Long before Instagram was invented to prove how much fun our friends were having without us, vacation envy was primarily induced either via photographs shot (and printed!) on actual film or via postcard (sent in the actual mail). Remember those days? Even if you don’t, I think you’ll appreciate the throwback treasures in these three extensive online photo archives: the Texas State Archives, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s new Flickr project, and the Boston (yes, Boston) Public Library’s Tichnor Brothers Collection. Each have digitized thousands of vintage photographs and postcards, many showing off Texas’s long-popular vacation spots. Here are a few of the highlights from each, which may well lead you down the digital rabbit hole and then down the road on your next Texas adventure.
The Texas State Archives // These more than 3,400 images, which have been plucked from the state’s official government archives, include everything from Travis’s “Victory or Death” letter to the Texas Department of Agriculture’s food-related marketing shots as well as the blueprints for a number of state parks created or improved by the thirties-era Civilian Conservation Corps.
Read: Stephen Harrigan’s “The Silver Kings” to learn more about the mysterious disappearance of the Texas coast’s most prize game fish.
Read: Paul Burka’s “I of the Storm,” which details one native son’s relationship with the city’s hurricane-shaped history.
Read: S.C. Gwynne’s “Run With the Devils,” his account of a two-day journey down the state’s wildest river.
Texas and the WPA // Earlier this month, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department launched a Flickr album to highlight more than three thousand photographs of various Works Progress Administration projects across Texas, including several of our state parks and historic sites.
Read: Dana Rubin’s “The Lake No One Knows” to explore the “murky misconceptions” about Caddo Lake, the state’s largest “natural” lake.
Read: Gary Cartwright’s “Ghosts of War,” in which he visits Texas’s most hallowed battlegrounds.
Read: Joe Nick Patoski’s “Grand Canyons” to acquaint yourself with the Panhandle’s scenic wonders.
The Tichnor Brothers Collection // The Boston firm produced thousands upon thousands of color postcards depicting classic American vacation spots from 1930 to 1945, including the 894 Texas versions collected here.
Read: Sam Martin’s “Why Climb Guadalupe Peak” for a candid overview of what it’s like to trek to the highest point in Texas.
Read: Bryan Mealer’s “Up With the Old Hotel,” a profile of the grand reopening of Big Spring’s historic Hotel Settles.
Read: Mimi Swartz’s “Green Acres” to learn how Houston became the model for green spaces in big cities.