Memories with a View: The History of Postcards

By: hunter
Beautiful to look at and fun to collect, postcards have been a favored means of traveling communication for many years. Even in these modern days, when the penned letter is often neglected in favor of email, postcard sales continue to hold their own. The reason is simple; no matter what the mood, no matter where you are, there's a postcard for every occasion.

Today, postcards remain the top-selling souvenir amongst travelers and they are one of the most popular collection items in the world. Dating as far back as 1869, the first official postcard was designed by Dr. Emmanuel Herrmann of Hungary, and the fad quickly spread around the world. Officially created for advertising purposes, rather than souvenirs, cards depicting the Eiffel Tower would be released during the late 1800's, and would garner so much attention that the postcard would be deemed an item worth collecting.

The first known collectible postcard, designed for use as a souvenir, was printed in 1893 and placed for sale during the Columbian Exposition, in Chicago. Privately printed cards could be mailed for as little as 2 cents, while government issued postals only cost one sent to send out. Originally, these post cards were developed for the writing to be placed on the front of the card, but as the years passed by, they were finally allowed to create a card, with a divided back, which left the entire front of the card to be used for artistic purposes.

By the 1930's, technology allowed postcards to be printed on higher quality linen stock, greatly enhancing the quality of art and color on the front of the cards. Cards with scenic views and cartoons were the most popular, while the French fold version of the postcard almost eliminated the need for traditional greeting cards altogether. The desire to collect was only further enhanced by the introduction of a variety of series and set cards, while WWII brought about the political humor postcard.

The 1940's saw the emergence of the photo chrome postcard, which carried far more vivid colors and sharper detail than had ever been seen before. Granting a more realistic appearance than those of their predecessors, they were quickly swept up, and remain some of the most treasured finds amongst modern-day collectors. Similar postcards, known as 'modern chromes,' remain the top-selling postcards, to this day.

Providing a social and historical documentation of the times, postcards allow people to step back into the past and explore sights that they might, otherwise, never have seen. Printed on everything from leather to wood, hand-painted or autographed, postcards have withstood the test of time, while other fads have long faded away. They can be touching, humorous, or beautiful, but they all have one thing in common; no matter what you want to say, there is always a postcard to help convey the message, and always someone who would love to receive such a wonderful treasure.
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