Review: Art Deco Mailboxes

Mailboxes are a photographer’s nightmare. In most cases, they reflect fluorescent light from above, which the camera sees as green, along with daylight coming from the side which the camera sees as blue. On top of this, lobbies are dark and hitting a metal box with flash is usually a very bad idea.

In this respect, Art Deco Mailboxes: An Illustrated Design History is something of an accomplishment and the mailboxes are spectacular even when the photos might have been a bit better. The selection of mailboxes is a little puzzling, however.

Cutler invented the mail chute in Rochester, but by the 1930s, Art Deco mailboxes could be found anyplace that had a Deco skyscraper and mail. Being an integral part of the building, a high percentage of these mailboxes remain in place (and not just in the United States.)

Since this is the only book on the subject, the inclusion of so many non-Deco mailboxes, gorgeous though they may be, along with the exclusion of mailboxes from the entire southern, mountain and western regions of the USA is a disappointment.

Call this Manhattan Mailboxes and it makes sense. The book does include some mailboxes outside NYC but these are few and could have been offered to the reader as a bonus. The good news is that native New Yorkers or people visiting the city can get to many of these locations on foot.

A lot of things go into a book, and I tip my hat to whoever managed to get permission to photograph these mailboxes. Kudos also, to the computer graphics person who cleaned up the accumulated stickers and removed the distracting stuff surrounding the mailboxes. A lot of work!

I confess I have a hard time with an Art Deco mailboxes book that has so many pre-Deco mailboxes while omitting the remarkable Cutler boxes in the Oviatt building in L.A. or the monster in Burbank City Hall, or the rocket ship at Northwestern Bell in Minneapolis, etc. There is no shortage of these if one takes the time to seek them out.

On the other hand, New York being what is is, there are photos here of things the public is not allowed to see let alone photograph, and this is reason enough to recommend the book.






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