Main Street, Mackinac Island, in the early 1900s. The sign for William H. Gardiner's photographic studio may be seen beneath the Victorian turret at right. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection, LC-D4-73138

The Detroit Publishing Company, which started in 1896 as Detroit Photographic Company, produced more than 25,000 photographs into the early 20th century. The street view pictured above is archived in the Library of Congress Detroit Publishing Company Collection. Photographs such as this one were the raw material from which the first picture postcards were created. As noted in the web archive’s description, the company “obtained the exclusive rights to use the Swiss ‘Photochrom’ process for converting black-and-white photographs into color images and printing them by photolithography. This process permitted the mass production of color postcards, prints, and albums for sale to the American market.”

The same demand for travel mementos created many business opportunities wherever tourists went. In the same year that the Detroit Photographic Company began, William H. Gardiner, a Canadian-born photographer who specialized in photographic souvenirs, opened studios to serve tourists at Mackinac Island, Michigan, in the summers and Daytona Beach, Florida, in the winters. A gallery of Gardiner’s Mackinac Island photography may be seen on the Mackinac State Historic Parks website. Mackinac State Historic Parks chief curator Steven C. Brisson, author of Picturesque Mackinac: The Photographs of William H. Gardiner, 1896-1915, features two of Gardiner’s images of tourists enjoying Mackinac Island in his American Tourism essay, which explores the Victorian era in which Gardiner plied the Mackinac tourist trade. Gardiner’s photography whisks us away to the bygone time that Mackinac Island so carefully re-creates today.