Postcards from the Past

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Have you ever thought about postcards?  Those simple rectangles of heavy paper that can be found in souvenir shops all over the world; falling out of magazines like snowflakes; stuffing your mailbox with information you don’t want about products or services you don’t need.  You know, those often lovely and sometimes, breathtakingly beautiful works of art.  Yeah, we never did either!!!

But think about it:  once human beings learned to write, they must have shared that written word with others (I mean, wasn’t that the point?)!  We know messages were found on the walls of caves; scrolls of papyrus; hand-bound books.  We know that systems were established to deliver the words:  around 3000BC, Egyptians used homing pigeons; by 2400BC the Pharaohs had established a courier service;   the Persian King Cyrus the Great (c. 550BC) took it further by mandating every province in his kingdom  organize the delivery of post to every single citizen!!!  He even negotiated with neighboring countries to do the same!!!  And then he built roads to facilitate the project!!!  And then, he established stations along those roads where the couriers and their horses would “swap-out” to facilitate speedy delivery!!!  Much later, in the first century, Augustus Caesar copied that plan when he created the Cursus Publicus thereby establishing a comprehensive mail service throughout the Roman Empire.  By that time, world-wide messages were being delivered to individuals with some regularity.  But not ‘til the 17th century was a global postal service operating efficiently with regulations and governmental fees.

So, OK, cards with messages have been created and posted by individuals since the beginning of postal services.  But why did postcards endure?  How come they became collectible? Why are they so popular?  Even today–with email, texting, zooming and other forms of communication so ubiquitously available to every human on earth—postcards are still created, mass-produced, distributed, and purchased all over the world!!!  Why?

Well, let’s see:


Postcards create a quick, but strong bond. So much emotion and thought can be conveyed in just a few words. Haven’t you been known to SAVE a particularly meaningful postcard?!?
Have you ever used postcards as framed art? In our youth, travelling on a shoestring, we would very often use postcards to adorn the walls. As we’ve grown older and outgrown the shoestrings, we still find the visual memories meaningful!!!
Cruising tends to be our preferred mode of travel. But we have a postcard display to remind us that there are other ways to leave home!!!
We will often use postcards to tell the story of a particular trip. Found these photo frames at T J Maxx and love changing them out from trip to trip!!!
The first known “souvenir” postcard was mailed from Vienna in in 1871. At that time, messages were restricted to the picture side. Imagine how hard that was to accomplish. Where do you squeeze in a message when there is so little open space!
Postal regulations changed in 1907 allowing postcards to be split down the middle so a short message could be included on the side.
By 1890, postcards were booming!!! 1890 to 1915 is considered the golden age of postcards! People would fill albums with treasured postcards and display them on the coffee table!!! Collecting postcards is still a popular endeavor.
This was a advertising postcard from a favorite market, the Valvona & Crolla, in Edinburgh, Scotland. Love this place so much, we chose to frame the advertisement and hang it in the kitchen!!!
Even used a throw-away postcard in a floral arrangement at the back door. These little pieces of cardboard are versatile and handy!!!
It’s amazing how many magazine postcards come along with the magazines!!!

Who knew the simple postcard had so many uses?!?  From memory preservation, to commerce, to fund raising, to home décor—that rectangle of eye-catching color is important to our lives.

Good to know!!!

2 thoughts on “Postcards from the Past”

    1. Thank you!! We’re thinking about putting together a coffee-table album of postcards on our next trip (whenever and wherever that might be!!) What an interesting way to chronicle an adventure.


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