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Gene McConnell Postcards

My collection of Gene McConnell postcards started out as part of my collection of map postcards. I especially liked the the style of the highway map postcards that had drawings signed by Gene McConnell. When I discovered that there were other styles of postcards with his drawings, I started looking for those too.

Most of these postcards can be classified as "roadside." There are highway maps, eating places, and tourist attractions. Even the postcards of cities and the state maps highlight the tourist attractions.

I think that the "Nebraskas' Main Street of America" postcard does an especially good job of capturing the spirit of a cross country road trip.

 

"Travel the Perfect 36" is more humorous, with a pinup girl thumbing a ride through Kansas. The "36" is probably meant as a comment on her measurements as well as the highway. This postcard was mailed in 1956 from Highland, Kansas, in the northeastern corner of the state. The sender drew a line under Highland on the front of the postcard.


click to enlarge

Gene McConnell had gone to the Denver Art Institute on the GI Bill. At some point he moved back to North Platte, where he had grown up, and worked for the paper there and did the postcards. One of the postcards that I have is a Tucker's Cafe card dated '53 and printed/published by Tribune Printers, North Platte.

Most of these postcards were published and distributed by Dunlap-Henline. This company sold postcards in many of the central U. S. states. It was a partnership between Irwin (Doc) Dunlap and Royce Henline. The postcard company was one business in their partnership. The partnership also included souvenir and gift stores, including Fort Cody in North Platte, Nebraska, where Gene McConnell lived. They also had the Buffalo Bill Trading Post in North Platte, the Sioux Trading Post in Ogallala, the Wigwam in Atlanta, Nebraska, Mike Osceola's Trading Post in Miami, and The Lone Bandit in Laramie, Wyoming.

Gene McConnell also did some black and white drawings for the Western Card Co. of North Platte. Western Card Co. was Dunlap's original postcard company before he teamed with Henline. Dunlap traveled all over Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and for a time, all the way along Highway 30 to the East Coast. He would contract with photographers to get local photos and with Gene to do drawings.

Further east, the Indiana and Ohio Toll Road postcards have different publishers.

 

The Fort Cody Trading Post is still in North Platte, Nebraska. The original Fort Cody was on the Lincoln Highway, U. S. 30 and was built in 1963. The current Fort Cody was opened in 1967 at the same time that Interstate 80 opened. There are large murals there that were done by Gene McConnell for the 1967 opening.

 

Most of the restaurant postcards use an outline of the state of Nebraska as a framing device and show the highwayroute with city locations. Merricks's Ranch House is another place in North Platte that is still in business.

 

Tucker's Cafe is a restaurant postcard that doesn't have a Nebraska state outline or highway route as part of the design, although it is shown on a road midway between New York and San Francisco. Tucker's was a popular restaurant on highly traveled U.S. Highway 30. It closed in 1975 after Interstate 80 took most of the traffic.

 

The Lincoln, Nebraska postcard has small individual drawings of some of the city's landmarks. My postcard was mailed in 1957 with a message on the back from one postcard collector to another.

 

The Grand Island, Nebraska postcard is more of a poster style with a drawing of a cowboy on a bucking horse that is similar to the small cowboy images found on some of the other postcards.

 

The Grand Island cowboy is almost identical to the one on the Wyoming U. S. 30 map postcard.

 

The Ogallala postcard is the only one I have seen in a vertical format. The lake is shown in the picture on the front of the card, but the description on the back only mentions Ogallala as the former site of the Ogala Sioux Indian tribe and the current Sioux Trading post tourist attraction.

 

The Cheyenne, Wyoming postcard shows a couple local landmarks and promotes the city's annual Frontier Days celebration.

 

Gene McConnell also designed some state maps that were printed in black and white. This Oklahoma map was published by Western Card Co.

 

McConnell's black and white postcards also included risque and Western comic postcards. The risque postcards were a collaboration with another newspaperman and were sold at truck stops.

There are colorful state maps from Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Wyoming. Possibly there are other state maps also. Although these maps were originally from the 1950s, some apparently were available for many years. I have a Nebraska map used in 1975 and an Iowa map used in 1988. These later state maps have the Interstate Highways added in red. The Kansas and Wyoming maps seem to be scarcer.

