Welcome to our Chicago postcard history website. Our purpose is to be an archive of images of historic Chicago buildings, featuring postcard views and a few blotters and early illustrated billheads. At this time, we cover mostly buildings built before 1950. We cover the City of Chicago proper, and its historic neighborhoods. Suburbs of Chicago are not usually covered, although one or two may slip through! Most postcards will be pre-chrome. There are a few exceptions, specially where we thought the contrast between old & new architecture was striking, or we had new views of an old building. There is also a section of newer restaurant cards, added in response to viewer requests.
We offer these images for postcard collectors, historians, researchers, and anyone else interested in the way Chicago used to look. You will be able to research buildings, landscaping, parks, interior design, architecture, and social practices as well. There are nearly as many interior scenes as exterior, since they give a unique look at life as it was actually lived.
If you are a researcher, author, publisher, or anyone who would like to use one of our images for a project, contact us for more information.
This site is a work in progress, and will never be finished! Please be sure to check back regularly for new cards.
To see a building category, select from the drop-down menus. This takes you to a page of thumbnail views, in roughly alphabetical order. The captions under the images give the name of the building, as well as a postmark date, if the card was sent. Click on a postcard image to see an enlarged view. Click the Next / Previous buttons to look at more enlarged views. To close the enlarged view, click the X at the top right corner of the postcard. To close the text box at the bottom of the card, click on the X in the text box.
If you don’t see the postcard you are looking for, check in the same category under any other names it could have. Also search other categories it could be in. We may have put them into a different category than you would. Always check the category called Street / Aerial Views. Be persistent, it may take some digging to get what you need, if we have it. Everyone categorizes images differently. If all else fails, contact us!
If you find a card that you need to see the back of, you can email us and we will try to help you. At the present time, we are not including detailed historical information such as architects, construction / destruction dates, styles, etc. Our focus on this site will be the images. There are other sources for most of that information. We will have links to a few websites that help with Chicago research, as we find them. Select the Links option from the menu.
Another way to find more information about most buildings is to Google the name. Be sure to enclose the complete name in quotes. Many times, you will find the address, current photos, history, and an actual website.
You will find that a few buildings have several views. This was done for several reasons. We thought you would enjoy seeing the way different artists portrayed them. Many times they do not agree! For those of you doing serious research, the more images you have to study, the more likely you can deduct which view is the way it really was. Many cards also show different angles and surroundings, as well as the relationships between other nearby buildings.
You can help us!
If you find that we have any wrong information listed about a postcard, please contact us. We always appreciate having the most correct information possible.
Our personal collection
A word of explanation about our personal collection. Being more historians than postcard collectors, we set a goal early on to get at least one image of as many Chicago buildings as we could. There are some buildings that may have had hundreds of postcards published of them over the years. We usually don’t feature than one, unless we find an unusual angle or some other interesting feature. We also have a few illustrated billheads in our collection. Mostly, these are of very early buildings that likely never had a postcard made.
You will also note that real photo postcards are scarce in this archive. That is purely a financial decision! Maybe someday…
None of the postcards on our site are for sale. Please DO NOT contact us about the values of our cards, or about values of cards in general. That is not our focus, either here, or in our collection, and we are not experts on values. You will note that many of the cards are not in mint condition, like many collectors want. We are more interested in the historic value of the image than the postcard itself as a collectible.
We are, of course, always in the market for cards ourselves. If you have any to sell which depict unusual buildings in Chicago or neighborhoods, and you do not see them on our website, you can email photos to us and we will let you know if we are interested.
Thanks for taking the time to check out our website, and for reading this far! Hope you enjoy it as much as we do.