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About This Collection

The Sonoma County Library Postcard Collection includes both commercial and real-photo postcards, most from the 1890s through the 1930s. While the majority of postcards depict Sonoma County scenes and businesses, the collection also includes a significant number of postcards depicting the destruction in San Francisco wrought by the 1906 earthquake.

Postcard Photographers

Kodak began offering a pre-printed card in 1902 that allowed negatives to be printed directly on one side, and in 1903, introduced the Kodak 3A camera in 1903, designed to print standard postcard-sized (3.5 in. by 5.5 in.) images. This process led to a flood of what became known as "Real Photo" postcards as local and traveling photographers captured important events, places and people on postcards that could be used for publicity or sold in local shops to tourists. The collection includes a number of Sonoma County photographers who made a living in this way:

  • J. B. Rhea (1872-1946) was a Guerneville-area photographer who specialized in portraits and real-photo postcards
  • Newton A. Lark established a pharmacy in Guerneville and was a well-known photographer in the area. He is best known for the real-photo postcards that chronicled the lower Russian River area during the pre-Depression resort boom.
  • Alexander J. "Zan" Stark (Apr. 10, 1889-Mar. 17, 1967) was born in Michigan moving to California in his early 20's. He first lived in San Francisco moving to Mill Valley in Marin County in the mid 1920's, where he established a studio at 324 Miller Avenue and worked as a postcard photographer. He worked from the 1920's into the early 1950's under the name Zan of Tamalpais. He was the official photographer of the Redwood Empire Association from 1936. Zan photographed the California coast from Monterey Co., Big Sur, the Redwood Highway and most of Northern California and southern Oregon. Zan moved to Sonoma around 1952 and died on March 17th, 1967 in a Sonoma rest home.
  • J. H. (Joseph Henry) Downing was born in Bristol, N.H. Nov. 28, 1842. He settled in Healdsburg, Calif., where he established a photography studio and chronicled the early development of Healdsburg and the surrounding areas of northern Sonoma County.
A new arrival at Cowston's Ostrich farm, California

Additional Postcards in the Sonoma Heritage Collections

Additional postcard images may be found in other collections, particularly the Sonoma County Historical Society Collection, Sonoma County Visionaries, Immigrants and Winemakers Collection, and the Western Sonoma County Historical Society Collection. A number of postcards may also be found in the Sonoma County Library Photograph Collection because they had not been previously identified as such; please leave a comment if you find a postcard in this collection so we can move it to the correct collection.

Maps and Streetview

The Google maps and Streetview images displayed below many of the Collection's images are based on the best information available in the records. In some cases, that information may be incorrect or Google was unable to interpret the address correctly (more than a few street names have changed over time and lots may have been renumbered). If you find an incorrect location for a particular image, we welcome corrections! Please use the comment feature at the bottom of the page and provide more accurate information if you have it. We verify the corrections and update our information.

Unknown Locations and Subjects

We also welcome information on unidentified locations and people in our collections -- unfortunately, we have many such images . If you know something more, leave a comment on this site or at our Flickr collection of unidentified images.

Other Questions, Comments and Donations

We welcome your questions about materials in these collections and offers of donations of photographs or other materials related to Sonoma County history and life. For local history, contact  Katherine Rinehart at the Sonoma County History & Genealogy Library; for wine-related materials, please contact Megan Jones at the Sonoma County Wine Library.

Website questions may be directed to Geoffrey Skinner.

Use of the Images or Other Media on this Site

The Sonoma County Library makes no assertions as to ownership of any original copyrights to digitized images and can claim only physical ownership of the image(s) described in this records. However, these images are intended for Personal or Research use only. Any other kind of use, including, but not limited to commercial or scholarly publication in any medium or format, public exhibition, or use online or in a web site, may be subject to additional restrictions, including but, not limited to the copyrights held by parties other than the Library.USERS ARE SOLELY RESPONSIBLE for determining the existence of such rights and for obtaining any permissions and/or paying associated fees necessary for the proposed use. Preferred credit line is: Courtesy, the Sonoma County Library. Please see additional reproduction and reuse information at

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