From time to time log homes have come or been brought to public attention. First and foremost was as a political symbol in the 1844 presidential election, when log cabins won the vote for William Henry Harrison. They persist as an attribute of Abraham Lincoln, both man and myth. Pictures of log buildings also found fame early in the 20th century — on postcards.
Today, a profusion of these «postals» awaits collectors who are fascinated by log homes, not to mention log hotels, log post offices, log train depots, log jails, log gas stations, log churches and practically anything else built of logs — including a «one-log home» made from a 22-foot-diameter cedar stump north of Seattle that spawned more than 30 different postcard views. So many postcards have survived in part because people have always collected them, but also because so many were made. Billions were printed during postcards’ Golden Age, 1901-1915, and they continue to be printed today.
Introduced in Germany in the 1870s, the picture postcard made its U.S. splash on May 1, 1893, at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The cards had room for a short note, allowing travelers to boast of their whereabouts; they were colorful and amusing; and they were cheap to send. By 1901, postcard publishing was doubling every six months. The craze was in full bloom. By 1908, Americans were mailing more than 600 million postcards a year, at a time when the total U.S. population wasn’t yet 90 million.
Log buildings were popular subjects. Some were historic, perhaps the birthplace of a famous person; some were obscure. Some were large; some were small. Some are gone; some still stand. The deltiologist (as postcard collectors are known — note the word «log» in the term) who enjoys images of old log homes and buildings has more than a century of postcards to explore and enjoy.
So where can you find vintage log-home postcards today? The hunt is on in attics, stores and shows (some devoted solely to postcards). They abound on the World Wide Web. Just search «log cabin postcard» or «log cabin post office» to narrow your search and you’re one click away. One tip: When bidding on auction sites for postcards showing buildings like log gas stations or log railroad depots, you’ll be bidding against not just log-building fanciers, but also people who collect images of gas stations and railroad depots.
Collectible postcards contain their senders’ handwritten messages on the reverse, though they’re rarely more memorable than, «Having a wonderful time, wish you were here.» Curiously, the writers avoid commenting on the picture, an omission that puzzles log aficionados. Fortunately, most every postcard identifies the depicted buildings, a helpful clue for collectors who do indeed wish they were there.