Paul Rheingold is a deltiologist.
Don’t be alarmed by the title: It simply means that the Rye resident for more than 45 years is a postcard collector.
“I have thousands of postcards in my collection,” says Rheingold, a self-proclaimed collector. “I was intrigued by postcards because I like the historic pictures of my hometown.”
That’s always been of interest to the New York attorney, who has long had a love for old photos. Two years ago, Rheingold completed a pet project of his when he released his first book chronicling in photos and words how Rye has changed over the past 90 years. The result was “Views of Rye 1917-2007,” and it showcases homes and buildings of the area during both years.
This fall, Rheingold released his second book, “Rye (Postcard History),” which again looks back at Rye history, but this time through his postcard collection.
“Postcards started in Rye in 1905, about the same time the fad started in the U.S.,” he explains. “Photographers went around and took a lot of photos around Rye, and those are the best representative of what Rye looked like at the time. There aren’t a lot of photos from those years, so postcards are really the only way to know.”
Rheingold’s collection grew from postcard shows, flea markets and more recently Ebay, where postcards for sale number in the thousands.
“The most interesting ones to me are the older ones,” he shares. “There were a few drugstores in town back then and druggists tended to put out the first postcards.”
Rheingold recently discussed his new book, the postcard collection and some Rye history when he held a discussion at the Rye Free Reading Room on Nov. 15. A packed room came out to view his slideshow, which highlighted some of his favorite postcards from the book.
“When I started making a PowerPoint presentation and blew the cards up, I really noticed things I had never seen before and you really start appreciating them more and wish I had commented on,” he says.
During the slides, Rheingold played a guessing game with the audience, asking them to try to figure out where the photos were taken and what is there now.
“The biggest change was the waterfront,” he says. “Before Playland there were two amusement parks and a lot of other trashy hotels and restaurants and everything was torn down in one month and they created Playland.”
The postcard book contains historical postcard images spanning the century to document the growth of Rye and shows how the community has evolved over the years. The book came about when Rheingold learned that the publishing company Arcadia had a series of postcard books representing more than 5,000 towns throughout the country.
“I was very selective of what I had. The format called for 10 chapters featuring 220 postcards and there’s a 350-word introduction to each chapter and every card has a 70-word caption underneath,” he says. “I also supplemented what I had with some great postcards that the Rye Historical Society had.”
Since every postcard required a caption, Rheingold did a great deal of research looking at old maps, researching the oral history of Rye and learning all he could about what was featured on the photographs.
“That was the hard part,” he says. “I spent over a year researching everything. Some I couldn’t find anything about.”
During the slideshow, he talked about a postcard with a photo of the Rye Playhouse on it, and how he discovered when it was built and what movies were shown there before it burned down.
An older woman in the audience at the library then told about her memories of the playhouse and what she remembered about it burning down. A conversation like this is why Rheingold is glad he put together the book.
“It’s fascinating for me to learn more about Rye and the places that were here,” he says. “Postcards are a great way to remember history.”