The Flamborough Archives contains several distinct postcard collections, as well as many individual postcards found throughout the various papers and records of individuals and businesses.
The collecting of postcards is called deltiology. The hobby is as popular as coin and stamp collecting and it is easy to see why. “Postcards have recorded our history, shown us an endless stream of pictures about our world, and pictured its people young, old, rich, royal, or wretched. “ “They are social records, political comments, links to the past, parts of the present, and views with claims to the future.”
In 1870 Britain and France first offered government issued cards for sale, printed with a stamp as part of the design. On June 1, 1871, Canada issued a prestamped, pictureless post card. It was called a postal stationery card and was sold for one cent at the post office. The cost included both the card and the delivery to any address within the Dominion. Postal Stationery Cards were used for business purposes to make appointments, confirm orders and arrange deliveries.
Early postcards had no pictures, and were used for various purposes -business advertising, military correspondence and government information.
At first, only governments issued these cards but by the 1890’s the monopoly was relinquished and private publishers churned out millions of them. The first British pictorial cards were issued in 1891.
On December 9, 1897 the Canadian Post Office announced that “designs, illustrations, portraits, sketches or other forms of advertisement may be engraved, lithographed, printed, etc., on the ‘address’ side of the one-cent Post Card.” Also found on many post cards was “Postal Card – Carte Postale” which indicated it was allowed to enter the international mail system.
Early cards had advertising, pictures or “greetings from” messages on the front, and the entire back was used for the address. There was no space to write a personal message.
Over the next few years, many publishers left a little bit of white space on the front so that a line or two could be written.
In 1902 the first divided back cards appeared in Europe, which meant that a message could be written on the back. In December 1903 the Canadian Official Postal Guide announced “The department has authorized…that a space may be reserved for communication on the face of the cards to the left of the address…. This space must be marked off from the address section by a vertical line…”
The United States introduced divided backs in 1907.
“Greeting cards, advertising cards, view cards, royalty, animals, political, military, celebrations and more; it seemed that every human activity along with the entire panorama of nature was captured on the picture postcard.”
“Before the telephone, radio, television and computer, the postcard was the chief means of communication. Previous to the invention of the airplane and the widespread use of automobiles and trains, people did little travelling beyond their home communities. Picture postcards furnished them with a glimpse of strange and exotic places, different kinds of people, architecture and animals, unfamiliar social habits and dress”
There were dozens of postcard publishers in various countries, and post card artists, many dealing having specialties such as humour, political satire, holidays etc.
The various Archives collections contain postcards which illustrate many different terms:
The ‘Golden Age’ of postcards came to an end after World War I, and while cards were – and are- still produced, they weren’t used in the same way. There was less emphasis on short social notes covering day to day lives. Instead they became a tourist letter home – easy to write and showing some of the sights.
Everyone has sent and/or received a postcard and they always generate a smile. Early postcards are a glimpse of history and a fascinating way to view the world.
All quoted references are from Chapter 1 : Smith, J. H. (1989). Postcard Companion: The collector’s reference book. Radnor: Wallace-Homestead Book Co.