Wish You Were Here: A Look at the Role of Postcards in Local Advertising during the Great Depression

Flourishing in the Great Depression

The Great Depression of the 1930's is typically characterized by significant economic turmoil, yet tourism actually saw growth in employment due to President Roosevelt's encouragement for citizens to engage in recreation.  North Carolina Beaches drew folks in from all over the state, looking for fun, excitement, entertainment, and escape, without having to travel very far or spend exhorbitant amounts of cash.  Tourism guarenteed local employment and economic success, insulating Wrightsville and Carolina Beaches against the era's devastating effects.  Backed by an infusion of New Deal federal funds, investments to improve infrastructure and leisure activities ensured visitors an enjoyable experience. 

Communities increased their capacity for visitation through improved infrastructure, but how would visitors know of the enchantments awaiting their arrival.  Chamber of commerce combined forces with local businesses to provide advertising through a unique format, the 3"x5" postcard.  These collectible items featured iconography significant to the community - such as abundant fishing; bathing beauties; Lumina Pavilion dance and music venue; transportation by railway, bus, or automobile; and beautiful boarding houses such as Kitty Cottage, Oceanic, Bame Hotel, or Palais Royal.  Postcards provided a sense of excitement and fun through promises of escape to the beach.  Workers and families could forget the realities of the Great Depression and urban life along the sandy shore, while their spending ensured economic vitality and job security in an era typically characterized by financial devastation.


Debra Foushee - Public History Capstone Project; Dr. Jennifer Le Zotte-Capstone Advisor, The History Hub founder; Federal Point History Center - Carolina Beach Postcards; UNC North Carolina Postcards Collection