History of the Postcard
Postcard collecting also known as Deltiolgy is said to be the third largest hobby of collectibles in the world. It is only out numbered by coin and stamp collecting. The broad range of subjects which are depicted on postcards is so vast that this fact alone may very well explain their popularity among collectors. Almost any subject imaginable has been portrayed on a postcard at some point in time. Postcards continue, to this day, to be the most popular form of souvenirs for travelers as well as an inexpensive method of both personal and business communication.
Pre-Postcard Era (1840-186): The development of postcards did not advance rapidly due to strict government postal regulations. Prior to postcards came the lithograph print, woodcuts and broadsides. Postcards seemed to be derived from envelopes which were printed with pictures on them. These first envelopes were produced by D. William Mulready, E.R.W. Hume, Dickey Doyle, and James Valentine. These envelopes were often printed with pictures of comics, Valentines and music. Thousands of patriotic pictures appeared on U.S. envelopes during the Civil War (1861-1865) and are known as Patriotic Covers. The first postal type card in this country was a privately printed card copyrighted in 1861 by J.P. Carlton. This copyright was later transferred to H.L. Lipman. The "Lipman Postal Cards", as they are now reffered to, were on sale until replaced in 1873 by the U.S. Government Postals.
Pioneer Era (1870-1898): To date the first postal card was suggested by Dr. Emanuel Herrmann and was accepted by the Hungarian government in 1869. The first known regularly printed card appeared in 1870. It was a historical card which was produced in connection with the Franco-German War. The initial advertising cards began to appear in 1872 in Great Britain. German cards started appearing in 1874. Years later, in 1889, cards showing the Eiffel Tower began showing up. the first multi-colored card ever printed is said to be A Heligoland card of 1889. In this country, the earliest known exposition card appeared in 1873, which depicted the main building of the Inter-State Industrial Exposition in Chicago. Although there were earlier scattered issues, most pioneer cards in today's collections begin with the cards placed on sale at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, in May of 1893. These were illustrations published on government printed postal cards and privately printed souvenir cards. The government postal cards had the printed text "1 cent stamp" while the souvenir cards required a 2 cent adhesive postage stamp. Writing was not permitted on the address side of either of these cards.
Private Mailing Card Era (1989-1901): In May of 1898, American publishers were granted permission, by an act of Congress, to print and sell cards bearing the inscription "Private Mailing Card." Today we call these cards 'PMC's'. These private mailing cards were to be posted with one cent stamps which was the same rate as a governmental postal. During this time writing was not permitted on the address side.
Post Card/Undivided Back Era (1901-1907): in December of 1901 the US Government allowed publishers to drop the authorization inscription required and granted the use of the words "POST CARD" to be printed on the undivided back of privately printed cards although at this time writing was still not permitted on the address side. During this time private citizens began to take black & white photographs and have them printed on paper with post card backs. The Post Card Era cards featured undivided backs, and generally when people today use the terms "undivided back," "ub," or "udb," the card dates from this period unless otherwise specified. However other countries, at this time, began to acknowledge the use of the divided back(the left side was for the senders messages and the right side for the address). This allowed the front of the card to be used solely for the picture or design. England was the first to use the divided back in 1902 and followed by France 2 years later. It was not until 1907 that the US began recognizing the divided back format.
Divided Back Era (1907-1915): Postcards with a divided back were permitted in the US in March of 1907. Millions of cards were published in this period. Up to this point most postcards were printed in Europe, especially in Germany due to the fact that they ezceeded most countries printing methods. Due to World War I however the amount of cards imported from Germany began to decline.
White Border/Early Modern Era (1915-1930): During this period, Most of our postcards were printed in the US. This due to the fact that American technology advanced significantly allowing us to produce cards with a higher quality. due to several circumstances of the times publishers often created cards that were not top quality. To save ink, a border was left around the view thus we call them "White Border" cards. High costs of labor, inexperience and public taste also caused production of poor quality cards. High competition in a narrowing market caused many publishers to go out of business. White border cards often look similar to the earlier ones with divided backs, with the except of the distinguishing white border that usually indicates it is a newer card. One trend that seems to occur is the addition of longer descriptions. Public appeal began to change which lead to a decline in the greeting card publication. However the view card market remained strong.
Linen Era (1930-1944): Advancing technology allowed printing on post cards with high rag content that caused a "linen-like" finish. If you look at a linen closely and you'll see the "weave" texture of the paper. These cheap cards allowed the use of gaudy dyes (very bright and vivid colors) for coloring. View and comic cards were the most often published although numerous historical events are recorded only on these cards. Among the best cards of this era are the political humor cards of World War II. Many linen cards have white borders, but others have what is known as a "full bleed", which is when their picture goes all the way to the edge. The backs of linens look very much like white border cards
Photochrome Era (1939 to present) The "chrome" postcards started to dominate the scene soon after they were launched by the Union Oil Company in their western service stations in 1939 launching the new era of photochrome cards. Photochromes are commonly called "Modern Chromes", and are still the most popular cards today. Mike Roberts pioneered with his "WESCO" cards soon after World War II. Three dimensional postcards also began to appear in this era (these postcards "chromes" have a glossy finish like a glossy photograph). Chromes are the most popular type of postcard sold today in souvenir shops. Some of these cards feature a wavy edge often called a "deckled" edge or "scalloped" edge. Because of their life-like colors sometimes beginning collectors mistake these for "real photo" cards.
My Postcard Collection ~ My Preferences
Postcard Traders Info ~ Useful Postcard Links
History of the Postcard ~ Postcard Storage Ideas
Postcard Sizes and Definitions ~ Round Robins
Tips For Trading ~ Where to find cards
Michelle's Postcard Pages Index