Wooden Postcard…Interesting Find by an Oregon Collector

Quite a few of the historically-minded folks in Boulder know I’m researching Joe. One day I get an email forwarded to me from one of the gals at the Boulder History Museum. The email is originally from a gentleman in Oregon trying to find out more about a painted wooden postcard with “Rocky Mountain Joe” painted on the back. As a collector he was intrigued to know more about this guy Joe.

Image courtesy of Paul Clinton, 2011.

This painted wooden postcard did not immediately compute! He made photos for tourists, not postcards! But as soon as I saw the painting style and handwriting on the back I was pretty much sold. The week or so before I had looked at some of Joe’s oil paintings and it felt familiar. (Watch for an upcoming post about the paintings!) I have also examined many of his illustrations with lettering and the word “Post Card” looked right. Though the smudged lettering and pencil lines makes me wonder how complete this product was. While I cannot definitively say that, yes, this is one of Joe’s cards, I have a sneaking suspicion it really is.

The mountain in the painting is the Mount of the Holy Cross in the Sawatch Range, Eagle County, Colorado. Famed nineteenth-century photographer William Henry Jackson was the first to photograph the elusive snowy cross and provide proof of its existence in 1873.

Image courtesy of Paul Clinton, 2011.

There is no way of knowing if Joe sketched this card on site, but I have a feeling he painted it from another source, such as a print or photograph, rather than taking the long treck to the Western Slope.

This postcard provides another interesting insight into Joe’s business activities. In addition to selling tourists photographic views of the Rocky Mountains and of Boulder County, it appears he also provided the quintessential tourist medium…the postcard.

Research Update…FINALLY!

Since January of this year I have been side-tracked from Joe research. A new job will do that to you! I scored an awesome job at the University of Colorado Heritage Center as the new Outreach Coordinator. I’m doing research, writing, exhibit development, educational programs, etc., all about CU’s history. Besides getting to do what I love everyday, I also have a small, but great office on the third floor of Old Main, the original university building. Joe took quite a few photos of this fabulous structure.

Courtesy of Carnegie Branch Library for Local History. Boulder Historical Society Collection, S-2888

Trying to juggle a new job, finish up freelance research projects, get a small educational workshop business going, and just typical day-to-day living has kept me away from Joe. But no more!

I have been actively  jumping into the deep end again! Woohoo! I have my stacks of folders out, I’m entering info into spreadsheets, making an outline for an article, re-evaluating all the materials I’ve been collecting the last few years, transcribing records left and right, and contacting archives. I’m finally getting a plan together…again.

I’m thrilled to visit the Boulder History Museum‘s storage facility tomorrow to look at some of Joe’s paintings! Before becoming a photographer, Joe learned his trade of illustrating, sign painting and graining from his step-father William Peck. It appears that when he arrived in Boulder he also took on the trade of paper hanging and occasionally produced custom oil paintings.

According to a 1958 Daily Camera article by Forest Crossen, Joe’s son, Samuel, donated seven on his dad’s paintings to the Boulder History Museum. Five are described in the article: three Boulder Canyon scenes and two biblical subjects. I’m not sure what to expect as far as quality. His illustrations range from rough and sketchy to having wonderfully soft details, quite a dramatic difference, so I’m expecting something similar for his oil paintings.

I have also come across several early newspaper articles describing some of Joe’s artwork. His pieces ranged from illustrations which were published in national illustrated papers such as New York’s Graphic, Day’s Doings, Hearth and Home and Illustrated News, to some custom 9×12 foot paintings of ancient Babylon and Rome for Dr. Perry, a professor of ancient History at the university. Anyone who has researched early Boulder history will be familiar with Joe’s style as many of the building sketches in early city directories are his.

On the other end of the research spectrum, I think I have located one of Joe’s surviving descendants! Through public records, obituaries, and Ancestry.com I have located one of his great-grand children. I’m hoping to contact this person soon. Hopefully this individual is cooperative and has interest in sharing details about their family history. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!