W. H. Martin

born 1865-died 1940
Also known as
  • William H. Martin
  • William H. "Dad" Martin
Active in
  • Ottawa, Kansas, United States
  • American

The comic phenomenon of tall-tale postcards developed around the turn of the century. They served as a relief from the harsh realities of midwestern agricultural life –from grasshopper plagues to drought and floods–while also satirizing the idealized pictures that had lured poeople west a generation earlier. The variety of tongue-in-cheek images was enormous, including fish so big that three men were needed to catch them, wheat fields so lush that a farmer could be lost in them forever, and corncobs so huge that only one would fit on a wagon.

William H. "Dad" Martin of Kansas perfected the technique of photomontage. Cutting and pasting together pieces from different photographs, he composed an out-of-scale scene in which tiny people were juxtaposed with immense images of produce or game. He then rephotographed this altered picture and printed it on postcard stock. Western settlers often sent Martin's popular images back east to friends and relatives, who collected them in albums for family entertainment.

Merry A. Foresta American Photographs: The First Century (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996)