Detroit Publishing Company postcards

Collection History

The Detroit Publishing Company was one of the largest American publishers of postcards and photographic views during the early decades of the 20th century. This digital collection represents a portion of a larger collection, totaling 14,500 postcards, donated to the Library in 1986 by Leonard Lauder, executive, philanthropist, and art collector. According to The New York Times, Mr. Lauder began collecting postcards at the age of 6. Today he continues to collect at the rate of some 1,000 postcards per year-for "the pleasure of discovery, and once discovered, the pleasure of preservation."


The Detroit Photographic Company originated in 1898 to promote a new color printing process in the United States and to capitalize on the public's interest in sending inexpensive pictorial greetings. In 1905 the firm became the Detroit Publishing Company, continuing to use the trade name "Phostint" for its patented color reproduction process. Western landscape photographer William Henry Jackson was long associated with the firm, bringing his and other photographers' negatives to the image stock published by the company. Photographers' names are not associated with individual postcard images, although art reproductions and illustration series are credited. Diminishing sales and rising competition from rival firms sent the Detroit Publishing Company into receivership in 1924, and its assets were finally liquidated in 1932.

Related Resources

Lowe, James L. and Ben Papell. Detroit Publishing Company Collectors' Guide. (1975).

Stechschulte, Nancy Stickels. The Detroit Publishing Company Postcards: A Handbook for Collectors of the Detroit Publishing Company Postcards. (1994).

Library of Congress: American Memory "Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company 1880-1920." (2001) <>

Collection Data

Postcards showing tourist and recreational attractions and facilities, natural features; monuments; streets, residences, government buildings, military facilities and training; religious buildings including churches and missions, commercial and industrial buildings; colleges, libraries, museums, schools, organizations' buildings, railroads, (including views of the California Limited in which William Henry Jackson travelled to photograph and promote the Detroit Publishing line), canals, ships, harbors, lighthouses; historic and literary sites; portraits, including Native Americans, Chinese Americans and African Americans (including racial stereotypes), political, literary and other famous figures; tombs of famous people and other views of cemeteries; parks, including national parks; sports; yachts; the Panama-California International Exposition and the Panama Pacific International Exposition; animals and birds; plants and trees including garden and wildflower series; agriculture; fishing industry; steel industry; pottery industry; automobiles; interiors of buildings; views in other countries including Canada, Cuba, England, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. Also includes art reproductions, cartoon series including Gibson Girls; views of Japanese "girls"; cowboys and cowgirls, and other western views. Some views duplicated.
Dates / Origin
Date Issued: 1898 - 1931
Place: Detroit
Publisher: Detroit Publishing Company
Library locations
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection
Shelf locator: MFY 95-29
Government facilities
Monuments & memorials
National parks and reserves
Ownership: Gift of Leonard Lauder, 1986
Content: Holdings checked in divisional copy of Lowe & Papell, Detroit Publishing Company Collector's Guide, 1975
Content: The collection of postcards includes images from the earliest 1898 Photochrom publications, through the last series using the Detroit Publishing imprint, which was begun in 1931. Includes views that were published by Detroit Publishing Company, and images that were printed for other publishers and distributors including Fred Harvey and others. William Henry Jackson joined the company in 1898, bringing his huge stock of negatives with him. He became director of production in 1903. Primarily views made using the color Photochrom process and a later process derived from Photochrom called Phostint, the collection also includes some views that are sepia tone.
Physical Description
Offset photomechanical prints
Type of Resource
Still image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b12647398
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 439afdd0-c62b-012f-66d1-58d385a7bc34
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