Local author releases third book
Local historian Jan Ulrich is again diving into Columbus history, this time through vintage postcards.
Ulrich released her third book featuring history of the “Red Bud City” on April 1. Published by Arcadia Publishing and the History Press, the book is part of the publisher’s “Postcard History Series.”
In 2015, Ulrich published her first book, “Images of America: Columbus,” which documents the city’s founding in 1839 to about 1950. Two years later, with help from local photographer Suzanne Walcott, Ulrich released the follow-up, “Discover Columbus: World War II Era to 2017.” The 2017 book featured many historic photographs, similar to her latest work.
“I knew Arcadia had a postcard series, so I began to wonder, ‘Could I come up with enough postcards to do it?’” Ulrich said. “I contacted Arcadia and they said as long as I could find between 180 and 240 postcards, I could do it.”
“Columbus” features 215 postcards, recalling the city’s rich history, with many from the early 1900s. 1900-1915 is considered the “Golden Age of Postcards” as many Americans relied on them for communication.
Ulrich’s 128-page book is divided into nine sections, showcasing schools, churches and public buildings, historic homes and residential views, business and downtown views, the Crawfish River, Fireman’s Park, monuments, signs, trains and public spaces, the canning factory, people and groups of individuals and a section dedicated to the whimsical, decorative and comical.
To find images for the book, Ulrich researched files from the Columbus Historic Landmarks and Preservation Commission at city hall.
“I spent more than two hours looking through the files and I came home with more than 100 postcards,” Ulrich said. “At that point, I knew I could do it because I also knew of people who had postcard collections.”
In just that one afternoon of research, Ulrich knew she had barely scratched the surface. She realized she would have no problem finding enough images for the book. Many of the postcards in the HLPC’s collection are from Clarence “Pat” and Charlotte Lange. Ulrich also received donations from the late Alice Schmidt, John and Darlene Marks, the Walcott Studio, Harold Schaefer, Rod Melotte and Dan Amato.
“I knew that I had more than enough and I could choose only the highest-quality images,” Ulrich said.
Ulrich devotes eight pages to the Stokely Van Camp Canning Factory, which served as a major industrial center for Columbus from 1900-1977. Ulrich believes the canning factory was most responsible for Columbus’ growth in the first half of the 20th Century. The book features rare photos inside the factory.
“Most of those haven’t seen the light of day in 50 years or more,” Ulrich said. “It was fun to bring to light some of the city’s history that’s been hidden upstairs (at city hall) in those files.”
The book, in paperback, costs $21.99 and will be sold in several outlets throughout Columbus. Proceeds from the books Ulrich sells go back to historic preservation in Columbus.
Ulrich said the postcards book was the most rewarding of the three she’s worked on. She looks forward to sharing another piece of Columbus history and getting feedback from readers.
“It was easier to produce and really fun to do this third one,” Ulrich said. “It was very rewarding to find some of these obscure postcards that people have not seen because they’ve been upstairs at city hall.”
One of the challenges in finishing the project was finding photos of the Country Inn Restaurant, which served as a popular dining venue until the restaurant closed in the early 1980s.
“It’s an apartment complex now, but that was the Country Inn, which was a very famous restaurant with good food for many years,” Ulrich said.
Ulrich is already planning a fourth history book. While she’s hesitant to disclose too many details, she would like to publish a book devoted to the Badger Motor Car Company. The factory built hand-made automobiles in Columbus in the early 1910s. Recently, the last known Badger was returned to the area and is housed at the Wisconsin Auto Museum in Hartford.
Follow Kevin Damask on Twitter @kdamask or contact him at 608-963-7323.