Man in the Moon Postcard, 1900s. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Peter J. Cohen, 2017.
At the height of the picture postcard craze in the early twentieth century, photo studios at beach resorts, state fairs, carnivals, and downtown arcades offered a variety of playful props and backdrops for sitters to pose against. During the same period, there was a resurgence of popular interest in the romance of the Moon, as evidenced in countless Tin Pan Alley songs, such as "Shine On, Harvest Moon" (1908), "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" (1909), and "I’ll Sit Right on the Moon and Keep My Eyes on You" (1912). Given this confluence, it is not surprising that one of the most popular studio props was the "paper moon," a cut-out crescent moon set in front of a backdrop painted with stars and the occasional comet (inspired by the passing of Halley’s comet in 1910). Decades before the first spacecraft were launched into orbit, thousands of individuals commemorated their own imaginary lunar voyages with these charming photographic souvenirs.