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History in Postcards

Postcard views grew in popularity in the mid-1890s due to a lowered postage rate (1 cent) and their proliferation at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. About the same time, Columbia University moved from its midtown campus to Morningside Heights. Thus the development of the campus is well documented in a wide variety of affordable (then and now) postcard views, which serve as an eloquent reminder of the days when there were fewer students, fewer books, and more space.

The postcard views below are accompanied by a few remarks to aid identification of the site and some of the structures evident. A map of the Columbia neighborhood is also included which can be used to pinpoint the spot upon which the postcard view was photographed. In addition, a contemporary photograph of the area from the same vantage point is included for comparison.

For further reference, see: Columbia University and Morningside Heights (NY) (Postcard History Series) by Michael V. Susi; A Guide to Columbia University: With Some Account of Its History and Traditions [edited] by John William Robson (Columbia University Press, 1937); Mastering McKim’s Plan: Columbia’s First Century on Morningside Heights by Barry Bergdoll (Columbia University, Miriam and Ira Wallach Art Gallery, 1997); and Morningside Heights: A History of Its Architecture and Development by Andrew Dolkart (Columbia University Press, 1998). All books are available, for reference only, in both Avery and Columbiana libraries.