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Turning Points Features

And you thought your vegetable gardens were out of control

August in Wisconsin for home gardeners and cooks often means bumper crops of zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, and more. As you think of clever ways to bless your neighbors with piles of squash, just imagine trying to deal with the vegetables that came of the garden of Alfred Stanley Johnson! Johnson was a Beaver Dam photographer who specialized in the production of tall tale postcards. In these images, produced between 1911 and 1917, Johnson elaborately staged friends and family in story lines that were later embellished with enlarged vegetables and fruits.

Wisconsin's bountiful soils were a primary selling point for town promoters seeking to lure new settlers and immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Immigrant guides lavishly praised the state's agricultural potential, often citing examples of amazing crop yields and profit earned in Chicago, Cleveland, and other eastern markets. Johnson's tall tale postcards included titles that attributed these astounding agricultural achievements to the fertility of Wisconsin soils and the skills of local farmers.

Posted July 29, 2005
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