The Stubbins Collection of U.S. County Courthouse and Municipal Building Postcards is a collection of 2,080 postcards, including front and back views, dating from the early 1900s to the 1950s, with the bulk predating 1930. The collection documents the architecture of county courthouses and a wide variety of municipal buildings (town halls, city halls, etc.) for 49 of the 50 states, all but North Carolina. Most of the buildings depicted were constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and many have since been demolished. The collection also contains a wide range of postcards from American and European publishers, as well as a significant number of rare “real photo” postcards, which are photographic images printed on postcard paper stock.
In the United States, a majority of states have at least two tiers of local government, counties and municipalities (villages, towns, cities, and boroughs), while others have unique governing structures. For instance, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, there are 95 counties and 38 independent cities. In most states, cities are part of the county government. Many of these different types of local governments are represented in the Stubbins collection.
Postcards began to be widely used in the U.S. soon after the passage of the Private Mailing Card Act in 1898, which freed private publishers from what was considered unfair competition from government issued cards. In the next few years the demand for postcards grew as a craze for collecting them spread throughout the country. The golden age of postcard publishing and collecting lasted from 1898 through 1912, when thousands of cards were produced, mailed, and kept by the public. According to figures issued by the U.S. Post Office for fiscal year 1907-1908, 677,777,798 postcards were mailed in the United States. Although the fad for postcard collecting diminished by the time World War I began, they continued to be published and collected.
One of those collectors was James F. Stubbins (1931-2009), a professor of pharmaceutical chemistry for 34 years at the School of Pharmacy of the Medical College of Virginia campus of Virginia Commonwealth University. Stubbins began collecting postcards as a young man and over time amassed a large trove representing a wide variety of views. He later dealt and traded postcards and was a founding member of Old Dominion Postcard Club formed in Richmond in 1978.
The majority of materials in this collection are in the public domain, and thus are free of any copyright restriction. There are several items for which the copyright status is unknown. We ask that you acknowledge the VCU Libraries if any of the materials are used.
Additional Research Information
The collection is housed in Special Collections and Archives at James Branch Cabell Library. For more information, see A Guide to the James F. Stubbins U.S. Postcard Collection, 1900s-1950s, Bulk 1900s-1930s. Please direct reference and research inquires to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (804) 828-1108.