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Amsterdam, NY ,

Rebecca Webster/Recorder staff Local resident Jerry Snyder talks about his postcard collection Friday in his home on McKay Road.


Snyder's postcard collection acts as history lesson

Saturday, April 06, 2013 - Updated: 4:10 PM


Recorder News Staff

About 12 years ago, local resident Jerry Snyder joined a group to build a 1920 model of Amsterdam and the railroad.

A history buff himself, Snyder took research into his own hands.

"I jumped on eBay to see what I could find about Amsterdam and I started finding postcards," he said.

As he continued searching, he found more and more.

"Postcards were always the thing you bought on vacation and sent home saying: 'I'm having a great time. Wish you were here,'" he said. "They were always on the rack at the gas station or the souvenir store."

Snyder never paid much attention to postcards, but as he began to find more from Amsterdam on eBay, he realized the value in them.

"I don't care so much about the scenes as much as about the content -- what's in the picture," he said.

It's about what he is able to learn from them.

What started as just a collection of Amsterdam postcards has grown from that first search on eBay. The collection has turned into a hobby and Snyder, president of the Historic Amsterdam League, now has nearly 1,400 unique postcards from not only Amsterdam, but the surrounding towns in Montgomery County. He stores them in labeled binders, separated by town.

"I'm to the point where out of 100 (in a specific collection), I probably have got 99 of them," he explained.

He has 400 alone from Amsterdam, showing everything from the Hurricane Stock Farm and the Barnes Hotel to the New Elks Club and the Sons of Italy Hall.

Some date to 1908 and 1913, others 1927, while companies like K.V. Tucker Publishing and E.O. Kropp, Milwaukee, printed and hand-painted the cards.

The same image of a building on various postcards shows the building in whatever color the painter thought (if they weren't told of an image), like ones Snyder has showing the same Armory Castle image with the bricks red in one, gray in another and brown in a third.

Meanwhile, postcards of the same location -- but years apart -- show the transformation of buildings and parks, like the postcards that showed the changes in the expanded Amsterdam City Hospital.

Postcards were, as Snyder would say, the Twitter of their day.

"That's how people sent quick little messages to each other for a penny," he said. "In the early 1900s, they didn't have anything other than that to get a quick message to someone."

Many of Snyder's postcards still have those messages. Written in fine cursive or print, they tell the small stories of what was happening in Amsterdam at the time.

On a postcard of the hospital is a short snippet talking about the care the person received while there.

Another tells the receiver that they expect at that time that "everybody's out picking the hops," as, Snyder said, Amsterdam had a thriving hops industry at one time until a blight came and knocked the industry out.

One even tells of the feelings when the bridge went out. "Fear and panic in the city today," it reads.

Snyder has 60 saved searches in eBay that he frequents each week, searching for a postcard he may have missed or one in better condition than the same one he has now.

He travels to various community groups to give programs about his collection, doing presentations and allowing the images from earlier in the Carpet City's history to bring a sense of nostalgia to those who view them.

Snyder's collection has even become a resource for local authors and historians, and has made its way into the Postcard History Series book on Amsterdam.

And during each year's summer tour that the Historic Amsterdam League puts on, Snyder creates modern postcards of that section of Amsterdam and sells them to keep the postcard history alive.

Postcards have become his way to learn and share what he's learned with the community.

"(I) realized, you know, these are like little pieces of frozen time and they show such great history."


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