The Future was Coming!

In his continuing series on bad postcards, Dave Murray brings out the snark for this:

This wonderful slice of boredom embraces two of our favored genres, popular in the golden “chrome” era of postcards.

We get the “ghost town” effect, where we see nary a soul but a lot of buildings.

Then we get a second dose of dullness, the “long distance-full building” approach where the photographer for some reason feels the need to stand across the street to get an entire building in the frame, rather than focusing on an interesting detail of a structure. …

We get The Upjohn Co.’s main manufacturing building in Kalamazoo, which the postcard back boasts has more than 23 acres under one roof. Talk about big pharma!  …

Like many of our bad postcards, this Upjohn example presents a mystery. We just don’t know why the photographer stood so far away. But we are free to speculate.

“Boredom”? Oh, I don’t know. What he’s complaining about is a 50’s aesthetic. And there is a story here: big building on big lawn is a statement of a certain optimism. It is a suburban image standing in implicit  contrast to heavy industry with its smoke — the stuff of that old urban center. Instead of smoke, we get all those clouds,  reiterating the message: this is the stuff of tomorrow. No more dreary warren of factories, but a place that is almost like home.

The big lawn is about suburbia-not-city; it is the forerunner of Joel Garreau’s Edge City. On the big lawn will eventually blossom the steel and glass workplace, the offices and their Herman Miller furnished sophistication.

We are in a time before Mad Men,  Populuxe,and Googie  a cusp — an inflection, a moment before the full force of modernism swept through and swept out the industrial urban core. We were happy once. And every one could see the future, right there, on the city’s edge.


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