George Masa’s Mountain Postcards

masa card

Above is a postcard published by the Asheville Postcard Co., which was likely made from a photograph taken by George Masa.

The writers of NC Miscellany recently got a tip that Buncombe County Public Libraries has an online display of several of George Masa’s photographs paired with the postcards that were printed from them.  You can view the collection here.

One neat thing about the way they’ve displayed the postcard with the photograph is that you can see how postcard publishers often manipulated small details in the photograph.

Masa was born in Japan, and moved to the United States sometime around 1906 after his father died suddenly.  He traveled to several US cities before coming to Asheville in 1915 on a student tour group.  He remained in Asheville for the next 18 years of his life, employed in various capacities.  He photographed guests at the Grove Park Inn in the beginning, and later opened the Photo-Graft Shop (which would be come the Asheville Photo Service).  He loved being in the Smoky Mountains, and frequently photographed scenic views of the area.  He was an early advocate of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Appalachian Trail.  (adapted from Powell, William S.  Dictionary of North Carolina Biography.  University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, 1991.)

Unfortunately, we have not been able to identify any of the postcards in our collection as the work of George Masa (except for possibly the one above). You can browse for items published by the Asheville Post Card Company, which published postcards from the photos of Masa and other photographers from the 1920s and on.

5 thoughts on “George Masa’s Mountain Postcards”

  1. UNC-Asheville, too, has a nice collection of Masa materials.

    A sad note: Masa wanted to be buried beside his close friend, travel writer, librarian and fellow promotor of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Horace Kephart in Bryson City, but that never happened.

  2. I’ve traveled to Ashville hoping to find info on George Mesa’s life, or his photograph prints, at Grove Park Inn, but no luck. Tomorrow I’ll attempt some archive help at UNC library.
    I most wish to find info on his friendship with Kephart, other than what is mentioned in the Ken Burns documentary. Anybody have sources I can seek?

  3. The NCC has a few resources related to George Masa …

    The Mystery of George Masa, a documentary video:

    A few entries in our biographical index:

    An entry in the book “Photographers in NC”:

    We also have two unprocessed photograph albums that have a connection to George Masa and Jewell King.

    … And it looks like the North Carolina Collection at the Pack Library in Asheville has some of Masa’s photographs. They also have a collection of correspondence between George Masa and Horace Kephart. The following link brings you to the database to search through their collection:

  4. Why can’t his grave be moved? With all the money generated from his postcards and photos, I think it’s something that needs to be done. He served this country well, even though he was Japanese, and his one wish couldn’t be fulfilled. Appalling!!!

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