In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Maine Memory Network

Herman Cassens and Real Photo Postcards

This Exhibit Contains 11 Items
1
R. Herman Cassens, Belfast, ca. 1920

R. Herman Cassens, Belfast, ca. 1920

Item 25833 info
Penobscot Marine Museum

In 1909, R. Herman Cassens, a young entrepreneur, started a postcard company, the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company, in Belfast.

Cassens saw a niche between personal/amateur postcards and the mass-produced postcards available in the bigger cities.

He had a dream of "Photographing the Transcontinental Trail-Maine to California" focusing on small rural towns and villages.


2
Eastern Illustrating Co. logo, Belfast

Eastern Illustrating Co. logo, Belfast

Item 25838 info
Penobscot Marine Museum

Cassens was 33 when he founded the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Company.

He had married the daughter of Edgar Hanson, a prominent businessman and mayor of Belfast and worked for him at the Waldo County Herald before venturing out on his own.

Cassens had good business sense and picked the right product at the right time.

The Eastern soon became the largest manufacturer of photo postcards on the East Coast if not the U.S.

At its peak, Eastern produced over a million postcards a year.


3
Eastern Illustrating Co. vehicle, E. Parsonsfield, ca. 1915

Eastern Illustrating Co. vehicle, E. Parsonsfield, ca. 1915

Item 25834 info
Penobscot Marine Museum

During the summer season, Eastern Illustrating & Publishing employed several photographers who traveled through rural New England and New York, focusing their lenses on locally known landmarks, street scenes, country stores and businesses, events and people.

The company vehicles were easy to spot by their large
equipment trunk on the back that prominently depicted the company name.




4
Fraser Co. paper mill, Madawaska, ca. 1925

Fraser Co. paper mill, Madawaska, ca. 1925

Item 6826 info
Maine Historical Society

The Eastern Illustrating photographers were given traveling expenses, a small salary and commissions that were based on postcard sales.

They established a relationship with a store to carry the
postcards and then made a variety of photographs of local
landmarks and buildings and sent the exposed glass plates back to the factory in Belfast by rail to be processed.

Sample cards were sent back to the customer a few days later.


5
Eastern Illustrating Co. staff, Belfast, 1916

Eastern Illustrating Co. staff, Belfast, 1916

Item 25837 info
Penobscot Marine Museum

While the photographers on staff were all men, mostly women and girls worked in the factory, which was run primarily on a seasonal basis as Cassens owned citrus groves in Florida and spent the winters there.

Employees worked 12-hour days with a half hour for lunch and earned $11 a week. Photographic printing machines were used to expose the precut postcard stock.

Print runs varied from 25 to 1,000. Machines handled the exposure, but the rest of the production process was done by hand.

The exposed cards were transferred to the different chemical baths by wooden paddles and dried on racks.

The exposed cards were transferred to the different chemical baths by wooden paddles and dried on racks.

In the early days, the factory was too small to handle all the racks and the workers would have to run them
across the street to the Shute & Shorey Garage to spread them out to dry.


6
Great Northern Paper office building, Millinocket, ca. 1920

Great Northern Paper office building, Millinocket, ca. 1920

Item 23297 info
Maine Historical Society

The photographers used large format view cameras that were box shaped and mounted on wooden tripods.

For film, they used 5- by 7-inch glass dry plates until the early 1930s, and afterwards used celluloid film.

The image on the 5- by-7-inch plate was cropped to create the 3- by-5-inch postcard image.

Women at the factory in Belfast used the photographers' notes to label each glass negative, writing backwards in black ink on the bottom of the image.


7
Danforth Pond, Skowhegan, 1910

Danforth Pond, Skowhegan, 1910

Item 6306 info
Maine Historical Society

The majority of postcards produced from 1905 to the 1920s were printed by halftone or collotype processes in ink and mass-produced.

A small percentage of postcards, like those of Eastern Illustrating were actual photographs that were exposed onto light sensitive paper and chemically processed.

They were sold for 2 for 5 cents in general stores and tourist stops.


8
Maine State Prison, Thomaston, ca. 1915

Maine State Prison, Thomaston, ca. 1915

Item 25809 info
Maine Historical Society

Most of the postcard images were views of towns, cities, resorts and popular sites.

As this image suggests, what was "popular" was open to local interpretation. The Maine State Prison in Thomaston appears on a number of postcards that show internal and external views.

Tourists, visitors and local residents alike purchased the postcards.


9
Grand Lake Hotel, Grand lake Stream, ca. 1914

Grand Lake Hotel, Grand lake Stream, ca. 1914

Item 10602 info
Maine Historical Society

Eastern Illustrating founder Herman Cassens suffered a heart attack in 1945 that prompted him to slow down, although he continued to run Eastern until 1947.

He sold the business, building, name and stock to Alton Crone for $7,000 in 1947.

On June 17, 1948, at the age of 72, Cassens died of heart failure at his home on Northport Avenue.


10
Lobster Festival Parade, Rockland, ca. 1955

Lobster Festival Parade, Rockland, ca. 1955

Item 26110 info
Maine Historical Society

The glass plate images seemed to die along with Cassens.

The company stopped producing the "real photo post cards" and switched to the more contemporary color postcards.


11
Eastern Illustrating Co. postcard logo

Eastern Illustrating Co. postcard logo

Item 26198 info
Maine Historical Society

Though Cassens' dream of photographing all 48 states was not fully realized, his company did manage to make over 30,000 glass plate negatives of New England and New York between 1909 and 1947.


This Exhibit Contains 11 Items