings and landmarks, including aerial views. The postcards were collected by Dr. Rudolf Wolff, a pediatrician from Krefeld, Germany during a trip to the United States in the early 1930s and brought back to America when the family immigrated in 1936. The cards are arranged into four series by the company that published or printed the materials.
System of Arrangement: The collection is arranged into four series.
Series 1, Cards published by the Franco-American Novelty Company, New York, consists of three items. The Franco-American Novelty Company was established in 1910 at 1209 Broadway in New York City. The cards published under this company's name have the same set numbering convention as series 4 and one is marked "Printed in England", suggesting they were printed by Rotary Photo. Series 2, Cards published by William Frange, New York, consists of two cards. William Frange was a New York photographer who sold photographs to other publishers and published cards himself. His slogan, printed on the cards, was "Real Photographs, New York's Best Views". The cards in this group were printed in England.
Series 3, Cards printed in Germany published by L. Jonas & Company, Woolworth Building, New York, includes sixteen cards. The L. Jonas Company ran the observatory at the Woolworth Building. Most of the postcards in this series were published by them. No German printer is named but the cards in this set have a numbering convention differing from those printed in England.
Among these materials are eight cards copyrighted by photographer Irving Underhill (1872 -1960) whose studio was located at 17 Park Place in New York City. He became a leading contributor of images for many different postcard publishers. Underhill opened his studio in 1896, specializing in "artistic portraits, city views and panoramas, group photographs, marine, legal and machinery photography." He was so successful that his agency received exclusive commissions to photograph and promote new buildings like the Woolworth Building, which he would capture in timed intervals to track the construction process. One postcard has a copyright date of 1927 on the image, helping to establish the dates of this collection.
Photographs on three other cards in this set are copyrighted by photographer William Frange. Other cards include a photograph from the New York Central Railroad and a theater photograph from the Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation.
Series 4, Cards printed in England by Rotary Photo and published by L. Jonas & Company, Woolworth Building, New York, consists of thirty two cards. These materials were printed by Rotary Photo in England. Rotary Photographic Company, founded in 1899, was located at 23 Moorefields, London, England. It produced a wide variety of greetings and postcards as real photographs. These cards were manufactured in Great Britain and issued under many trade names. They also made photograph cards for other publishers as shown by the example above. In 1921 they became one of seven companies that joined together to form Amalgamated Photograph Manufacturing Ltd., and they are now part of Illford.
This series includes four photographs credited to Brown Brothers. Large publishers became desperate for photographs trying to meet the ever increasing demands of the postcard-collecting public. This generated a new type of business that would warehouse negatives and sell them on request. Brown Brothers was the first such company, founded in 1904 with a staff of twelve photographers. At first they targeted large newspapers, which at this time often did not have their own photographers. They went on to supply postcard publishers with images as well. They were a forerunner to the stock photography industry. There are also four photos taken from an "aeroplane" credited to Fairchild Aerial Surveys.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into four series.
Series 1: Cards published by the Franco-American Novelty Company, New York Series 2: Cards published by William Frange, New York
Series 3: Cards printed in Germany published by L. Jonas & Company
Series 4: Cards printed in England by Rotary Photo and published by L. Jonas & Company

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
The first known photographic postcard made its appearance in 1899, but this type of card did not gain popularity until George Eastman marketed Velox developing out paper in 1902, which was a heavy stock that resisted curling and could be preprinted with a postcard back.
Most of the postcards during the early 1900s were printed in Europe, primarily in Germany, where the printing technology was considered the best. Imports dropped after the start of World War One, and from 1915 more printing was concentrated in England and the United States. White border cards were developed at this time, and they were popular until 1930.
The printing of the photographer's or manufacturer's name on the back of real photos was an expensive proposition. This practice was only cost effective on cards printed in large numbers.
A postcard may have a number of different names printed on it. The most common name is that of the publisher who commissions the postcard and supplies the image. The next name is that of the printer who manufactures the card. The photographer who supplied the initial image may have his name on the card, often next to the picture.
One of the largest categories of postcards was those produced for tourist consumption, and they mostly consisted of views. This collection of New York landmarks falls into that category.
Sources
History of the Real Photo Postcard http://www.metropostcard.com/card07realphoto.html
Rotary Photographic Company 1899-1921 http://www.metropostcard.com/publishersr1.html
Irving Underhill http://theboweryboys.blogspot.com/2009/08/picture-perfect-irving-underhill-and.html
Brown Brothers, New York, New York http://www.metropostcard.com/publishersb2.html
NYPL Fairchild Aerial Surveys Collection http://iarchives.nysed.gov/PubImageWeb/listCollections.jsp?id=67854
The Fairchild Story http://web.whittier.edu/fairchild/home.html

Administration
Processing Information
Processed by Christine Windheuser (volunteer) and Ryan Monahan (intern), March, 2010; supervised by David Haberstich, archivist.
Author
Christine Windheuser
Immediate Source of Acquisition
This collection was donated by Jan Wolff, son of Dr. Rudolf Wolff.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Jan Wolff Collection of New York City Photographic Postcards, ca. 1928-1930, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research.

Custodial History
Custodial History
Collected by Rudolf Wollf, the father of Jan Wolff, the donor. Rudofl Wolff was a pediatrician in Krefeld, Germany.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Postcards -- 1920-1930 Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs -- Black-and-white photoprints -- Silver gelatin -- 1920-1930 Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Picture postcards -- 1920-1930 Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographic postcards Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Woolworth Building (New York, N.Y.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012
archivescenter@si.edu
http://americanhistory.si.edu/archives