Greetings From the Mountains
For every thousand words describing Western North Carolina’s wonders, there’s probably a singular image that says it better. Long before photo-sharing apps and websites, postcards were the medium of choice for travelers eager to send news of their experiences. The Asheville Post Card Company, from its launch in 1914 to its demise more than 60 years later, was one of best and earliest marketers of the region.
Lamar LeCompte, the son of a traveling salesman, ran the company from a small space on Carolina Lane in downtown Asheville, where boxes of postcards filled every shelf and nook. His first line of cards offered colorized photographs on linen paper with a distinctive white border. They cost a penny to purchase and the same to mail.
The company’s first card featured a touched-up photo of Andrews Geyser, a vault of water that pays tribute to the men who built the railroad lines that brought tourists over the mountain peaks near Old Fort. Iconic scenes of natural wonders were LeCompte’s early staples, but in later years, the company also highlighted more mundane scenes like aerial views of chain motels.
No one knows how many millions of postcards the company cranked out, but its impact is etched into the region’s history and economy. “The sale of these cards has aided materially in bringing tourists and visitors to the ‘Land of the Sky,’ ” the Asheville Citizen noted as early as 1935, in an article headlined “Post Cards are Made Locally.”
LeCompte died in 1977, and his enterprise soon followed suit. But the company’s works have had an extraordinary afterlife, turning up in a multitude of books, articles, archives, museums, and online collections. You might discover them in your attic or old scrapbooks, at a yard sale or antique shop or on eBay. The next time you see one of LeCompte’s postcards, be sure to flip it over: Chances are, you’ll find a fading but heartfelt missive from WNC.