Post Card Period
This card depicts Monroe County’s second courthouse as it appeared near the turn of the 20th century. Two details of the reverse side identify it as being from an early period of mailing cards. One is the use of the words “Post Card,” which was not permitted on non-government printed cards prior to 1901, and the other is the absence of a dedicated message area. It wasn’t until 1907 that postal regulations allowed messages to be written to the left of an address and postage.
Divided Back Postcard Era
German printers dominated the post card market prior to World War I with superior lithographic technology that produced sharp, vibrant colors, as evident in this view of the third Monroe County Courthouse. It is postmarked 1909, the year after construction was completed. Separate areas on the rear of the card for message and address led to this era being known as the Divided Back Period.
White Border Period
The quality of postcard images declined noticeably after the start of World War I, and American printers also saved ink by not printing all the way to the edge, hence the name “White Border” for this era of cards. Borders also could be used to identify the image, such as this view of the courthouse, which was postmarked Aug. 24, 1928.
Printers in the 1930s produced cards with higher rag content, giving them the appearance of linen. New technology also produced brighter colors than in the previous period. Many cards retained the white border, but some were printed to the edge, such as this view of the courthouse. Note the Graham Hotel building seen to the left the courthouse; it was constructed in 1929.
Lake Monroe and Lake Lemon
Both Lake Lemon and Lake Monroe were built to serve as drinking water reservoirs for Bloomington's expanding population in the mid-20th century.
Lake Lemon is located 10 miles northeast of Bloomington. It was created in 1953 and covers 1,650 acres. It was Bloomington's primary water supply before the construction of Lake Monroe in the 1960s. Lake Lemon remains a popular area for outdoor recreation. It is maintained by a conservancy district of property owners surrounding the lake. Lake Lemon also is home to the Indiana University rowing teams.
Lake Monroe was built as a flood control project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, covering 10,750 acres east of Bloomington in Monroe and Brown counties. Construction began in 1960 and finished in 1965. Besides providing additional areas for boating and fishing, among other recreational activities, the lake now is the primary source of drinking water for Bloomington.
Theodore Dreiser Visits Bloomington
Author Theodore Dreiser attracted little attention in Bloomington when he visited on Aug. 26, 1915. The writer of Sister Carrie and other novels was on an autobiographical tour of Indiana, which he would turn the next year into his book A Hoosier Holiday.
Dreiser had spent the 1889-90 academic year at Indiana University as a freshman, but he had not seen the town since. Dreiser visited places where he had boarded during his brief college career, ate lunch and walked the campus. He would do one other before leaving Bloomington that day; he would buy postcards.
It was something the author did everywhere he went. As he explained in A Hoosier Holiday, “Walk into any drug or bookstore of any up-to-date small town today, and you will find in a trice nearly every scene of importance and really learn the character and charms of the vicinity … The picture cards told all, in a group, of what there was to see.”
Thanks to the Dreiser Collection at the University of Pennsylvania, we know what he thought there was to see in Bloomington. Copies of several of the mass-produced postcards Dreiser purchased here can be found in the Monroe History Center’s collection.
Many of the postcards he picked up in Bloomington concerned Indiana University. Among them were views of Owen and Wylie halls, in which Dreiser likely had attended classes during his days as a student, as well as buildings constructed after he left, such as the Biology Hall and Student Building. Other Bloomington cards depicted buildings such as the Church of Christ and the Bowles Hotel.
The Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville Railroad, also known as the "Monon," opened its 300-mile long route from Lake Michigan to the Ohio River in 1853 and carried passengers and cargo across the state. The Monon was essential to the development of Monroe County because of the limestone industry. The railway connected the quarries of Ellettsville, Bloomington, Stinesville, Clear Creek, and Harrodsburg to the larger cities of the Country. The Monon was also vital to the development of Indiana University as a leading center for higher education in the state. For over a century, the Monon carried students to and from Bloomington and many postcards were sent by students to their parents back home.
The collection has many picture postcards that depict scenes of everyday life in Bloomington throughout its history.