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Chicago Postcard Collection

Identifier: spe-c00045

Scope and Contents

The Chicago Postcard Collection brings together the 883 postcards collected by Kenan Heise and the 823 postcards donated or purchased by the Library for its Neighborhood History Research Collection. Spanning the 1890s to the 1970s, the postcards offer a wide range of views of the city and its bridges, buildings, businesses, religious institutions, parks and streets. The views include popular tourist destinations such as Buckingham Fountain, interior rooms of popular hotels and restaurants and highlights from special events like the Century of Progress World’s Fair. While many of the postcards are blank on the back side, a good number of them have messages, addresses, and postmarks that might also provide researchers with additional information about the culture and tourism of the city over the 20th century.

The postcards have been dated by a variety of means from exact to approximate. When an exact date printed on the postcard by the manufacturer was unavailable, such clues as postmarks, writers’ notes and subject matter were used to approximate dates that are indicated with circa. Researchers may want to consult the Smithsonian Institution Archives article “Greetings from the Smithsonian: A Postcard History” ( or the Newberry Library’s, “Guide to Dating Curt Teich Postcards.” (


  • 1897-circa 1985
  • Majority of material found within 1910 - 1950

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions

Conditions Governing Use

Please consult staff at Chicago Public Library Special Collections to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.


2 Linear Feet (2 linear feet in 4 boxes (2237 postcards))

Language of Materials



Spanning the 1890s to the 1970s, the Chicago Postcard Collection offers a wide range of views of the city and an insight into its culture and tourism over the 20th century. Views include aerials, skylines, buildings, businesses, hospitals, municipal structures, museums, parks, religious institutions, schools, sports, streets, transportation and World’s Fairs.


The postcards are divided into 17 series based on the postcard’s subject or type of view. Different and variant views of the same subject place or matter have been given separate entries in the inventory. Duplicate copies have been grouped together when possible.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Postcard numbers 1.1-1.883 were acquired from Kenan Heise; postcard numbers 1.884-1.1706 were acquired from the Curious Book Shop in 2014; postcard numbers 1.1707-1.1952 were donated by Catherine Swigon in 2019.

Related Materials

• Chicago City-wide Collection

• Chicago Collection of Kenan and Carol Heise

• Chicago Park District Records: Photographs

• Frank W. Smith Glass Plate Slide Collection

• Knowles Postcard Collection

Guide to the Chicago Postcard Collection
Spenser Bailey, Summer 2019, and Michelle McCoy
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository

Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States
(312) 747-4875