A Short History of Postcards.

wishyouwerehere-675x460Postcards are extremely popular to collectors because they portray a lot of subjects, from picturesque landscapes to portraits of famous people. They can even portray various forms of art, architecture and events.
Postcards may also be considered as indicators of history, but it all depends on the determining factors that a certain postcard portrays.
There are lots of people who appreciate the value of postcards, which is why many of them collect postcards as a hobby.
Postcard collecting is technically known as deltiology, and is now considered one of the popular collectible hobbies.


Theodore Hooke posted the first picture postcard in 1840. It was a hand painted postcard depicting the post office and its workers (see above).
Apparently, it was Theodore Hooke himself who posted it as a practical joke, as it featured caricatures of the postal office workers themselves.
The American postal card was first conceptualised and patented by John P. Charlton in 1861. He eventually sold the rights to Hymen Lipman, who added borders to the postal cards.
These cards though, did not contain images and were known as “Lipman’s Postal Cards”.
A few years later, Leon Besnardeau made another picture postcard version. The postcard, became the first picture postcard in Britain.
It depicts emblematic images on one side of the postcard. However, there is no existing evidence indicating Leon Besnardeau mailed this postcard without an envelope. The postcard contains an inscription reading “War of 1870. Camp Conlie. Souvenir of the National Defence. Army of Brittany”.
A year after Britain’s first picture postcard was created, the first picture postcard that served as a souvenir came from Vienna. The following year, the first advertising card was distributed in Great Britain. In 1874, the first German postcard became available to the public.
In 1873, Morgan Envelope Factory was the first to develop the American postcard. In the same year as well, John Creswell, who was the postmaster during that time, presented the first pre-stamped postcards.
The main function of these postcards was to make a convenient means for people to easily send notes.
Two decades later, the post office created the first postcard souvenir to inform the masses of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. This boosted the sales of the postcards. In 1880s as well, the cards depicting other forms of images became extremely popular. This has led to the “Golden Age” of postcards until the 1890s.
Postcards became popular especially during the early 1900s, when postcard publishing companies printed images of buildings and other structures.
In 1908 alone, there were approximately 700 million postcards mailed. Almost two decades later came the “white border” era. This era featured postcards with white borders around them.


Eventually the “white border” era was replaced by the “linen card” era, which took place in the early 1930s. These linen cards feature a texture similar to linen cloth. This ‘linen card’ trend lasted until the 1950s.
via Overnight Prints

‘Extreme Typography’ from Sheaff Ephemera.

m150by Richard Sheaff.
During the Victorian era, there was an explosion of elaborate typefaces, as foundries outdid themselves to keep up with the demand from printers for novel, splashy type.
The number and variety of imaginative typefaces generated from, say, 1870 to 1900 is astonishing. Many of them—most would agree—went too far, as type designers strove for innovation above all.
Many period fonts are difficult to decipher; some are virtually unreadable.
Wood type letter “E” from an advertisement in the October 20, 1883 issue of the newspaper, Weekly Drug News and American Pharmacist.
Engraved trade card ( Sheaff collection)
But those foundry offerings are not what concerns me here. Rather, I’ve been digging through the shoeboxes looking for examples of quirky, radical, idiosyncratic type usages, constructions (mostly) built by hand.
I’m looking at examples of extreme typography prior to 1900 or so . . . rather than at (equally interesting) later things like Russian Constructivism, Haight-Ashbury or Herb Lubalin.
Here, too, will be found some examples of type-only design solutions.
Guess what English language letter is intended by the red initial cap above (no, it is not in Yiddish)?
Read more via Extreme Typography | Sheaff : ephemera.

Printing for the Cuban Tobacco Industry, circa 1860.

romeo and juliette

Romeo y Julieta, imported Havana cigars. Rodriguez, Arguelles y Ca., n.d. [after 1902]. Published by the Compania Litografica, Havana. Chromolithographic poster. 62 x 50.4 cm. Graphic Arts Collection GC149 Ephemera.
The French expatriot artist Frédéric Mialhe (1810-1881) lived and worked in Cuba from 1838 to 1854. He was brought there to be a landscape painter for the newly established lithographic press of François Cosnier and Alexandre Moreau de Jonnes under the sponsorship of the Royal Patriotic and Economic Society of Cuba.
With three presses, five operators, and one master painter, it was “one of the most outstanding enterprises of its kind ever attempted in Cuba” (Cueto).
A particular relationship between the tobacco industry and the chromolithographic printers developed.
Everything from the largest posters to the smallest cigar bands were printed and embossed in elaborate multicolor designs.
See more via Cuban Chromolithography – Graphic Arts.

Alexandre’s Patent Steel Pens.


“Alois Senefelder, the inventor of lithography, made for his own use pens from steel watch-springs.
In 1816, he sold his invention to J. Alexandre of Birmingham, who started the manufacture of steel pens.
At first they were a luxury but about 1830 they came into extensive universal use.” –Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association, v. 6 (1917).
Here is an early advertisement for Alexandre’s firm.
Today, Birmingham is home to the Pen Museum:
Trade card for J. Alexander, ca. 1830. Graphic Arts Collection. Gift of W. Allen Scheuch II, Class of 1976.
Trade Card for Alexander’s Belgian broadside steel pen.
via Patent Steel Pens | Graphic Arts.

Colony of Victoria Miner’s Licence, circa 1850s.

eureka_06With the discovery of Australian gold in the 1850s Victoria soon became the epicentre of the Australian gold rush.
The authorities introduced a licence system on the goldfields.
A miner’s licence allowed a digger to keep whatever gold they found on their claim.
Without a licence – which had to be purchased in advance, in this case for a fee of 5 shillings for a year – a miner was deemed to be stealing from Crown property and was liable to suffer criminal proceedings.
Licence hunts caused great resentment within the mining communities, especially as the police employed to enforce the licencing system were notoriously corrupt and behaved with excessive brutality.
A miner was required to carry their licence at all times and to produce it on demand from an authorised officer of the law.
Failure to produce it, no matter what the circumstances, meant being chained to a log and fined by the resident commissioner.
via The Ephemera Society 

The History of Nursing as told by Postcards.

d05277editA postcard exhibit at the National Library of Medicine shows how the cultural perception of nurses has changed over the decades.
By Helen Thompson
Florence Nightingale knew how to work the press. The Times first painted her as an iconic female healer—the “lady with the lamp”—for her work in the Crimean War in the 1850s.
Nightingale used her nursing image to drive public health legislation and improve sanitary conditions in the British army.
“The postcard is a very fleeting art form, and one that in the age of electronic communication—email, twitter, selfies, Flickr, and Instagram—looks ever more anachronistic,” says Hallam.
Today, postcards have been relegated to documenting exotic vacations.


But, in their heyday at the turn of the 19th century, postcards were all the rage, an easy way to keep in touch without having to write a lengthy letter.
First patented in the U.S. in 1861, early postcards featured printed images of drawings, paintings and comics.
With the rise of personal cameras, “real photo” postcards became all the rage. As a result, postcards can provide a snapshot (both literal and figurative) of popular culture.
Over the years, postcards depicting nurses were used as recruitment tools, fundraising, advertising and even propaganda.
The current exhibit draws from the NLM’s collection of 2,588 postcards produced between 1893 and 2011, donated by former nurse and collector Michael Zwerdling.
Read on via The Evolution of the Nurse Stereotype via Postcards: From Drunk to Saint to Sexpot to Modern Medical Professional  Smithsonian.