The Fort Collins Courier announced the new color postcard collection in its July 17, 1907 newspaper: “Anderson’s views of Fort Collins and vicinity. Price 2 for 5 cents.” It gave more information one week later, on July 24, 1907.
“Sixteen representative scenes in and about Fort Collins have been printed in four colors on postal cards. By sending them to your eastern friends you boost for Fort Collins more than any other way you can pursue. Ask for Anderson’s views.”
Carl Anderson was born in Iowa and had a background in the printing trades and as a newspaperman. He moved to Colorado in 1898 with the intention of buying the Loveland Reporter. The deal fell through and, instead, Anderson bought a majority of the stock of the Courier Printing and Publishing Company of Fort Collins. He quickly grew the Fort Collins Courier from a small weekly to a much larger daily newspaper.
Anderson worked hard to promote Fort Collins and, in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, proceeded to print and distribute a series of Fort Collins images that they hoped would bring new people and new businesses to their small town. According to their advertising, these were, at the time, the only color images of Fort Collins.
There were 16 colored images, all with white borders, with captions on the bottom. The postcards were numbered from 1600 to 1615. On the reverse side, they are marked “Carl Anderson Publisher Fort Collins Colo.”
Below are the 16 Anderson Postals, shown four at a time. They were made from black-and-white images and colored using a four-ink process. In three cases I have the earlier black-and-white images and have included them between the groups of Anderson Postals. Here is the first set of four images.
A history or marketing student could write a paper on why these particular postcards were selected to sell Fort Collins to “eastern friends.” The sugar beet factory seems an excellent lead off card. (See “The Fort Collins Sugar Beet Factory.”) It screams jobs and dispels the image of Fort Collins as a tiny western town. The college is also a great choice. In fact, three of the 16 cards show the college, obviously a point of pride to the town fathers.
But, Fort Collins in the early 1900s was an agricultural community and that is shown in the image selection. Six of the 16 postcards show our town’s agricultural prowess, from potatoes to sugar beets to wheat to lambs to ranching. The selection would make you think that farmers and ranchers were the target market for the Chamber of Commerce.
We also show off our library, a church, a hotel, a street scene, and a couple of resorts. All great choices. The only thing that I see missing is a public school. Weren’t schools important to families looking to move west? Below is the original black-and-white image of the library.
Fort Collins maintained an office (called a bureau) in Denver to steer new arrivals towards Fort Collins’ area. At the time of the Anderson Postals, it was staffed by Professor Coen. An October 2, 1907 Fort Collins Courier article reported on his progress and the impact of the postal card program.
“Coen told of the hundreds of applications he received for information about Fort Collins and the Cache la Poudre valley. One man, he said, came up to the counter and announced he was going to Fort Collins, because he knew there must be ‘something to’ the town that had enough to keep up a bureau in Denver to advertise its advantages. [Coen] stated that the Courier postal cards were in great demand, especially the irrigation scene. . . . He said that great good had been accomplished; that great financial gain and increase in population would result.”
We probably wouldn’t have guessed that the irrigation scene would have stolen the show.
The Linden Street image is the most interesting to me. Years ago, when I bought this card, Wayne Sundberg, one of Fort Collins’ most prominent historians, told me the trolley and the automobile in this image were not in the original image. They were added by Anderson’s printing operation. Here is a close-up of the trolley and auto.
Besides looking wrong, especially because of the shadows and the door on the side of the trolley, the trolley date is all wrong. This image was being distributed in July 1907. Fort Collins first trolley didn’t start running until December 1907 and the first picture of it wasn’t taken until February 1908. (See “The Denver & Interurban Railway Corporation Streetcars in Fort Collins, Colorado.”) Apparently, Anderson and the Chamber were trying to make Fort Collins look more up-to-date for those gullible easterners.
The last Anderson Postal, Lake Zimmerman, is the only one that has a credited photographer. The lake is at the end of a one-mile trail that starts at CO 14, near milepost 64. Harry C. Bradley was an important Fort Collins photographer, taking some of the most iconic photographs of our area. Someday I’ll do a post covering his work.
How did the advertising venture work? According to Anderson’s newspaper, certainly not an unbiased source, it worked very well. The March 10, 1909 Courier reported that the Chamber of Commerce had gotten more advertising out of the Anderson Postals that out of any other marketing campaign.
“In looking over the books, the Courier finds that approximately 200,000 of these cards have been disposed of. They have gone not only all over the United States, Canada and Mexico, but to Europe and to points in the Orient. This means that a handsome reminder of Fort Collins, in four colors, not only has reached the eyes of 200,000 recipients of these cards, but that many thousands of others have seen these cards, after reaching the person to whom they were addressed.”
I can tell you as a collector that these are very common postcards, supporting the premise of their great popularity. With a 1910 population of about 8,000 people, this means that every man, woman, and child in Fort Collins bought 25 Anderson Postals between 1907 and 1909. Certainly the program was a sales success but how many families or businesses moved here as a result of the campaign is unknown.
Next week I’ll share some images of Virginia Dale, including a very early photograph of the Overland trail.