The Art & Humor of
A. Stanley Johnson of Waupun, Wisconsin

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Real Photo Post Cards

by Morgan Williams

Exaggeration Postcards 1909-1923

ALFRED STANLEY JOHNSON RAPIDLY EXPANDS HIS PHOTO STUDIO IN 1909, WAUPUN, WISCONSIN

Published postcards showing American abundance, prosperity, humor, tall-tales, and folklore through exaggerated postcard images. 

First 21 exaggeration images created in 1909 and early 1910 were published as Real Photo Post Cards (RPPC). 


By Morgan Williams

Collector of Exaggerated Postcards

Washington, D.C., January 2019

morganw9185@gmail.com

Alfred Stanley Johnson, Jr. was a partner in a very typical family photo studio in Waupun, Wisconsin for many years. The studio was started by his father, Alfred Stanley Johnson, in 1884. In the early years the studio focused mainly on taking standard type family photographs such as weddings, portraits, graduations, etc. (CDV's, cabinet cards, etc.) and around 1905 started published printed postcards and real photo post cards (RPPC) showing scenes at the Wisconsin State Prison in Waupun and standard view scenes of Waupun.  Prior to October, 1909, there are no photographs that indicate anything especially creative, unusual, unique or outstanding about the Johnson Photo Studio. 

 

In the summer and fall of 1909 all of that suddenly changed.  On October 26, 1909, Johnson copyrighted and published his first Real Photo Post Card (RRPC) exaggerated image entitled Carp Caught In Beaver Dam Pond, Beaver Dam, Wis.  carp

 It is not known what triggered Johnson's interest in exaggeration type postcards (or a 'Novelty Freak Post Card' as he called them in some of his advertising.)

Click Here for larger image

Four days later, on October 30, 1909, Johnson copyrighted twelve exaggerated postcard images and started publishing them as Real Photo Post Cards (RPPC)(see RPPC description below).  The early postcards were sold mainly in the Waupun area.  The first postmark I have found on a Johnson RPPC exaggerated postcard is November 9, 1909 on a postcard entitled Rock River Carp.   The other early postmarks found on Johnson RPPC exaggerated cards in November and December 1909 were on Nov 2, 15, 16, 24, 26 and for December on 20, 22, and 24th, 1909. 9. 

 

rockr Postmarked 09 Nov. 1909 this is the earliest we have in our combined collections.
Rock River Carp Caught in Horicon Marsh, Horicon Wis

Click here for larger image and other versions.

Postcard collectors today call a postcard a 'Real Photo Post Card (RPPC)' if the photographic image was published on photographic paper (see footnote below).

JOHNSON'S EXAGGERATION REAL PHOTO POST CARDS - OCTOBER 1909

The Johnson RPPC's known to collectors include the exaggerated image copyrighted on October 26, 1909 and twelve images copyrighted on October 30, 1910.  These were  (1) Apples, (2) Cat Fish Caught In Beaver Pond, Beaver Dam, WIS., (3) Cat Fish Caught in River, Ripon, Wis, (4) Cutting Cabbage, (5) Our Corn, (6) Grapes, (7) Loading Cabbage, (8) Load of Cabbage, (9) Onions (10) Potatoes, (11) Rock River Cat Fish, (12) Rock River Carp, (13) Some Tomatoes, and (14) Sugar Beets

Click on the individual captions above for larger images

apples1910 corn
grapes loading
load of onions
potatoes tom
beets cutting

The Johnson RPPC's known to collectors also include five additional images, copyrighted in early 1910, that were published as RPPC's.  They were (1) How is This [catching fish], (2) Pickerel, (3) The "Buck Fever", (4) Big Pike, (5) Two  Hours Catch.  Also in early 1910 was created and published as a printed postcard an image called Catfish.  This image is one collectors think might also have been published as a RPPC but one has not been found. 

            

buck how
catch  

One additional exaggerated image has been found as a RPPC, Digging Asparagus, there is no copyright date shown on face of card.  The last exaggerated images created by Johnson that were copyrighted and printed at RPPC's were the five in early 1910.  All the rest of the Johnson exaggerated images were published as printed postcards between 1910 and 1923.  Johnson started printing his exaggerated images as printed postcards in early 1910, instead of as RPPC's. 

