Credit: Courtesy Neil Gale

Neil Gale’s Chicago postcard collection is 42 years in the making, and since November 2007 he’s shared his finds on the Web. Gale’s the director of the Chicago Postcard Museum (, an online platform for over 5,000 cards, a combination of personal ones and contributions from as far as the U.K. Most images in the archive show both sides of the cards, some still bearing the sender’s message. One from the 50s depicts a still night on State Street lined with streetlights and Packard cars. The pre-Trump Tower skyline of the early-aughts series includes a fish-shaped card with an aerial view of the Shedd Aquarium. Another from 1978 depicts Garfield the Cat walking up the steps of the Art Institute thinking aloud, “Maybe there’s a pizza exhibit inside.”

Gale’s aim is to share a visual history of Chicago through postcard art. It all started off “as a kid, being dragged to antique shows and collectible shows by my mom and my aunt in the summer,” he says. His fascination doesn’t lie in the vintageness of old collectibles but rather in their connection to the city he grew up in. “The first couple I picked up were very old, but after I got ’em home and looked at them for a while they had no meaning to me. So the next time I went I bought a couple of Chicago postcards and really that’s how it took off.”

Examining an postcard promoting the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, Gale says, “It’s awesome to take a look at what was built, to know how it was built to last, and then they tore it all down.”

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