Another Whopper

September 23, 2016

In an earlier article, I detailed my examination—conducted for National Geographic Wild’s TV show, Monster Fish—of an old photograph of a humongous catfish. It proved not to be a fake photo, but rather a genuine photo of a faked scene. (See the Jan./Feb. 2015 Skeptical Inquirer for my “Monster Catfish,” pp. 20–22.). Here is another whopper, from a vintage postcard I am just adding to my collection. Take a look.

Such postcards are of a popular genre called “exaggerations.” (For example one illustrating my article depicts a wagon hauling a single gigantic ear of corn!). They are typically created—like the one shown here—by a photomontage technique: loosely any means of making one picture from two or more. (See my Camera Clues, 2005, 120–127.)

This particular Canadian example, bearing a 1923 date, is what is known as a “real photo” postcard. Such real photos were not produced by a printing process but were instead black-and-white photos actually developed onto photographic cardstock. They were especially common during the “golden age” of picture postcards, 1898–1918.

Inspection with my loupe tells me that, while most of the lettering on this card is part of the photographic process, the words “AT TEMAGAMI” were added by overprinting. No doubt the same stock postcards were sold at different fishing locales, each with its name inserted. (Printing the name in the same sans-serif typeface would insure that almost no one would ever notice the subterfuge.)

The back of the card bears the message—written in pencil—“These are the kind we land up here. Eldridge.” It is addressed to a couple in New York state.

Its postmarked Canadian stamp is missing. Evidence that the corner was dampened (not just the area where the stamp with its wet glue was applied) suggests it was carefully removed, perhaps finding its way into someone’s stamp album. (I suspect it was a budding collector: such a common stamp might have had little appeal for a more seasoned philatelist.) The card itself now reposes in the album of a deltiologist (a postcard collector).