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WVU journalism grad student publishes postcard history book

A West Virgina University P.I. Reed School of Journalism graduate student has written a postcard history book on her hometown,Greensburg, Pa.

Rachel E. Smith wrote the book, simply titled "Greensburg," during her first year in the master's of journalism program to preserve the history of the city, which is about 30 miles eat of Pittsburgh.

The idea for the book originated when she was interning at the Connellsville Daily Courier the summer between her junior and senior years. Ironically, Smith was already a collector of vintage postcards, or deltiologist, when she wrote a story about a women in Uniontown, Pa., who had written a postcard book of that town.

Sometime later, an editor at the book's publishing company, Arcadia Publishing of Mount Pleasant, S.C., was looking for someone to write a postcard book about Greensburg and contacted Smith.

The 128-page book gives a history of Greensburg over the past 150 years told through postcards and captions. Postcards were the primary means of communication in the early 20th century. The book shows many hotels of the area, almost all of which have been torn down, and includes rare images of many other buildings that no longer exist.

"It was an interesting learning experience. There are a lot of buildings with nice architecture that aren't there anymore," Smith said. "It's a shame they didn't preserve them. People who grew up there seem to really like the book. My grandmother's friend really enjoyed it."

Some of the postcards in the book are borrowed from local collector Arthur Humphrey; others were acquired from flea markets, yard sales, and Web sites. 

"I get them all over the place," she said. "The postcards can cost anywhere from $10 to $15 for a really good one. The most I ever spent was $50. It was of an Altoona amusement park. I got it off of eBay; I really wanted that one."

Smith, a member of the Westmoreland County Historical Society, dedicates her book "to all of those who have made Greensburg the town it is - past, present, and future."

The book, which costs $19.99, is available at Greensburg and Pittsburgh- area bookstores, online through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, by calling Arcadia at 888-313-2665 or visiting www.arcadiapublishing.com

Smith, who plans to graduate in May, is finishing her second postcard book on Latrobe, Pa., and the Ligonier Valley. It will be available in the spring. 

The WVU school of journalism master's program has granted more than 200 degrees since it's inception in 1962. For more information, log onto graduateadmissions.wvu.edu/academics/graduate-programs/journalism-m