 

THE TWENTY-ONE JOHNSON EXAGGERATION RPPC'S DIFFICULT TO FIND

 

A total of twenty-one exaggerated images by Johnson have been found to have been published as RPPC's.  Joyce Tice and I always welcome information from collectors that expand on, add to, etc. the information provided in the articles about Johnson.  The Johnson RPPC postcards have the standard RPPC backside with no additional writing.

 

Exaggerated RPPC's by Johnson are extremely difficult for collectors to find.  Most likely they were produced only between October 1909 and around March of 1910.  The number of each exaggerated RPPC published by Johnson was quite small.  The most difficult to find are: (1) Big Pike (2) Digging Asparagus, (3) Carp Caught in Beaver Dam Pond, Beaver Dam, Wis., (4) Cat Fish Caught In Beaver Pond, Beaver Dam, Wis., (5) Cat Fish Caught in River, Ripon, Wis, (6) Grapes, (7) How is This, (8) Pickerel, (9) Rock River Cat Fish, (10) Rock River Carp, (11) Some Tomatoes, and (12) The "Buck Fever" and (13) Two Hours Catch. 

 

Of the 21 Johnson exaggerated RPPC images outlined above the following images were never published as a printed postcard: (1) Carp Caught in Beaver Dam Pond, Beaver Dam, Wis., (2) Cat Fish Caught In Beaver Pond, Beaver Dam, Wis., (3) Cat Fish Caught in River, Ripon, Wis, (4) Rock River Cat Fish, (5) Rock River Carp.

 

Johnson started overprinting his exaggeration postcards in white ink starting with the RPPC.  A Rock River Cat Fish can be found overprinted with Cat Fish Caught in Horicon Marsh, Waupun, Wis.  An overprint on Rock River Carp said Caught in Horicon Marsh.  Horicon, Wis and another overprint on Rock River Carp said Caught in Horicon, Burnett, Wis. 

 

The Potatoes exaggeration RPPC can be found with, Crop of 1909 Raised at Waupun, Wis.; Crop of 1909 Raised at Beaver Dam, Wis..  The Onion card can be found with Crop of 1909 Raised at Ripon, Wis and; Crop of 1909 Raised at Brandon, Wis. A Grapes card has Crop from 1909 Raised at Ripon, Wis., The Load of Cabbage images can have Raised at Markesan, Wis; Raised at Ripon, Wis; Raised at Waupun, Wis.; Raised at Beaver Dam, Wis.

 

The Our Corn RPPC exaggeration can say, Crop of 1909 Raised at Beaver Dam, Wis.; Crop of 1909 Raised at Waupun, Wis.; and Crop of 1909 Raised at Markesan, Wis.. Apples has been found to say Brandon Wis or Waupun, Wis.  The Digging Aspargus overprint is Waupun, Wis. Two Hours Catch also has an overprint that says Waupun, Wis. One Cutting Cabbage postcard has an overprint in white ink of At Ripon, Wis. 

 

The most popular of the RPPC exaggerations seems to be the one called Loading Cabbages.  It can be found with overprints that include, Crop of 1909 Raised at Markesan, Wis.; Crop of 1909 Raised at Ripon, Wis.; Crop of 1909 Raised at Beaver Dam, Wis.; or Crop of 1909 Raised at Horicon, Wis.

 

JOHNSON"S TWENTY-ONE REAL PHOTO POSTCARD (RPPC) EXAGGERATIONS -- LISTED BY TITLE

           1.  Apples
          2.   Big Pike
          3.   Carp Caught In Beaver Dam Pond
          4.   Cat Fish Caught In Beaver Pond

          5.   Cat Fish Caught In River

          6.   Cutting Cabbage
          7.   Digging Aspargus
          8.   Grapes

          9.   How Is This

         10.  Load Of Cabbages 

         11.  Loading Cabbage

         12.  Onion 

         13.  Our Corn

         14.  Pickerel

         15.  Potatoes

         16.  Rock River Carp Caught In Horicon Marsh

         17.  Rock River Cat Fish Caught in Horicon Marsh

         18.  Some Tomatoes
         19.  Sugar Beets

         20.  Two Hours Catch
         21.  The Buck Fever

 

JOHNSON POST CARD WORKS ---

Most of the Johnson images were published as printed postcards, not as RPPC's.  One can find Johnson postcards with advertising on the backside that says fifty-two freak post cards price list: 100 for $1.00; 200 for $2.25; 300 for $3.00 and 1,000 for $9.00.  Later Johnson postcards with advertising on the backside said one-hundred designs, still the same price. The advertising said 'these cards can be printed with the words "How we do things at -- name of your town and state.'

