Although in today’s technology driven society the postcard has slowly been replaced by Facebook and Twitter, the postcard still maintains a sentimental sort of magic. The feeling of receiving a postcard through the door is somewhat exciting and a pleasant insight into the holiday of a loved one. These days it is hard to imagine life without camera phones and travel applications, as well as other readily available camera equipment, however as little as 50 years ago there wasn´t the option of taking a quick snap and message it across the world within seconds.
Origin of the Postcard
The earliest known picture postcard was posted in London to writer Theodore Hook in 1840. The card was sent using a penny black stamp and featured a hand-painted caricature of postal workers. It is believed that he sent it to himself as a practical joke on the postal service.
It wasn´t until 1861 that the first commercially produced postcard was created in Philadelphia by John P. Charlton who patented the postal card. The rights were then sold to Hymen Lipman who developed a postcard featuring a decorative border. Such postcards were labeled “Lipman´s postal card”.
It was in France in 1870 that the first known printed picture postcard was produced. The cards were produced at Camp Conlie, a training camp for soldiers during the Franco-Prussian war. They featured a lithographed design containing armaments from the camp along with the inscription “War of 1870. Camp Conlie. Souvenir of the National Defence. Army of Brittany”. Although these were the first picture postcards, there is doubt as to whether they were posted with or without an envelope given that there was no space for a stamp.
After the British industrial revolution, going on holiday to the seaside became more achievable thanks to improved infrastructure and steam locomotives. Thus, in 1884 British publishers were granted permission by the Royal Mail to produce and distribute picture postcards that could be sent through the post. These postcards usually featured pictures of famous landmarks, scenic views or drawings of celebrities.
During the 1930s, cartoon style postcards started to become more popular. Typically saucy cartoons were popular, featuring innuendos and stereotypical characters like vicars, larger ladies and put on husbands. This style of postcard was extremely popular with annual sales reaching 16 million! However with a new conservative government put in place in the 1950s, there was a crackdown on this type of postcard due to concern over deterioration in British morals. Postcard artists such as Donald McGil were a main target of the cut down with his artwork being deemed inappropriate. Such postcards are now a collector’s item and very valuable.
Although postcards are still widely produced, it is now a lot easier to Instagram a photo to everyone you know or publish a picture on Facebook for the world to see. However, keep in mind that receiving a postcard bears much more sentimental value than the upload of a picture!