Postcards were first legally permitted in Austria on Oct. 1, 1869. The United States passed postal regulations allowing the cards in 1872. Most of the picture postcards collected today date after 1910. The amount of postage can help to date a card. The rates are 1872 (1 cent), 1917 (2 cents), 1919 (1 cent), 1925 (2 cents) and 1928 (1 cent).
Postcards, as we are familiar with them today, have taken a considerable amount of time to develop. First restricted by size, color and other postal regulations, postcard production blossomed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago saw the first series of colored postcards of buildings at the fair. Postcards were popular because they were a quick and easy way for individuals to communicate with each other. They were the emails of the day. Senders at the time referred to them as “postals”.
Today deltiology, or the collecting of postcards, is a popular hobby. The Divided Back Period (1907-1915) is also known as the “Golden Age of Postcards” due to the vast popularity of postcards during this time period. The “Aäc process” for colorization was used around 1880 in Germany. This technique was used to create photochrome prints, a type of color print that was very popular between 1890 and 1910. The photochrome process was mainly used to print postcards. They depict a world that has long gone in colors that are realistic but at the same time are slightly “off”.
In the early 20th century history of Effingham, there were several druggists (pharmacists) listed in the city directories of 1895-1900, 1912 and 1924-1925. While they could compound drugs for their customers, they were always looking for ways to generate additional income for their business. Some of these druggists were Lewis Harris Broom, Paul Eiche, John Jones, L.M. Cornwell, Harry A. Underriner, Damron, and Parkhurst & Wiedman.
One such venture for them was publishing town view postcards of local street scenes, buildings, celebrations, etc. Lewis Broom was the only one who specialized in many photochromed postcards. The other druggists chose items to sell like phonographs and Kodak photographic products.
Lewis Harris Broom was born on Oct. 6, 1873 in Altamont to William Allen Broom and Nancy Agnes Bishop Broom. Lewis had seven siblings. He married Eleanor J. Dyke Broom, and they had four children- Grace A. Broom (DeLaurenti), Elizabeth Catherine Broom (Bowman), Clarence Broom and Bud Broom. Lewis Broom is buried in Greenup Cemetery near his daughter, Grace. He had passed away in Charleston Cunningham Nursing Home on May 12, 1951. His wife, Eleanor, is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Effingham. Their residence in Effingham was located at 224 N. Banker Street. A newspaper article from the Mattoon Journal Gazette said on Aug. 17, 1931, Lewis was held up by two bandits in his store about 11 p.m. The robbers took about $40 and escaped after binding Broom securely with adhesive tape. There were descriptive obituaries of Broom in the Mattoon Journal Gazette and Charleston Daily Courier.
After graduating from the University of Illinois School of Pharmacy around 1893, Lewis Broom owned and operated L.H. Broom & Company in Effingham as a druggist. His store was located opposite the Austin Opera House on West Jefferson Avenue. He compounded drugs for clients that had been prescribed by their physicians. As a sideline income, he started publishing town view postcards of Effingham photochromed in Germany. Lewis relied on black-and-white real photograph postcards of scenes around Effingham taken by students at the Illinois College of Photography. He would send these images to Germany where they were produced as postcards in vivid colors. American postcard publishers didn’t have that process until after 1907. The back of Broom’s cards say “Published by L.H. Broom & Co.-Druggists- Effingham, ILL. Printed in Germany”. Since I have about 18 of Broom’s postcards, I’ve included a few of his postcard images in this article. Broom operated drug stores in Effingham for 21 years (1893-1914) and in Greenup for 37 years (1914-1951).
L.M. Cornwell came to Effingham from Mason around 1893. He was a clerk for D.M. Knowles Hardware and purchased stock in the company after Knowles’ death. Cornwell became a very successful businessman. He refused to hold any public office but was a great supporter of Effingham. Cornwell did publish some photochrome postcards printed in Germany in his drug store. One view is of the old Effingham High School.
Paul Eiche’s drug store was one of the neatest, cleanest and most complete drug stores in Southern Illinois. He advertised his drug store as “The House of Quality” making a specialty of compounding medicines. Paul called his business a “first-class drug store” because customers could find everything there. He advertised that he sold drugs and sundries. He made a specialty of preparing physicians’ prescriptions and family recipes. His prescription department was complete and his stock was new and fresh. Accuracy and purity were guaranteed. His store was located at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and the Illinois Central Rail Road tracks. Eiche also had some photochrome postcards published by the United Art Publishing Company in New York City which were also printed in Germany. One view is of the old St. Anthony Hospital.
Harry Underriner operated Underriner’s Drug Store at 205 West Jefferson Ave. He offered Nyal Family Remedies, which were used to treat colds and coughs, intestinal problems, etc. Harry advertised “Everything a First-Class Drug Store Should Have”. The store also sold Edison phonographs and Kodak cameras and supplies, as well as developed Kodak pictures.
Damron’s Drug Store was located at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Banker Street. Not only did he sell compounded drugs, but he also sold Victrola phonographs. His ad in 1924 says “A Victrola brings happiness to the whole family. Let us show you.”
In September 1932, Dr. Elbert Damron had his 1932 Ford Coupe V-8 (parked in front of his store) stolen by Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, the notorious bank robbers. Damron traveled by train to Pawhuska, Oklahoma, later that month to retrieve his abandoned car. I have a reprint of their FBI wanted poster.
Parkhurst & Wiedman’s Rexall Store was located at 313 W. Jefferson Ave. They were affiliated with The Rexall Drug Store group with eventually 1,200 stores nationwide. The partners advertised “Drugs and Sundries with a Reputation.” To increase their store sales, they also sold Columbia Phonographs and Baldwin pianos. The Rexall brand continued until 1977 when the company was sold to investors after declining sales, dwindling store numbers, and increased competition from competitors. Dollar General still sells Rexall products such as over-the-counter medications, dental care, vitamins and supplements, foot care and first aid.
Some of the druggists of Effingham left behind small mementoes of Effingham through their colored postcards from the 1910-1915 era. We can peer into that early past through them today.
Resources: Effingham, Ill: Fiftieth Anniversary 1853-1903
Smithsonian Institution archives
Effingham Illinois City Directories 1895-1900, 1912, 1924-1925
Historical Postcards of Effingham County, Illinois, 2004
Heart of the USA: Effingham, IL A Sesquicentennial Celebration 1853-2003
Coles County Genealogical Society- Charleston, IL obituaries from the Charleston Daily Courier and the Mattoon Journal Gazette 1951