Q. David Bowers Postcard Collection


Q. David Bowers Postcard Collection

The movie theater has changed greatly over the past century. The days of movie palaces are gone, replaced by theaters in malls and cineplexes.

This exhibit of postcards shows the variety of theaters that existed in northern New England during the early 1900s. The black and white images are typically unaltered photos, while many of the colored images were retouched, with people, clouds, and other objects added.

Our Study Center contains information about these locations that came from many sources including trade journals, city directories, the cards themselves, and the recollections of moviegoers. Maps, such as the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, hold many details about the buildings and their context. Local historical societies, amateur historians, and community history books often can provide much information about movie going in a town or city.

The majority of these images are from the Q. David Bowers Collection.


New Hampshire

Cinema postcards from the United States–in some cases very numerous (New York, Wisconsin), and where there are fewer than a half dozen, the number is noted after the state.

  • Alabama
  • Alaska (1)
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii (4)
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Washington, D.C.
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
The collection consists of over 5,000 postcards collected by Q. David Bowers over several decades and include many unusual images of entertainment history and architecture form the 1880s through the 1950s.  (The first donation was of 3486 cards, the second was approximately 2000 cards.) The particular focus of the collection is pre 1920 cinema postcards and is particularly rich in illustrating the early development of cinema exhibition and nickelodeon theaters. It includes: 
  • amusement parks and midway theaters
  • tent theaters
  • open air theaters (airdomes)
  • theater interiors, lobbies, lounges, ticket booths, theater organs
  • theater calamities: fires, floods
  • floating theaters and also in later years
  • drive-in theaters

In addition, there are 1050 portrait postcards of movies stars from the early 1910s including Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Dustin and William Farnum, Pearl White, Florence Turner and Mack Sennett’s Bathing Beauties.

Notes excerpted from evaluation by William O’Farrell