Columbia University Postcards

11th Jan 2022

Columbia University has a rich and storied history and postcards help to tell part of the story. There were hundreds of postcards issued over the last 100 years featuring Columbia, although the vast majority were issued prior to the 1960s, and the bulk in the early part of the 20th century when postcards were in vogue. 

College Girl Postcards

Many of the leading manufacturers of postcards were companies like the Illustrated Postcard Company or Raphael Tuck & Sons Inc. They issued series of postcards for Eastern Universities featuring the "College Girl" or "University Series," with women in long Victorian-style dresses. They are beautiful and we feature the most popular below:


F. Earl Christy was a well known illustrator of the iconic "College Girl" postcards and the three images above were done by Christy. Christy was born in Philadelphia in 1882. The “F” stands for “Frederic”. At 17, he painted originals for the Boardwalk Atlantic City Picture Company, with many of his early works were published by the J. Hoover and Sons Calendar Company of Philadelphia. He attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Arts from 1905-1907. His first College Girl postcard series was published in 1905 by the U.S.S. Postcard Company.

Another F. Earl Christy postcard design from 1907 seen above. The card was printed in Germany, although made by the Souvenir Postcard Company of New York. The two figures and the word Columbia are embossed. 

Although it is counter intuitive today, prior to 1907 it was illegal to write on the back of a postcard. So on postcard prior to 1907 you will sometimes see writing scrawled on the edges or along the top and bottom of the card in any blank spaces. In 1907, the era of "divided back," postcards began when the sender was permitted tow write a note on the left half of the card only, the right side being reserved for the recipient's name and address.


Each manufacturer had their own take on Columbia's hue of the color blue, some more accurate than others.


The card on the left is another F. Earl Christy design. The one in the middle, which is particularly striking with its angelic depiction of a Columbia Girl, was made by the Rotograph Company of New York City. The card on the right with a nautical theme is a design of Bernhardt Wall. Wall was an illustrator and lithographer who lived from 1872 to 1956. He was born in Buffalo, New York and also lived in Texas and California. He did many illustrations and etchings of cowboys, Indians and western scenes. He was known as the “Postcard King.” Wall worked with a variety of manufactures including the Illustrated Postcard Company.

This rare Columbia Girl card was produced by Franz Huld, UDB. No. 504. It was printed in Germany. Franz Huld was based in New York City and produced cards from 1900-1914. Although Columbia changed its name from Columbia College to Columbia University in 1896, they retained the name Columbia College for their undergraduate programs, explaining why the card says Columbia College.

A football themed Columbia postcard

Women on Columbia postcards were the vast majority, although men weren't entirely excluded, as this card from the Ullman Manufacturing Company of New York City shows.

Columbia Library Postcards

Columbia's libraries are beautifully designed and classically proportioned, as you would expect given the pedigree of the designers: James Gamble Rogers and the firm of McKim, Mead and White.


          A sepia-toned post of Low Memorial Library                A postcard of Low Library with subtle use of color


             A nice linen postcard of Low Library                       A postcard made by Irving Underhill, New York, 1905 

The Smithsonian Museum generally dates “Linen” postcards to the 1930s through 1945 and technically aren’t even made from linen. “Linen” describes a higher than usual content of cotton fiber in the paper utilized that gives the cards their distinct texture.


      An unusual view of the library at twilight                      An early card featuring well dressed men wearing hats


     The library adorned with Christmas decorations                   A close-up of the Alma Mater statue


 Neoclassical South Hall, later renamed Butler Library              A view of the library from above

              Beautiful imagery adorns this Raphael Tuck & Sons postcard, No. 2154 in their College Series

Other Campus Images


                      Havemeyer Hall                                                    A collection of buildings around South Field


       These two very old specimens show what the campus and environment looked like when not choked with cars                 

            Whittier Hall in a colorized view                         A general view of the Columbia campus, note the trolley car

A view of Columbia from the Hudson River showing Grant's Tomb, copyright 1903, Detroit Photographic Co.

One of the earliest Columbia University postcards with a view from 1898. Note the empty roads in the pre-automobile era


Hamilton Hall-Hartley and Livingston Dormitories and the old South Field. South Field was where Lou Gehrig played his first games for Columbia's football team and then he played on baseball fields located on South Field. South Field was eventually developed into South Hall opening in 1934, later renamed Butler Library.


                           This birds-eye view of South Hall gives a better perspective as to its location

This early Columbia postcard is notable for its use of actual felt for the Columbia pennant glued to the card 

Later Columbia Postcards


                                  An aerial view of Columbia, probably from the 1940s


                  Johnson Hall postcard, likely also from the 1940s based on the makes of the cars seen


Modern era postcard made with a Kodak Ektachrome image

 A postcard from the modern era, likely the 1960s. Modern postcards lack the charm of those from the earlier periods.

Notes: a great resource to get background of postcard producers is