SF Suicide Club; Or all about picture Postcards and REAL photo postcards

A couple of delightful finds this week. One of the intriguing types of postcards is the REAL photo postcard. These are among the very first styles, pictures often taken at home and turned into a handful of cards to send. One of the major differences between these cards and portrait studios early pictures is that they often capture the joy and wonder of the project. Another is that the photos also capture something more about the person’s life, often showing a house, other family members, or the landscape they lived on all providing clues to the location and sometimes the story of the person.


This fine gentleman came to me with this house, both are postcards, early 20th century – no not or postmark so the guess work is in the clothing, the paper, the style of house. Begs for so many questions!! His clothing is more modern than I would expect from a RPPC and the house seems newly built …I’m just guessing he is ‘new’ rich? But that thought might change if the cards are not actually from the same family? So many things to know!

A real photo postcard is different from the more modern picture postcard based on the change in technology. Picture postcards are often more staged, advertising style featuring locations, restaurants, landmarks, parks, more along the line of a souvenir or memorabilia picture that is more easily mass produced and fitted with graphics.

We can think of this as steps through the 20th century, real photo postcards are a personal snapshot of a person usually at home turned into a postcard keepsake. Technology in the mid-century era gives printing with graphics and color that changes the process into a mass produced item. Later in the 1970’s comes the era of underground, small press printings and home creations like fan zines, comics, and the ability to move away from the mass of mass production and make it smaller more private.

I’ve probably looked through my boxes of postcards at least a few dozen times and perhaps at this particular card a half dozen times with out really seeing it …….What a wonder of a story it contains …..for some reason this week it captured my attention and investigating its details became a true adventure!


Of course, first note; Where are they? Who? Is that a clown? Its appears to be an abandon building and the feeling is cave like? underground? but standing so casually against the bar, like ..its a party? The back gave me no information I thought, my first reaction was disappointment…no postmark, no names or locations ….but then I paid closer attention to what it was telling me ….

Suicide club? Could be the name of the print maker? So…GOOGLE here we come.

The SF SUICIDE CLUB is a great story in the history of San Francisco club culture. Urban Exploring, something in Detroit we usually call SPLUNKING, a few groups of usually college kids pick abandon locations and get in, take photos and get out before getting caught. Some actually host events and create treasure hunts. According to my new favorite blog, Stuff you should Know, the suicide club was a secret not so secret club of urban adventurists based on the ideas of Gary Warne. A proponent of free higher education, obviously a man way before his time, Warne and his club created courses and adventures exploring the urban landscape that often engaged the public in ways you would think of like flash mobs.

SO here is what I know …..”After Hours” “SF SUICIDE CLUB” many rich details come out just from a little bit of information. Yet, I would still like to know, who are they? Where are they? Who took the picture? The Suicide Club has a fairly recent webpage depicting the history and even a list of events – my best guess is this was taken during MERRY MOUTH MENTAL HEALTH TOUR  in April of 1977, but I would love to know more! I’ve reached out to Steve Mobia – a gleeful participant and creative entity on his own, but his website and twitter seem to be around 2009 and nothing since….anyone please ..if you know something about this card ..I would love to know; who are the people in it? when did it happen? where was the photo taken? what was the postcard made for and approx how many are out there??

Don’t forget…treasure those paper cuts


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