Feb 22, 2006


obslogo.jpg (10497 bytes)

Herman Simonson

Swimming beach just inside the
new piers ca 1910

Selling postcards next to the
Simonson Studio on Culver Street

The Simonson Studio on
Culver Street

Old Pete pulling a carriage
was a winning prop

An assistant on Dynamite ready for work


With the passage of the Private Mailing Card Act in 1898 postcards, came into wide use in the United States. The act freed private publishers from government restrictions and what was considered unfair competition from government issued cards. In the next few years the demand for postcards grew and the craze to send and collect them spread rapidly.

This golden age of postcard publishing from 1898 to 1920 coincided with a boom in Saugatuck tourism. About 1907 Herman Simonson saw an opportunity to make his photo hobby his business and was quick to grab the brass ring. Herman had an eye for the kind of photo that made a great postcard. Saugatuck was the place that had it all, including visitors with money to spend. There were plenty of Chicagoans who wanted to remind the folks back home of the good times on the beach, at the Big Pavilion, climbing Mt. Baldhead, camping along the river, boating--what a wonderful vacation they were having! Simonson embellished the interesting scene with any natural prop that came along. His innovations included his employee-Dynamite the donkey- fancy new touring cars, a ferry full of ladies, crowds streaming off a steamer into the brightest spot on the Great Lakes!

Operating from his shop-studio on Culver Street (now site of the Loaf 'N Mug) and a smaller shop on Water Street near the ferry landing he and assistants took thousands of photographs. Their greatest contribution to the record of our history was the production of “real photo” postcards taken between 1907 and 1920. These were imaged on a large glass plate or later on film and provided a sharp postcard sized photograph for the front of the card. The back of the card was divided for the address and the message. Simonson or one of his assistants would take a photo (at the scene of the action), develop the negative overnight, print it with duplicates on heavy postcard sized photo paper and deliver the order the next day. In addition to custom order, good shot postcards were sold to the public.

The resulting cards are an excellent and now quite scarce, historical record. Original cards are highly prized by collectors--check them out on Ebay! The best cards were distinctively lettered in Herman’s hand with a short description and sometimes with the distinctively printed, “Photo By H. C. Simonson.”                        by Jack Sheridan

Click on view all to see the Remembering When ...  library

Click here to return to the Pictorial History home page

Click here to return to the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society home page