States Poke Fun at Themselves Through Postcards

As a Floridian, I hear lots of people complain about our heat, especially in the summertime, and we natives smile and nod politely. When I go out west though, and my skin feels as though it’s baking in a 600-degree oven, Arizonians will invariably say, “But it’s a dry heat” . . . as if it’s really a cool Spring day in disguise. So this card is one of my absolute favorites, and I occasionally carry a supply with me when I travel, to hand out to well-meaning Southwesterners when I hear those words. In this case, a picture truly is worth a thousand words . . . especially when I don’t have enough saliva left to say them.

Looking for a fun collection that won’t break the bank? Or something for your children to collect?

State humor postcards can be found in gas stations, airports and local shops, in addition to postcard shows and on online collecting sites. While linen (1940s) and older cards can be pricier, modern chromes can easily be found for under $1.

Once you collect one from every state, try your hand at collecting local humor from cities, regions or different countries. You’ll be amazed at the wide variety, “good sport” mentality and plain old laugh-out-loud features of these postcards.

Some postcards make fun of the state itself—its weather, location or natural scenery. Many take jabs at the stereotypical ways people from the area behave (or how outsiders think they do). Still others focus on the unique things about the state or its culture.

As someone who has lived in a few states, it’s fun to pull out my State Humor cards when telling folks about my experiences there. And, since I travel quite a bit for work, I enjoy passing the time in airports and shopping centers going “on the hunt” for them. Sometimes I even use them as ice breakers in my PowerPoint presentations when I’m in a particular part of the country.

Take yourself off to the postcard rack (or send the kids there) while you’re traveling on vacation. You’ll have inexpensive souvenirs, great “Wish You Were Here” cards to mail back home and the start of a collection that will bring back memories for years to come. Big-money value . . . not so much. Enjoyment . . . priceless!

Here are some of my favorites:



I suppose it’s a tribute to the buzzing little monster that virtually every state claims the mosquito as its “state bird.” They’re portrayed in different ways . . . from kind of cute (like this Wisconsin biting bug, top) to “gotcha” nasty (like the Mississippi version, above). Over the years, I’ve collected “State Bird Mosquitoes” from more than 40 states, alphabetically from Alabama to Wisconsin. I’m convinced that I’ll eventually have one from each of the 50 states. These two are continental-size chromes, purchased in-state for 50¢ to $1.



I do love the puns, so this “Dela…Where?” card gave me the giggles. The description on back notes that Delaware is the second smallest state and lists some statistics, along with its state bird (the featured Blue Hen) and state flower (Peach Blossom; yep, I was surprised too). It also proudly notes that Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution and touts its miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches.



Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a card is intended to be humorous or not. Especially when the back of the card brags that many outhouses still stand in rural Kentucky. But stops at the state’s well-run highway rest stops will set your mind at ease. I especially like the half-moon on the very real rural “facility.” Outhouses are quite a collectible postcard topic on their own, so this card has that “double-header” (pun intended) quality many collectors covet.



Vermont’s dry New England riddle is just as much fun as this whimsical cow. Sort of a take-off on the old “Why did the chicken cross the road” joke, this one actually is a good warning to watch out for the black-and-white bovines while driving. I really like the attention to detail on the soles of her walking shoes.



While I’m not sure “Plug into North Carolina” ever made it to state slogan status, the outlet malls sure do bring in the tourists. The “inlet” and “outlet” markings on the eastern barrier islands are a nice touch. And so is the “Outlet Outlets” listed at the bottom of the long list of tantalizing shopping stops in this Southeastern state.



Moving to the Midwest brings us to the unique food passions of its people. There is, of course, the SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota . . . but that’s another story. Minnesotans also have this inexplicable love for Jell-O, in all of its rainbow flavors. Until I spent some time up there—in restaurants, conventions and people’s homes—I didn’t really “get” this card. Locals get it right away, and will nod sagely and murmur, “Ah yes . . . Jell-O!”



“The famous last words of Dwane E. Finrot” have been memorialized on this all-too-familiar postcard scene. Anyone who’s driven along the two-lane highways of the far West knows the frustration of being stuck behind a huge log truck. Many a man has blushed and nodded sheepishly at the sight of this postcard. The card is cute enough to forgive its misspelling of “Washington.”



Texas is the best-represented state in my collection. Some of its postcards illustrate how much bigger things are in Texas; others show its perfection in every way; still more poke fun at its cowboys. I chose this one for this article because it captures all of those traits in one postcard. It just barely meets my “rule” of having to show the name of the state on the front of the card (note the sign at the front of the car). This postcard was printed in both linen and chrome versions, and in both bordered and full-bleed styles.

Bonnie Wilpon, the author of “Postcard History of Sarasota and Bradenton, FL,” and “Postcard History of Hollywood, FL.” (published by Arcadia Books), is a Worthologist who specializes in postcards.


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