Search This Blog

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

C.R. Childs Real Photo Postcards of Lake County

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of National Postcard Week (in the U.S.), I wanted to feature the incredible work of real-photo postcard publisher, the C.R. Childs Company of Chicago (1906 - ca. 1950). 

In this region, one of the best known photographic postcard producers was the C.R. Childs Company. Charles R. Childs (1875 – 1960) was born in Elmwood, Illinois and worked for the Joliet Daily News before moving to Chicago to start his own commercial photography business about 1900.

One of the many stunning postcard views C.R. Childs took in Lake County.
This view is of children in a haystack at Selter's Resort, Antioch.
Photo taken July 20, 1913. LCDM M-86.1.69
By 1906, Childs was specializing in real-photo postcard views of Chicago's neighborhoods and suburbs, including Lake County, Illinois. He was on trend, recognizing the collecting phenomenon of postcards. His postcards were an instant hit with his ability to capture the essence of the subject being photographed. 

The Lake County Discovery Museum has over 600 Childs' postcards and photo proofs of Lake County. The Chain O' Lakes region was a particular favorite of the Childs Company, probably because of the area's natural beauty, but also because it made good business sense to create postcards for the tourist trade.

A "slice of life" moment captured by C.R. Childs: Wisconsin Central Railroad depot,
Antioch, circa 1912. LCDM M-86.1.1
Childs had a knack for capturing a moment in time such as the train arriving in Antioch or a farm thrashing scene in Lake Zurich. He was one of a few postcard photographers to become nationally known.

It is estimated that Childs, along with the photographers he employed, produced 40,000 to 60,000 different photo postcard views of the Midwest.

Another example of Childs' extraordinary eye for beauty:
"Along the Shore at the Toby Inn, Lake Marie, Antioch," circa 1913,
by C.R. Childs. LCDM M-86.1.120 
Today, Childs' postcards are highly collectible, and also give valuable insight to historians who consider his views documentation of life in the early 1900s. 

In addition to the Lake County Discovery Museum, repositories with large C.R. Childs postcard collections include the Chicago History Museum and the Indiana Historical Society. 


Anonymous said...

I came across your blog item about C.R. Childs.

I thought you therefore might be interested in a book I wrote about him. The book is titled This is a Real Photo Postcard: the Life and Work of Charles R. Childs, runs 100 ;pages, and provides all you wanted to know about him and his work--and then some. It is the result of over 15 years of research and was a labor of love. Included is a list of all the towns he photographed with the assigned numer for each as well as the highest view number identified to date.

It is self published and is availble online from Blub. It comes in a number of different formats and corresponding price ranges. The link is You can preview several pages of the book.

Discounts are periodically available. Google: "Blurb coupons" to see if any are currently available.

Feel free to email me with any questions. ( I should add that I do not make any profit on any book sold.


LeRoy Blommaert

Anonymous said...

I possess a postcard that has an identifying emblem stamped on the back: It has a 'banner' on the top right corner, with 3 letters 'on top of' each other "R,C,c" and to the right of that stamped "POST CARD" and "Real Photograph". over to the far left seems to be stamped "C R CHILDS PHOTOGRAPH POST CARDS CHICAGO". Does this sound familiar or indicative of the back of C.R. Childs Post Cards? It is a photo of a school in Southwest Michigan and has penmanship and a 5-digit number on the front. Unique to his typical Chicago postcards, but I like that since if this is authentic, it indicates that he traveled outside the Illinois area to capture photo opportunities elsewhere. I'm just beginning to check into this. Thanks for any help.

Diana Dretske said...

Your Michigan postcard sounds very typical of a CR Childs postcard. He did work throughout the Midwest, including Illinois, Indiana, southern and western Michigan, southern Wisconsin, and few towns in eastern Iowa.

LeRoy Blommaert with Perry Casalino wrote an excellent book on the life and work of C.R. Childs titled: "This is a Real Photograph."

Thanks for your question!

SugarMag98 said...

I just obtained a C. R. Childs postcard, which also has a five digit number on the front, lower right. Does anyone know, is this number the date it was taken? Mine is 62121, and it does appear from the clothes that it could have been taken in 1921. Thanks!

SugarMag98 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Diana Dretske said...

That is a production number given by the company. Different towns were given different numbers.

You may wish to contact the authors of "This is a Real Photograph: The Life and Work of Photographer Charles R. Childs" to learn more on the numbering system, which is also explained in the book. Please let them know the town featured in your postcard in addition to the number. Email both: LeRoy Blommaert and Perry Casalino (