Scanning Around With Gene: We Grow ’em Big Here
I’ve always been a sucker for the various “exaggerated” postcard interpretations of the theme “we grow ’em big here,” probably best exemplified by a giant Idaho potato on the back of a flatbed truck. Even prior to modern image-editing software, some of these image collages were pretty good, though many were over-the-top and crudely done.
I’m not sure who first thought of exaggerating reality this way, though many of today’s images go back to around 1910, so the practice isn’t all that new. I suspect as soon as photography took off, the idea of manipulating images for various purposes came pretty quickly afterward. And given that many postcards were already hand-tinted and heavily manipulated in the printing process, it probably wasn’t too difficult to fabricate these collages. Today’s images are from a variety of sources, including several from a reproduction book of postcards published by Darling & Company (these particular images appear to be out of print, but the company has plenty of other great postcard reproduction books for sale), and some from a couple of Websites, including Post Card Roundup and Post Cards Etc. Click on any image for a larger version.
Given the size of the real giant pumpkins that crop up every year around Halloween, I’m not sure all of these are that far removed from reality. I know as a kid I often had to do a double take or ask my mom if there really were fish that big.
But thankfully most of these images are not particularly subtle and the exaggeration is great enough to be immediately funny.
Of course the idea of pride in crop size is not always meant to be funny. When the railroads first started making cross-country trips, various real estate promoters would sometimes send giant cabbages and other vegetables back east to promote the farming opportunities in places like California.
And to a place known for hunting or fishing, the bigger the game the better. There has always been something very funny about giant sea creatures, I guess, and even funnier if in the form of a lobster.
As you might imagine, you find a lot of these kind of cards in places like Texas, where everything is thought to be bigger than normal. Though many of these postcards were “generic” images that would be customized to any number of locations.
My favorite images are the ones with people in them, which adds some familiar perspective and somehow makes the exaggerated items look even more menacing.
Of course these days we’re more accustomed to photo manipulation and I’m not sure this type of card would be as funny as they were 100 years ago. The question “how did they do that?” is no longer relevant, and the shock value is less intense.
I suspect postcards are pretty much a dying art anyway, like just about everything else I remember fondly. But perhaps someone will invent an app that automatically exaggerates size perspectives and proud locals can still proclaim that “we grow ’em big here.”