William H. Martin (American, 1865-1940) Feeding Time, 1909, Gelatin silver print postcard, Gift of 3M Foundation; ex collection of Louis Walton Sipley, George Eastman House Collection

William H. “Dad” Martin made a name for himself in the early twentieth-century with his whimsical, even absurd photographic postcards. This image, entitled “Feeding Time,” shows farmers struggling to feed over-sized corn cobs to giant pigs, a gentle satire of the sometimes outrageous claims that everything is bigger in the Midwest.

Martin was the owner of a booming photographic business specializing in these souvenirs, based out of Ottawa, Kansas. The images Martin produced depict exaggerated versions of agricultural life in the Midwest, and serve as comic relief that offsets the often harsh realities of droughts, floods, and even plagues of grasshoppers, that farming communities endured. Other popular postcards created by Martin’s company depict oversized rabbits hitched to wagons, enormous gees being wrangled by farmers, and gigantic onions that require the efforts of two strong men to hoist onto a cart.

This images was created using the composite technique, which involves cutting out parts of one or more photographs, and pasting them onto another photograph. This object, known as the paste-up, is then re-photographed to form a seamless final image. The composite technique was often used in nineteenth and early twentieth-century trick photography, in which humor was often found in the juxtaposition of outsized objects or people with absurdly small counter parts.

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