Alfred Stanley Johnson Jr. from late 1909 through 1923 created, published, and marketed nationwide more new exaggerated postcard images than any other photographer, using more agricultural, hunting and fishing and other images that any other photographer and produced exaggerated postcards for a longer period of time, from 1909 through 1923, than any other photographer.  The ability of a local photo studio to transform itself into a major creator, manufacturer, and nationwide sales distributor of postcards in such a short period of time and to maintain this activity until 1913 is a very interesting and outstanding story. 

SEPTEMBER 1908, WILLIAM "DAD" MARTIN, OTTAWA, KANSAS - SEPTEMBER 1908 ---

 

To put Alfred Stanley Johnson, Jr. and his work into a time line of outstanding creators and publishers of exaggeration images the demarcation line for creators of exaggeration postcard images is September, 1908.  This is the month and year William "Dad" Martin of Ottawa, Kansas published his first exaggeration real photo postcards.  Martin published around 60 RPPC images before he stopped publishing postcards in late 1910. 

 

Through Martin's friendship and close contacts with executives  in the huge, worldwide, Underwood and Underwood photograph company, founded in Ottawa, Kansas, and businessmen in Ottawa, Kansas, Martin's' postcards were quickly published and distributed nationwide by the millions by the newly established North American Post Card Company of Kansas City, Missouri.  All of Martin's postcards were published as RPPC.  Photographers who created exaggerated image postcards are considered pre-Martin, those who started publishing before September, 1908, or post-Martin, those who started publishing after September, 1908. 

 

The golden age of exaggeration postcards was from 1907 through 1912.  Most of the best images were created by local photo studios mainly in the midwestern section of the United States...many times in small towns like Ottawa, Kansas; Arkansas City, Kansas; Hutchinson, Kansas; Meade, Kansas; Fergus Falls, Minnesota; Alexandria, Minnesota; LeRoy, Minnesota, Vermillion, South Dakota; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Centralia, Illinois; Lansing, Iowa; Alton, Iowa; Boone, Iowa, Sarcoxie, Missouri; Table Rock, Nebraska; Plattsmouth, Nebraska, Springdale, Arkansas; Rib Lake, Wisconsin; and Superior, Wisconsin. 

THANKS TO JOYCE M. TICE ---

Thanks to Joyce M. Tice for her outstanding work about Alfred Stanley Johnson, Jr., for publishing the book, "How We Do Things" in 2013 and creating this website.  Joyce has now documented over 200 Johnson exaggeration or humorous postcards.  Additional information about the Johnson Post Card Works can be found on this website.  Please contact Joyce and me if you have additional information about Johnson and especially information about his early and rare RPPC Exaggerations.

FOOTNOTE.  Real Photo Postcards (RPPC) are photographs that are reproduced by actually developing them onto a photographic paper the size and style of postcards, with a postcard back. There are millions of postcards that reproduce photographs by a variety printing methods that are NOT considered “real photos” by collectors today.  The term, Real Photo Postcard (RPPC), in the world of collectors, recognizes a real and unique distinction between the real photo process and the lithographic or offset printing processes used in the production of most postcard images.

In 1907, Kodak introduced a service for real photo postcards which enabled people to make a postcard from any photograph they took. On March 1, 1907, U.S. legislation permitted postcards, for the first time, to include a message on a portion of the back of a postcard. Prior to that time, the address only was allowed on one side while the other side could present a photo or artwork and sometimes a black space where one could write a short message.  The front side now could accommodate a full-size real photograph. The popularity of real photo postcards soared across the USA. The postcard provided a huge, outstanding photographic image of America, especially of rural America. 
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JOHNSON RPPC's....By Morgan Williams