 

The postcard depicting Front Street in Dodge City, Kansas, "Cowboy Capital of the World" is the only postcard of Gene McConnell's that I have seen that has a single detailed scene. Note Boot Hill in the background and the characters named after those in the Gunsmoke TV show: Matt, Kitty, Doc, and Chester. The characters are depicted in a comic style with word balloons.


click to enlarge

 

I have about 25 different postcards with Gene McDonnell drawings. I have seen some others on the internet and heard about some from another collector. The following is a list of postcards that I either have, have seen online, or have heard about from another collector. Most of the cards show the artist's signature on the front of the card, and many are dated. The dates that I have found range from 1952 to 1963. The number in parentheses after the title is the date printed with the signature on the card. All of these are colored unless indicated otherwise. In some cases, the black and white drawing is different and earlier than the colored drawing.

Bernt's One Stop Service, Shelby, Nebr.
Bico's Cafe, Kearney, Nebraska (56)
Burnham's Ideal Restaurant, York, Nebraska (56)
Cheyenne, Wyoming - Frontier Days (black & white) (62)
Cody Court, North Platte, Nebr. (black & white) (52)
*Dairy Farm, Cozad, Nebraska (black & white) (53)
Fort Cody Trading Post, North Platte, Nebraska (63)
Front Street - Dodge City, Kansas (1958)
*Gothenburg, Nebraska (53)
Grand Island, Nebraska
Hoke's Cafe, Ogallala, Nebr. (same black & white; color)
*Illinois State Map (black & white)
*Indiana State Map (black & white)
Indiana Toll Road (56)
Iowa's Main Street of America US 30 (1961)
*Iowa State Map (different black & white; color) (54)
Kansas...Scenic U.S. Hi-way 36 (61)
Kansas State Map (different black & white; color (55)
Kansas Turnpike (56)
Kansas US 54 (58)
Kearney, Nebraska (2 different color)
Lincoln, Nebraska (55)
*McCook, Nebraska (53)
Merrick's Ranch House Drive-In, North Platte, Nebr. (56)
Nebraska State Map (2 different black & white; 2 different color--one 54)
Nebraskas' Scenic Route US 6
Nebraskas' Main Street of America US 30 (same black & white; color)
North Platte, Nebraska
*Oakley, Kansas (56)
*Ogallala, Nebraska (same black & white; color)
Ohio State Map (black & white)
Oklahoma State Map (black & white)
Ohio Turnpike (55)
Omaha, Nebraska (55)
*Scottsbluff, Nebraska (black & white)
*Sydney, Nebraska
*Texas State Map (black & white)
*Tucker's Cafe, North Platte, Nebraska (2 different black & white (53); different color (56))
U.S. Highway 20 (56)
U.S. 36 - Travel the Perfect 36 (56)
*U.S. Highway 81 (in Kansas) (57)
Wyoming's Main Street of America US 30 (1960)
Wyoming's Main Street of America U.S.30 (& Interstate 80)
Wyoming State Map (black & white; color)

Artwork gave way to photos as the years went by. Some of the Dunlap-Henline postcards have photos that were taken by Gene McConnell. The photos on these postcards of Fort Cody and the Sioux Trading Post are by Gene.

 

 

Doc Dunlap retired in 1970 and is no longer living. Royce Henline is in his 90s and lives in Florida. Gene McConnell is in his 80s and lives in Colorado.

In January 2014, I received the following information from D. Ipsen who gave a presentation to the Denver Post Card Club and was able to contact Gene McConnell:

He is a delightful and still-sharp almost 89 year old retiree living in Pueblo, CO. I sent him print outs of my power point presentation and he was delighted, claiming to have almost none of his cards and no original artwork which is sad. The club sent him a letter and he wrote back for the club archives. He was able to confirm that several of my scans that I showed as "copycat cards" were not his and said it was just too much expense for them (Gene or Dunlap-Henline) to copyright the artwork. . . He claims his daughter and grandkids don't even know his work.

* Additions and revisions to list on 11/03/2013, 1/27/2014, and 2/08/15. Thanks to D. Ipsen and Dede Horan for adding cards from their collections to the list.

Special thanks to Leigh Henline of Fort Cody Trading Post and Cheryl Dunlap Fairchild for information about the Dunlap-Henline Company.

Last revised 02/04/2014

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