Fiesta-themed postcards featured at SB Historical Museum exhibit
“Project Fiesta: The History of Old Spanish Days,” the annual exhibition at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, is special this year for two reasons, Because of the COVID-19 crisis, the event is being held outdoors in the charming courtyard, and even more significant, it will feature Fiesta-themed vintage postcards that have never been seen before.
“The postcards are from the John C. Fritsche Postcard Collection now housed in the museum’s Gledhill Library. The collection numbers some 7,300 cards organized in 25 binders. It is one of the most extensive collections of historic Santa Barbara postcards ever assembled,” said Dacia Harwood, the Historical Museum’s deputy director.
“Mr. Fritsche settled in Santa Barbara in the early 1950s and worked for a number of local technology firms. He became interested in local history and began collecting historic images, particularly postcards. The history of aviation on the South Coast became a special pursuit.
“He was always willing to share his expertise with local researchers who often sought him out for information and images to aid them in their work. And now his generous gift has allowed the Historical Museum to make the John C. Fritsche Postcard Collection available for generations to come.”
Along with other art, vintage posters, costumes and historical photographs, the postcards can be viewed from noon to 5 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays and noon to 7 p.m. Fridays through Aug. 22. They will be displayed on large poster boards and during slide shows. Entry to the outdoor exhibition is free.
Special online talks celebrating Fiesta history have also been part of “Project Fiesta.”
“In the Fiesta Saddle” is the topic for the last one at 5 p.m. Tuesday with William Reynolds and Tom Peterson as speakers.
“Mr. Peterson is curator of the Santa Barbara Carriage and Western Art Museum, and Mr. Reynolds is the author of ‘Art of the Western Saddle.’ They will discuss the exquisite western artifacts and their role in the history and pageantry of Old Spanish Days,” said Ms. Harwood.
Previous speakers were Neal Graffy discussing “Parades, Festivals and Fiestas: Santa Barbara Celebrates” and his sister Erin Graffy presenting “Old Spanish Days: Santa Barbara History Through Public Art.”
“The programs were part of the museum’s History Happy Hour series that began two years ago with in-person talks at local wine tasting rooms. Since the pandemic, we’ve shifted to a more frequent schedule,” said Ms. Harwood. “Our History Happy Hours at Home are offered twice monthly via Zoom webinars. The presentations are recorded and can be viewed later on the YouTube channel.”
For the next program, local historian Betsy J. Green will discuss “The Spanish Flu in Santa Barbara” at 5 p.m. Aug. 19.
“She will take us back to when schools, theaters, stores and libraries were closed, and people stayed home, but somehow we coped — without the Internet, TV or even radio,” said Ms. Harwood.
All the talks and links to register are listed on the museum website, www.sbhistorical.org.
When asked if there is a special theme name for the postcard exhibit, Ms. Harwood said, “Not really. The staff has been calling it ‘Wish You Were Here.’ ”
“Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here.” Before emails and Facebook, this brief message scribbled on the back of a postcard said it all. It told the folks back home that a traveler was okay and enjoying his or her vacation, according to www.theantiquesalmanac.com. The picture on the front of the card showed the folks where the person was, and the postmark confirmed this.
Sending picture postcards to the folks back home became a great American pastime. When choosing cards to send, travelers also bought many for themselves to save as souvenirs of their trips.
Now, many millions of these vacation mementos lie in attics, waiting to be rediscovered. Travelers usually took good care of the postcards they gathered on their trips, preserving lovingly in albums to share with friends. Many people collected postcards instead of lugging along a camera to take their own pictures.
Today, these postcards of a bygone era are coming out of attics as older people downsize. They can be found at garage sales, flea markets, antique shops and stamp shows, according to the website.