BENNINGTON -- Arcadia Publishing released its book on Bennington as part of its Postcard History Series in July after extensive information gathering and research by the Bennington Historical Society and the Bennington Museum.
After publishing a historical book in 2002 on Bennington as the oldest incorporated town in Vermont, Arcadia again approached the museum and historical society to put together a postcard series, which they started working on last year.
The museum has been working on filing and digitizing its inventory of Bennington-area postcards for the past decade. The museum staff worked hand in hand with the University of Vermont's Landscape Change program to scan and organize many of the museum's collected postcards in addition to some private collections.
Beverley Petrelis, a member of the historical society, has been collecting postcards for much of her life. She said that she often has to go to antique shops outside of town to find more.
"To get the old ones, you have to go out of town," Petrelis said. "That was once our means of communication. Even right here in town: If I wanted you to come for dinner on Sunday night, I would send you a postcard if you lived up in Shaftsbury. If you didn't have a telephone, you would use postcards to communicate: Even locally."
Postcards in the late-19th Century were called "penny postcards" because they sold for one or two cents. They were much less expensive than sending a telegram or paying to use a public telephone.
The museum's collection mostly contains 19th- and early-20th-Century postcards. Petrelis helped fill in pages of Bennington's postcard history with those she collected mid century. Much of the town's history couldn't be explained without them.
Included in the book is a section on disasters, making record of the first railroad accident in Bennington, as well as some of the first fires and floods.
"In the early 1900s, you didn't have pictures in the newspaper, so photographers would go out and print a series of postcards," said Callie Stewart, the museum's collections manager. "So, if you wanted to share this information with your friends or relatives, you could buy postcards to send them, which is why you see some postcards in here that you wouldn't really see today."
Also in the early-20th Century, Vermont mills and industry began to struggle. Postcards became a way to promote both Bennington and the state as a tourist destination to change the commercial landscape. Many of the postcards that were photographed by Frederick Burt and Edward Griswold used water colors and boastful words to describe the people, town, monuments and landscape in an attempt to attract tourists.
"It's really this time period that Bennington starts building all these monuments," Stewart said. "You have the Bennington Battle Monument that was dedicated in 1898, but a lot of these smaller ones started popping up after 1911 to educate residents on the history, but also to attract tourists to town."
The postcard series also keeps track of the changes in Main Street over the years, as well as records of prominent families, industry and recreational activity. Both the Bennington historical book and the postcard series are available for purchase at the Bennington Museum gift shop and the monument gift shop, as well as online at http://www.arcadiapublishing.com/.
The Bennington Museum is contracted to receive eight percent of proceeds from every book sold. When purchased from the museum gift shop, the museum collects even more.
The images in the postcard book are credited to the person whose collection they belong to, except for those that came from the museum's collection.
In addition to Stewart and Petrelis, members of the historical society who contributed to the book include Bill Morgan, Robert Ebert, Anne Bugbee, Joe Hall and Ted Bird.
Find the museum at 75 Main St., or online at www.benningtonmuseum.org/.
Contact Tom Momberg at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg