The Center for Land Use Interpretation Newsletter

Merle Porter Rephotography Project


Lone Pine, California

Merle Porter Postcard, Lone Pine, California, c. 1960s. Though the cards are undated, vehicles are helpful in getting an approximate vintage. The 1960 Plymouth parked on the left, and other cars from the 1950s, suggests that this postcard shows Lone Pine as it looked 40-50 years ago.

Lone Pine, California

CLUI photo, Lone Pine, California, 2012. In the new image two old fish-shaped signs are still there, above the still-functioning hardware store and sporting goods store and the addition of rustic wood cladding.

THE CLUI LAUNCHED a new feature on our website that compares old postcards, produced by Merle Porter, with contemporary images taken recently by the CLUI, to see changes that have occurred in some small downtowns in the American West.

Merle Porter was a postcard producer and distributor who captured a few hundred views of small town downtowns, as well as roadways and other landmarks, throughout California, Nevada, and Arizona, from the 1950s to the 1980s. He tended to depict not the great vistas, but ordinary landmarks like roads, bridges, and buildings, often taken from everyday points of view, like from the middle of an intersection. This makes his postcards an especially immediate and familiar visual record, and time capsules with a consistent perspective.

Over his career, working with his wife Bessie, Porter produced and distributed thousands of unique cards, available at small shops and souvenir stores in the Southwest. After he died in the 1980s, the cards were no longer being distributed, and by some time in the 1990s, even the most out of the way stores had run out of stock forever.

The CLUI exhibited Merle Porter’s work in 1999, and pledged to continue to make his cards available for sale to the public as long as they continue to exist, which we do. By comparing his present, now past, to our present, the new feature on our website helps his unique vision have even more relevance and value in the future. ♦