Giant grasshoppers plague Kansas!
Sorry. Just an April Fool's Day gag—and there's more where that came from. Curator Shannon Perich shares historic exaggeration photos in the museum's collection.
"We can either laugh about it or cry about it," is an often used platitude to help some cope. We often use humor to deflect and ease painful or uncomfortable situations and these exaggeration postcards were created in that same vein.
Clearly manipulated and collaged to create oversized insects, animals and vegetables, these photographic postcards were most popular in the United States between 1900 and 1917. Americans have a history of using tall-tales, like "Johnny Appleseed" and "Babe and the Big Blue Ox" to reinforce ideas that Americans are independent, strong-willed, and can tame any landscape.
Combining ideas associated with tall-tales making giant grasshoppers and oversized food was one way of easing the farming and economic concerns associated with the Dust Bowl and Depression eras. Some of these exaggeration postcards were used as advertisements, and some were just plain silly.
Shannon Perich is Associate Curator for the Photographic History Collection at the National Museum of American History.