Main Street Views
The postcard images of Long Island main streets showcased in this exhibit correspond to a period (c. 1900-1912) that saw the rise of two golden ages. After the adoption of the divided back format in 1907, the picture postcard reached its peak popularity in the United States. On Long Island from the beginning of the 1900's to the end of World War I, a new class made wealthy by industrialization began to change rural society, bringing country estate living to the North Shore and preparing the island for the suburban culture that would come to define it later in the 20th century.

The postcards here both document this moment of complex transformation and are a reflection of it. In these diverse images of Long Island main streets—covering the North and South shores and the East and West ends— we see paired ideals: industrial progress and a pastoral idyll, the early automobile and the horse-drawn carriage, paved streets and dirt roads, commercial bustle and tranquil tree-lined lanes.

At a moment when the idea of main street has gained new power in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, we invite you to view the Long Island main streets depicted here 100 years ago and to find what has changed and what—if anything--has remained the same over a period spanning two centuries.

--curated by Natalia Sucre
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