Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Anybody a Postcard Collector?

By Cindy Regnier

Tracing the origins of the postcard is just plain difficult. They weren’t an idea that somebody just came up with one day. It’s more like they evolved.

Following the popularization of printing presses, visiting cards, bill heads, writing paper and other types of paper ephemera started to have illustrations on them, often with delicate engravings and tasteful designs. Before postcards, some people sent cards through the mail with attached postage. Because these cards are not actually postcards, they are typically referred to as “mailed cards.” During this period, envelopes were produced with pictures on them, and some believe that postcards are the direct descendants of the picture envelopes.

In 1777, French engraver Demaison published in Paris a sheet of cards with greetings on them, meant to be cut and sent through the local post, but people were wary of servants reading their messages... so the idea was not very well received.

By the mid 1840s , adhesive postage stamps were being produced.
first adhesive stamp
Simultaneously, decorated prepaid letter sheets were also put on sale by the post office. These were designed by William Mulready and showed Britannia with a lion at her feet, sending mail messengers to all parts of the world. Though this particular design turned out to be unpopular and often ridiculed, this was the first postal stationery item issued by the post office that had decorations on the outside. They were replaced the following year by plain pink envelopes, with a printed 1 penny stamp on the corner.

In 1861 the US Congress passed an act that allowed privately printed cards, weighing one ounce or less, to be sent in the mail.

Later that year, John P. Charlton from Philadelphia patented a postal card and sold the rights to Hymen Lipman (founder of the first envelope company in the US and inventor of the lead-pencil and eraser). However, with the start of the Civil War a month later, these Lipman Cards as they became known were forgotten and not used until almost a decade later.

A few years later, Heinrich von Stephan proposed the creation of offenes Postblatt (or, open post-sheets). The goal was to simplify the etiquette of the letter format, but also to reduce the work, paper and costs involved in the sending of a short message.
Private mailing card
He suggested the introduction of a rigid card, roughly the size of an envelope, which could be written on and mailed without the need for an envelope, having the postage pre-printed.

In 1869 In Austria-Hungary, Dr. Emanuel Herrmann (a professor of Economics from Vienna) wrote an article pointing out that the time and effort involved in writing a letter was out of proportion to the size of the message sent. He suggested that a more practical and cheaper method should be implemented for shorter, more efficient communications.

His recommendations resulted in the Correspondenz-Karte, a light-brown 8.5x12cm rectangle with space for the address on the front, and room for a short message on the back. The postcard featured an imprinted stamp on top right corner, costing half the price of a normal letter. The postcard was born!

In the 1880s, many postcards were printed with small sketches or designs (called vignettes) on the message side, initially just in black, but increasingly also in color. Slowly, Germany came to dominate the industry of chromolithography, with many postcards being printed there. A large number of these featured illustrated views of a town and the expression Gruss Aus (or, Greetings from), leaving enough space for a message.

At the end of the decade, the Eiffel Tower made its debut on the Exposition Universelle of 1889 that took place in Paris. French engraver Charles Libonis designed postcards for the occasion featuring the monument, which was the tallest tower in the world at the time. The novelty postcards, which could be mailed from the Eiffel Tower itself, were much beloved by the visitors and became known as Libonis.

The 1890s saw photography starting to be used in postcards, gradually increasing in popularity over the next few decades. All matter of subjects were photographed with topographics (urban street scenes and general views) being a recurrent topic.

in 1893 the World's Columbian Exposition opens in Chicago, a world fair where 46 nations participated with exhibitions and attractions. Over 26 million people visited the fair, and for many of them, this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to discover what lies beyond their own country's borders. Publisher Charles W Goldsmith seized the opportunity to produce a novelty set of official postcards, showing the pavilions and other interesting sections of the exhibition in color. These were the first commercially produced pictorial postcards to be printed as a souvenir in the United States, and they proved to be a sensational hit.

The turn of the century saw the golden era of postcards. An article on the Standard (a British newspaper) from August 21, 1899 read: "The illustrated postcard craze, like the influenza, has spread to these islands from the Continent, where it has been raging with considerable severity. " With multiple daily pickups and deliveries (up to 12 times per day in large cities!), postcards were effectively the text messages of their time. It was cheap and convenient to send them, and postcard-obsession reached its peak in the Edwardian era with billions of them being sent every year.
divided back postcard
Scenic landscapes, portraits, exhibitions, royal visits, humorous scenes or even current events were quickly printed in postcards shortly after taking place. The many surviving examples of such postcards tell a vivid picture of the time.

In 1902, the British Post Office allowed messages to be written on one half of the side normally reserved for the address, paving the way for the divided back era of postcards. This left the reverse side of the card free to be completely filled with an image.
Starting in 1913 and well into the 1930s, postcards featuring a white border became commonplace in the US. Typically, multiple postcards were printed in rows on a large sheet of paper, which had to be trimmed around the edges of each postcard — a job that required a great deal of precision. The white borders were introduced to give some margin of error to the process, thus making them less expensive to produce.
white border post card
So as you can see, Postcards, as we are familiar with them today, have taken a considerable amount of time to develop. First restricted by size, color, and other regulations, postcard production blossomed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Postcards were popular because they were a quick and easy way for individuals to communicate with each other. Today deltiology, or the collection of postcards, is a popular hobby. 

Rand Stafford isn't looking for true love. He'd ridden that trail until his fiancée left him with a shattered heart. What he needs now is a wife to help him care for his orphan nieces. Desperate, he sends an advertisement to a Baltimore newspaper and hopes for the best.



Fleeing her former employer who would use her to further his unlawful acts, a newspaper advertisement reads like the perfect refuge to Carly Blair. The idea of escaping the city, the intrigue, and the danger to hide herself on a cattle ranch in Kansas is her best shot for freedom.

But its sanctuary comes with a price—a husband. While marrying a man she doesn't know or love means sacrificing her dreams, it's better than being caught by the law.

Or is it?


  1. Fascinating article. I have several postcards from the early 1900s sent by family members. I have the plain brown ones with messages inviting someone to visit. Some picture postcards of the family home or in one case my grandmother had her picture taken with a friend on a vacation. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I have an album of my grandmothers postcards from about 1915-1930. So much fun to look at. Treasure yours!

  2. This was really interesting! Thanks for posting!

  3. Postcards fascinate me. I love sending and receiving mail. Postcards are fun to collect.

  4. Fun, easy and meaningful collection! Thanks Melissa