Los Gatos (Postcard History)

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9780738569628: Los Gatos (Postcard History)
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The charming town of Los Gatos is nestled at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains and is sometimes referred to as the "Gem City of the Foothills." It has inspired hundreds of postcard images through the years, many reflecting the area's abundance of natural beauty. As the town and surrounding area grew and prospered through agriculture, logging, and commerce, the local architecture and landmarks became popular subjects. Glimpses of everyday life--churches, schools, houses, and businesses--further enhanced the pictorial history the postcards represent.

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About the Author:

Stephanie Ross Mathews is on the board of the Art and History Museums of Los Gatos and a member of the Los Gatos Beautification Committee. Her affection for Los Gatos, her interest in its history, and her participation in the joint Library and Museum History Project were the impetus for this book.

Review:

Title: Postcards paint vivid history of Los Gatos in new book
Author: Shannon Barry
Publisher: Los Gatos Weekly-Times
Date: 5/19/09

Some of the earliest memories Stephanie Mathews has of Los Gatos are now snippets of images--filled with different landmarks and businesses, and also very vivid recollections of cat sculptures.

"There are countless stories of how the town of Los Gatos got its name," Mathews states underneath a postcard in Arcadia Publishing's Postcard History Series: Los Gatos. The significance of cats in Los Gatos is just one of many subjects Mathews explores in the book she compiled and edited. It is a collaboration of her work and the Los Gatos Library and Museum History Project. The publication includes more than 200 vintage postcards that chronicle the history of the town.

"There are so many hours invested in this," she said of the book that went on sale May 4.

Mathews began to delve into research for the book last April to reach her Dec. 9 deadline. She spent countless hours in the history room of the Los Gatos Library and at home vigorously searching through a 5,000-postcard archive in order to find 200 images and information that would accurately capture the evolution of the town. Mathews credits town library director Peggy Conaway for her encouragement and generosity in allowing her unlimited access to the collection and permission to reproduce all of the images used in the book.

Although there are a number of interesting images, Mathews' favorites include a town life picture of a dog sitting on a bench at Fairview Plaza (page 88) and a tourism image accompanied with a "vacation address" tag filled in with "Los Gatos, California" (page 110).

Being exposed to so many different images also helped educate Mathews on the history of postcards.

"This was people's main way of communication," she said. "Everywhere you went there were postcards." The United States issued the first pre-stamped postal cards in 1873, and around 1900 the first "real-photo" postcards began to appear.

Before Mathews began her research, she said that she didn't even "realize postcards went back that far." According to the U.S. Post Office, more than 677.75 million postcards were mailed for the fiscal year ending on June 30, 1908.

Eventually, a number of different things led to the decline of its popularity. The American hobby began phasing out with the arrival of World War I and the influenza epidemic; the golden age of postcards was ultimately replaced by the telephone as a way to keep in touch.

Even though the once-revered amusement hasn't been popular for a number of years, Mathews says it was wonderful to relive her past. Her earliest memories of Los Gatos are as a 5-year-old visiting her grandparents who lived in the mountains above town. She has since purchased property in the Los Gatos Mountains with her husband, where they retired in 1998.

"I live 10 minutes from town but it's a whole other environment, so this allows me to reach out," she said. "I'm happy we have this. [The postcards] will be kept and treasured."

The 128-page book is listed at $21.99 and available at area bookstores or through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com. Some of the proceeds from the book will be donated to the joint Los Gatos Library and Museum History Project. If you are interested in contributing postcards to the history collection, contact Peggy Conaway at 408.354.6891.

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