Iowa City At The Turn-Of-The-Century.


It’s the turn-of-the-century in Iowa City. After three decades of rather stagnant growth, our community is now prepped to grow – or as one penny postcard stated it – See Us Increase!

1880 population7,123+20.4%
1890 population7,016−1.5%
1900 population7,987+13.8%
1910 population10,091+26.3%

(P-0076) In the early 1900’s, the State University of Iowa (SUI) is on the verge of a massive change in direction – moving from what is called The SUI Red Brick Campus to SUI President MacLean’s ‘New University’ plan. Read more here.

As Americans entered into the 20th century – a whole new wave of communication hit the market – The Penny Postcard.

204-1913 Iowa City pennantPC
(P-0048) “Missing You – Wish You Were Here” Penny Postcard. From a large series of “city” postcards from this era using felt mini-pennants and picking up on the Swedish accents of the upper Midwest.

In truth, penny postcards were the craze. For 1-cent, you could mail a beautiful postcard that had a scenic picture on one side and room for a brief message on the other. 

(P-0315) Here’s another fun turn-of-the-century postcard – “I Have Nothing But Time In Iowa City” from 1913.

Read more about the origins of the penny postcard and the Wieneke family of Iowa City who became ‘Iowa City’s Penny Postcard Family.”

This penny postcard (above) advertised the Johnson County Fair in 1908…

(P-0241) Have a Happy Birthday! Even birthday greetings were conveyed using Penny Postcards. This one is postmarked in Iowa City on July 22, 1910.

(P-0391) This Christmas-time postcard postmarked in Iowa City in 1918 features the new Iowa State flag! Read more here.

Postcard producers, seeing the great popularity of single cards, also took their most popular individual designs and put them in souvenir sets. On this page, we’d like to introduce you to four unique sets of postcards that featured the sites of Iowa City and the SUI campus…

(P-0009) This 8-picture post card souvenir packet was produced using pictures taken around the SUI campus in the early 1900’s. The whole packet could be sent for one penny, unless you wrote a message, and then it would cost you two-cents. Here’s the eight sepia postcards inside

(Above) Old Capitol (1840), Hall of Liberal Arts (Schaeffer Hall-1902), Hall of Applied Science (Engineering Building – 1905), Iowa River scene. (Below) College of Medicine (Anatomy Hall & Medical Lab – 1904), College of Dentistry (1894), University Hospital (East Hall/Seashore Hall – 1898), Athletic Pavilion (Armory – 1905).

(P-0009a) This very unique set with the fun automobile-theme cover features 24 mini B&W pics of Iowa City and the SUI campus and was meant to be mailed as a one-piece set.

Set One: High School (1909), SUI Pennant, Old Capitol (1840), Medical Building (Anatomy Hall & Medical Lab – 1904), Grammar School (1893), Clinton Street. Set Two: Science Hall (Geology – 1884), Hall of Natural Science (Macbride – 1906), Birdseye View of Iowa City, Washington Street, Homeopathic Hospital (1895), Public Library (1904). Set Three: YMCA (Close Hall – 1890), Scene on Iowa River, Interurban Railway (CRANDIC – 1904), Post Office (1904), Coldren Cottage, Gymnasium/Armory (1905). Set Four: Rock Island Depot (1898), City Hall on Washington Street (1881), Johnson County Court House (1901), Lovers Leap/Iowa River, Hall of Liberal Arts (Schaeffer – 1902), Coralville Dam (1844).

(C-0290) This classic set from 1909 features 12 key sites around the city.

(P-0223) Here’s a unique turn-of-the-century (1910) postcard packet that features 12 mini-pics of Iowa City and SUI campus buildings.

Row One: Iowa City High School, Iowa Avenue Bridge, Carnegie Library. Row Two: Sum Place on the River, Post Office, Clinton Street. Row Three: Court House, Old Capitol, YMCA Building. Row Four: Hall of Liberal Arts, Hall of Applied Science, Medical Laboratory.

This unique set of postcards appeared on Ebay in October 2022 – selling for a pretty good penny – $100. Created in 1908 by Fred C. Lounsbury – these four were probably part of a larger colorful collection.

(P-0370) This magnificent “double-panel” postcard features a “Birdseye View” of the SUI campus as it appeared in 1907.

Now that you’ve seen some of the intriguing sets from the turn-of-the-century – let’s move on to Iowa City’s most famous – and oldest – building – The Old Stone Capitol on Iowa Avenue…

(P-0012) One of the first colorized postcards featuring Old Capitol.

Read more about the fascinating hobby of collecting Iowa City-themed postcards here.

Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

Fred C. Lounsbury Postcards,

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