Postcard enthusiast preserves Yorktown history one card at a time

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Yorktown in postcards 3
Sailors aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown, from the Shisler Collection. (Steve Roberts, Jr./WYDaily.com)

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Digital technology is helping to preserve history after one man’s eBay habit evolved into a literary collaboration with a Yorktown author.

For Richard Shisler it began as an ever-growing hobby for a retired Navy man: collecting postcards.  

Over the years, the York County resident has amassed a trove of vintage postcards, maps, photos and drawings --  hundreds about Yorktown’s history dating back to the American Revolutionary War.

For Kathleen Manley, a respected author and amateur historian, it was the kind of media she would love to peruse, to share, to write about.

Their creation, "Yorktown: Postcard History Series," touches on the nostalgic victory of the American Revolution in Yorktown, as well as the battle for Yorktown during the Civil War. It also reflects on the Yorktown’s place in history with respect to both World Wars.

The book, published by South Carolina-based Arcadia Publications, will be released Monday.

“I'm not a serious historian," Manley said. "I'm a casual historian with an interest and a willingness to organize these publications that will stimulate the preservation of this history.”

Yorktown is not only for history buffs. It is a carefully curated pictorial of Shisler's collection with both his and Manley's written captions relating to what she referred to as "America's cradle of democracy."

The book solidifies Yorktown’s place in Virginia’s history and gives readers of all ages a visual depiction of the underappreciated parts of Yorktown’s days gone by. This includes how the Colonial Parkway came about, Yorktown's small-town character and the devastation wreaked upon the area by wars that swept through the region. 

"Things always look so much better when you're looking back," Shisler said. "When you think of all the wars we've been in, Yorktown's been in all of them. It's more than a Revolutionary area."

Shisler found many of his postcards on eBay.  Since he started collecting, he has two 5-inch thick binders full of postcards.

The collector said at a point with his hobby, there probably are just a handful of cards about Yorktown he doesn’t possess.

"This book is not a book for historians," Shisler said. "They probably know all this stuff. This is a book for the average man."

Manley agrees.

With two books under her belt, including,"Yorktown: Images of America" and "A History of Yorktown and its Victory Celebrations: Revival to Patriotism,"  Manley wanted this third book set in "bite-sized" pieces that anyone can enjoy, she said.

Manley knew about another postcard collection, but was unable to gain access to it.

Luckily she knew Shisler. Some 53 years earlier, Shisler happen to be dating Manley’s next-door neighbor. It fostered a friendship later in life. 

“I wasn't able to get access to that one [postcard collection] for publication. I knew Richie had one,” Manley said.

"Yorktown: Postcard History Series," is available via pre-order here or purchased in a Barnes & Noble bookstore. Manley's other two history books "Yorktown: Images of America" and "A History of Yorktown and its Victory Celebrations: Revival to Patriotism" are available online.