Author Diane Egbert moved postcards she had collected for more than a dozen years from their binders into a new coffee-table book.
Author Diane Egbert moved postcards she had collected for more than a dozen years from their binders into a new coffee-table book.

     If a picture’s worth a thousand words, Diane Egbert’s new history of Green Lake has almost 180,000 words of value.
About 180 of 500 images she has collected are featured in “Dartford Days: A Postcard History of Green Lake, Wisconsin.”

     For the past dozen years, Egbert has amassed the Green Lake-area postcards.

     “I’d clean out all my family and friends,” she said. She also had attended estate sales, flea markets and scoured eBay for images dating from 1907 to 1930 ...

     “I ask almost anywhere I go,” Egbert said. “Nearly everybody has a few postcards in a drawer.”
After sorting her postcards into binders by theme such as “hotels” and “downtown,” she considered sharing them with the public.

     But not until friend and former Princeton-based underground cartoonist Denis Kitchen stopped by last summer and suggested she publish her postcard collection did she decide to package them together ...

     Egbert chose the narrow time period in her oblong, 200-page book to chronicle the community’s history due to postcards’ rise in popularity mirroring Green Lake’s ascendency as a resort community.

     Postcards had become more plentiful after photography became easier and the U.S. Postal Service began rural delivery, Egbert explained.

     ... Before 1907, postcards featured addresses on one side and the sender’s written message on the other.

     But beginning that year, the U.S. Postal Service allowed for a “divided-back” postcard —  half address, half message — that permitted a picture on the front.

     ... “It’s a concise era,” Egbert said of 1907 to 1930. “There were all these hotels happening during this period of time but you don’t see them afterwards. Really, the depression ended it.”

     Before the stock market crash, people visited the resorts, many coming by railroad, to escape diseases prevalent in the south such as yellow fever, malaria, typhoid fever and cholera. ...

     So popular was Green Lake back then, she said, that trains had sleeper cars enabling men from Chicago to visit their families, who stayed in the area all summer. “Sunday night they could get on that sleeper car, sleep all the way to Chicago, get up and go to work in the morning.”

     A reminder of the importance of rail back then, Egbert said, is the fact that Highway 23 between Ripon and Green Lake wasn’t paved until 1923.

     And there was no Inlet Road (a segment of County Road A) until it was built in 1925-26. “Dartford Days” sports postcard images showing the inlet before and just after the road was built.

     “Inlet Road” is one of 31 chapters of the “Dartford Days.” ... 

     To read the entire story, see the Aug. 29, 2019 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.