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RyPN Briefs March 23, 2009
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Book Review: Postcards of America: San Francisco’s Market Street Railway
Written by Vielbaum, Hoffman, Ute and Townley

Arcadia Publishing, 2009

This series is comprised of collections of reprinted vintage postcards, offered in packages according to subject matter. This collection is comprised of 15 postcards, each of which can be mailed, packaged in a protective self-sealing plastic envelope. Retail price is $7.99 US, available from www.arcadiapublishing.com.

The cards in my review package are very nicely printed on high quality matte cardstock, with attention paid to the detail and quality of the pictorial images offered. Only one was not legible to me – the first in the series, a much reduced copy of the route map, which suffered greatly from compression. It is possible that younger eyes than mine with the help of a magnifying glass might be able to read the street names, but I'm left to wonder if that card might not have been better replaced with another of the very good pictorial images instead.

A cross section of rolling stock is included, from the mid 1920's through the mid 1950's, with cable cars, Birney style city cars, and PCCs all appearing. The context of the included streetscapes is rich and colorful even in black and white, showing locations still existing today as well as landmarks long gone. Modelers and historians will enjoy the signage on the buildings and the cars themselves, the clothing worn by the people in the scenes, and the collection of other vehicles on the streets. Suburban and downtown streetscapes are both represented as well as famous landmarks.

Out of the 4 gentlemen credited above, credits are given to two on the cards themselves – which could credit them as the original photographers, owners of the images (assuming they are not in public domain), or as the collectors who provided the originals for reproduction – that isn't made clear, nor is the involvement of the other two individuals. Perhaps they provided the captions, which provide some good information about the location, equipment, or history depicted.

This offering is reasonably priced, and will appeal to those interested in street railways in the mid 20th century, San Francisco history, and modelers of historic city streetscapes. It may also make a good gift shop offering in the impulse buy category, with good perceived value based on the quality of the images and reproduction.

It appears there is an accompanying booklet in the IMAGES OF RAIL series, which I have not had the pleasure of reviewing.