Historic postcard of Syracuse downtown with canal.

Historic Postcards of New York

Early 20th century postcards on view in the Empire State Plaza
Across the State

Postcards were first published at the turn of the twentieth century, becoming popular as tourism expanded. The following are images of postcards collected and mailed by people traveling across New York State, documenting their visits to various historic sites, scenic natural vistas, and attractions unique to New York.

These historic postcards capture unique, charming and often quirky images of people and places in New York in the early part of the twentieth century. Showing destinations across the state and including some selections of the writing on the back, the exhibition offers perspectives of society and reveals insights about cultural attitudes of the time.


Exhibition on View
State Street Tunnel, Empire State Plaza
Albany, New York




Historic postcard of Albany, NY.

Albany, NY c. 1907-1915. Courtesy of the New York State Library, Manuscripts and Special Collections. 

This image, looking toward the State Capitol’s south side from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, shows the downtown Albany neighborhood about fifty years before it was replaced by the Empire State Plaza. Courtesy of the New York State Library, Manuscripts and Special Collections.

Ashokan Reservoir
Historic postcard of a Catskill reservoir.

Ashokan Reservoir c. 1941Courtesy of Stuart Lehman. 

The Catskill reservoirs supply up to 40% of New York City’s daily water needs. Courtesy of Stuart Lehman.

Historic postcard of Buffalo train terminal.

Buffalo, NY c. 1930sCourtesy of Jennifer Walkowski. 

The New York Central Railroad opened the Buffalo Central Terminal in 1929 to handle up to 200 trains of visitors daily. 

Cayuga Lake
Historic postcard of Cayuga Lake, NY.

Cayuga, NY c. 1922-1941. Private Collection. 

Cayuga Lake State Park was established in 1927, named for the Cayuga people native to the Finger Lakes region, one of the five original constituents of the Haudenosaunee. Private Collection.

Historic postcard of Cohoes, NY, 1950s.

Cohoes, NY c. 1950s. Private Collection.

This view of Cohoes, New York’s historic Remsen Street in the mid-twentieth century shows an original five-and-dime store, S.S. Kresge Co.

Historic postcard of Cooperstown, NY.

Cooperstown, NY c. 1961. Private Collection.

Home of James Fenimore Cooper, America’s first internationally known novelist and author of The Last of the Mohicans. The village of Cooperstown was established by his father, William Cooper, in 1786.

Historic postcard of Corning Bridge, NY.

Corning, NY c. 1913. Private Collection.

Corning has been the birthplace of innovative glass technologies that have changed the world, beginning in 1880 when Thomas Edison commissioned Corning Glass Works to mass-produce light bulbs for the first time.

Lake Placid
Historic postcard of Lake Placid Winter Olympics, 1980.

Lake Placid, NY c. 1980. Private Collection.

In 1980, Lake Placid hosted the Winter Olympics.

Historic postcard of the Saratoga race track.

Saratoga Springs, NY c. 1940s. Private Collection. 

The Saratoga race track is known as the “Graveyard of Champions” where reigning champions unexpectedly lost, including Secretariat in 1973.

Historic postcard of Syracuse downtown with canal.

Syracuse, NY c. 1907. Courtesy of the New York State Library, Manuscripts and Special Collections. 

Syracuse was founded in 1825, the same year the Erie Canal opened. It quickly became a midpoint hub for travelers to the Canal and the Finger Lakes.

Thousand Islands
Historic postcard of speedboat on the St. Lawrence with Boldt Castle in the background.

Thousand Islands c. 1941. Courtesy of the New York State Library, Manuscripts and Special Collections.  

Millionaire George Boldt built Boldt Castle for his wife Louise, but he abandoned it when she died before its completion. Today it is open for tours and weddings.

Historic postcard of the Utica Club trolley.

Utica, NY c. 1960s. Private Collection. 

Legend has it that the first beer sold when Prohibition ended was a Utica Club. Tours of F. X. Matt Brewery are still available.

Historic postcard of Nine Mile Point, Webster, NY.

Webster, NY c. 1918. Private Collection. 

Nine Mile Point is located on Lake Ontario near the city of Oswego. It is now the site of a nuclear power plant. 

West Point
Historic postcard of West Point cadets.

West Point, NY c. 1913-1918. Courtesy of the New York State Library, Manuscripts and Special Collections.

West Point was established as a military academy by the United States Congress in 1802.