Sonoma County Library Postcard Collection

Baseball Team Riding on Russell's Auto Stage photo
Sonoma County Library Postcard Collection

The Sonoma County Library Postcard Collection includes both commercial and real-photo postcards, most from the 1890s through the 1930s. While the majority of postcards depict Sonoma County scenes and businesses, the collection also includes a significant number of postcards depicting the destruction in San Francisco wrought by the 1906 earthquake. The collection is part of the Sonoma County Local History & Culture.

Postcard Photographers

Kodak began offering a pre-printed card in 1902 that allowed negatives to be printed directly on one side, and in 1903, introduced the Kodak 3A camera in 1903, designed to print standard postcard-sized (3.5 in. by 5.5 in.) images. This process led to a flood of what became known as "Real Photo" postcards as local and traveling photographers captured important events, places and people on postcards that could be used for publicity or sold in local shops to tourists. The collection includes a number of Sonoma County photographers who made a living in this way:

  • J. B. Rhea (1872-1946) was a Guerneville-area photographer who specialized in portraits and real-photo postcards
  • Newton A. Lark established a pharmacy in Guerneville and was a well-known photographer in the area. He is best known for the real-photo postcards that chronicled the lower Russian River area during the pre-Depression resort boom.
  • Alexander J. "Zan" Stark (Apr. 10, 1889-Mar. 17, 1967) was born in Michigan moving to California in his early 20's. He first lived in San Francisco moving to Mill Valley in Marin County in the mid 1920's, where he established a studio at 324 Miller Avenue and worked as a postcard photographer. He worked from the 1920's into the early 1950's under the name Zan of Tamalpais. He was the official photographer of the Redwood Empire Association from 1936. Zan photographed the California coast from Monterey Co., Big Sur, the Redwood Highway and most of Northern California and southern Oregon. Zan moved to Sonoma around 1952 and died on March 17th, 1967 in a Sonoma rest home.
  • J. H. (Joseph Henry) Downing was born in Bristol, N.H. Nov. 28, 1842. He settled in Healdsburg, Calif., where he established a photography studio and chronicled the early development of Healdsburg and the surrounding areas of northern Sonoma County.

Additional Postcards in Sonoma County Local History & Culture

Additional postcard images may be found in other collections, particularly the Sonoma County Historical Society Collection, Sonoma County Visionaries, Immigrants and Winemakers Collection, and the Western Sonoma County Historical Society Collection. A number of postcards may also be found in the Sonoma County Library Photograph Collection because they had not been previously identified as such; please leave a comment if you find a postcard in this collection so we can move it to the correct collection.

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