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Archive for Thursday, September 19, 1991

AUTHOR TRACES HISTORY OF AREA THROUGH POST CARDS

September 19, 1991

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— When he wrote a series of historical articles for the Leavenworth Times newspaper in the mid-1970s, J.H. "Johnny" Johnston III never dreamed he'd eventually use the information to publish a book, much less seven books.

But the Leavenworth County historian recently started circulating pre-publication reservation offers for "Looking Back in Post Cards," his latest pictorial history of the county. The book features about 300 postcards, including 21 from the Tonganoxie area.

"At the turn of the century, instead of dialing the phone like we do now, it was routine to send a post card to someone in another community," said Johnston. "In the early part of this century, colored post cards were turned off the presses by the millions every day."

Most of the post cards in the book were borrowed from six major collections. The Tonganoxie Community Historical Society and Helen Schilling, a Tonganoxie resident, supplied the cards from their town.

THE TONGANOXIE cards mostly are historical pictures, such as the Union Pacific Railroad Station, built in 1873; the Tonganoxie Methodist Church, chartered in 1869; and the Franklin Ice Cream Co., which produced dairy products until closing in the 1950s. On one page, three post cards show Tonganoxie's Fourth Street in about 1920. Another shows a drawing of a man shoveling snow, and says "Nobody gets cold feet in Tonganoxie."

The most recent Tonganoxie post card depicts a scene painted by Ann Gower of a stagecoach leaving the lodge of Chief Tonganoxie. It was sold by the Tonganoxie Chamber of Commerce in the 1980s.

"I was surprised, pleasantly so, to see how many post cards were published for the Tonganoxie area," Johnston said. "You wouldn't think there would be a dozen. That's just indicative of the popularity of picture post cards 75 years ago."

He also stumbled upon a card from Jarbalo, a tiny community just northwest of Tonganoxie. However, his search failed to uncover any historical post cards from Linwood or Basehor, "although that's not to say there aren't any," he said.

JOHNSTON, 59, first became interested in the history of Leavenworth County through his work at the Leavenworth Times, where he started as a reporter-photographer in 1953 and retired in 1990 as publisher. "Initially, about 25 years or so ago, one of my duties at the paper was to go through the microfilm and glean interesting nuggets for the editorial page," he said. He helped compile the items that described what was happening in the area 10, 25, 40, and 100 years ago.

"Looking Back in Post Cards" should be available to the public in December, and the author is accepting pre-publication reserve orders.

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