Snapshot of History

Videos made from postcards portray old Teaneck

By Stacey Rosenfeld, Special to Teaneck Suburbanite
Teaneck Suburbanite, 2/23/2012, p. 4

Rail Road Station at TeaneckGrowing up as a child in Bergen County, Brian Cornish would save the postcards he received from friend's and family's travels. With his childlike imagination, he envisioned what the places their images depicted were really like, and treasured them as snapshots of distinct places in time. From Cornish's posy of childhood postcards was born a collection of vintage postcards which amass the history of Bergen County in the late 19th and earth 20th centuries.

Throughout his youth, Cornish lived first in Palisades Park, then Teaneck and Fair Lawn, and finally Ramsey, where he attended high school. Fascinated with old buildings, Cornish often wondered what the towns he called home looked like when the antiquated structures were first erected.

Finding visual answers in the postcards he would get at New Jersey Antique shops, Cornish's curiousity led him to aggregate a collection of more that 2,500 vintage postcards, each depicting images of Bergen County from the late 1890s to the 1960s. His collection includes postcards of nearly every township in the county.

Cornish reports that the "Golden Age of Postcards" lasted from 1907-1915 and ended right before World War I. He said that until 1915, the postcards were made in Germany and were of photographic quality. According to Cornish, after that time "the visual quality markedly diminished."

Cornish's vast collection of postcards made the cross-country trek with him when he relocated to northern California in the mid 1990s. A now retired software developer residing in San Hose, Calif., Cornish, 49, pondered what he would do with the vast collection that had lain dormant in binders for many years.

In our current era of social networking and the resultant ability to reach vast audiences with nary a click on the computer, YouTube has become a viable, if not preferred method of sharing information. Wikipedia describes YouTube as: "a video-sharing website, created by three former PayPal employees in 2005, on which users can upload, view and share videos."

Cornish, who deems YouTube "a great medium in which to share common interests," began to assemble his postcards in November 2011, so that when viewed in succession, they created beautiful videos depcting the early history of Bergen county's distinct townships.

Set to music, the videos play as individual, historic tributes to Bergen County. Since he began this process, Cornish has completed videos for 65 of Bergen County's 70 townships. He continues to work on the remaining five towns, saving Ramsey, which promises to be the most entensive video, for last.

In his video, Greetings from Bergen County: Teaneck, set to the music of Billie Holiday, Cornish features such early images as the Teaneck Railroad Stations, the Teaneck Club, Phelps' Mansion and Phelps' Ruins, Queens court, the Teaneck Theatre, the Teaneck Armory, Bergen Junior College, Cherry Lane, Oakdene Avenue, Town Hall and Teaneck High School. He also notes that in 1930, the population of Teaneck was 16,651.

Living in California, Cornish continues to acquire New Jersey vintage postcards largely through eBay. In fact, the retired software developer has transformed this hobby to his occupation by opening his own eBay store, forcusing on the trade of vintage books and postcards.

Cornish said, "I hope the videos provide viewers with an innovative, historic peek at the towns they love and call home."

All of Cornish's videos may be found by visiting and typing "Greetings from Bergen County" in the search bar.