Robert F. Allison, Ph.D. is a retired professor of Business and Health Services Administration who taught at five universities and was an executive at three hospitals. Most of his research required interviews and histories of university-owned teaching hospitals. Consequently, he was instrumental in launching the oral history project of the American College of Health Care Executives by Lewis Weeks, which can be viewed in the Ray Brown section of the American Hospital Association Library in Chicago.
Early on in his retirement beginning in 1995 he began to appreciate the potential of postcards for capturing snapshots in time of people’s experiences around the globe beginning late in the 19th century. Cards are not all that different from a random sample of the nation over a century of our history and the only visual record recorded in color prior to World War I.
Provenance of the Allison collection is as follows. In the 1990s Allison began attending the Tulsa Postcard Club where one night he encountered a mysterious stranger from Louisiana who was offering to sell a collection of Oklahoma City postcards. After seeing them in the trunk of his car, it was obvious that they were a valuable collection-which his asking price confirmed.
The seller purchased the collection at an auction along with other possessions from various sellers and had no information about the original collector. From the cards there is evidence of a collector with the initials “JH” who may have served in World War II then worked many years in Oklahoma City. Included were 17 cards of Durant, circa 1900-1930, which may indicate the collector had a relationship with the south Oklahoma community.
The photographs have an unusual number of pictures of a 1920s-era house north of NW 23 in Oklahoma City. The collector had taken pictures of rare photos – some of which also are represented in this collection. He also had a keen interest in the interurban and its then terminus at Belle Isle.
Of what value or use are these images? Here we have only the front of the cards. Of equal or greater interest are the messages on the backs. A century ago people rarely communicated by telephone when they were out of town.
For outsiders, cards provide historical insight. Allison writes a column for the Shawnee News-Star entitled ‘Cards-N-Time’ in which he uses cards to illustrate historical themes. There is hardly a topic for which there is no set of cards providing a timely-and copyright free-illustration in color.
“My favorite story is of my Dad, the Carnegie Library in Guthrie on statehood day in 1907 and a country road south of town,” Allison said in providing this collection for display at Retro Metro OKC. “I had the story in memory and the two cards close at hand in my collection. My column has run regularly for several years now, each using several cards, and I have yet to want for appropriate cards to illustrate the story. My reason for giving these images to this collection is to encourage and help others to enjoy the history of OKC as told in cards.”