For those who enjoy collecting postcards, deltiology is the name of the game, and although it’s not as popular as stamp or coin collecting – postcards are actually the third largest item that collectors choose for their hobby. It is a memorable way of tracking one’s travels to different cities, countries, or continents. It was also a way for families and friends to keep in touch.
What is interesting about postcards is the history that dates back more than 150 years. In 1840, postcards were already being developed with the direct ancestor considered to be simply envelopes with pictures on them. Although these envelopes were often printed with comics, Valentines, or music on them, thousands of patriotic pictures appeared on these U.S. envelopes during the Civil War.
Four years later, in 1869, the first postal card was suggested by Dr. Emanuel Herrmann, an Austrian technical professor. It was also accepted by the Hungarian government the same year. The following year, a historical card and the first of the regularly printed cards, appeared throughout Europe. The earliest known exposition card in the U.S. appeared in 1873, a card that showed the Inter-State Industrial Exposition building in Chicago. The marks for mailing on the card depicted the bust of Liberty and a circle with the postage amount of one cent.
It wasn’t until the Columbian Exposition in 1893 that these cards were sold for souvenir purposes, and the “Golden Age” of postcards followed as millions were sold and used.
Another important part of the postcard history is that previous to 1901, writing on postcards was limited to the front part of the postcard, what we recognize today as the picture. When other countries began to permit writing on the back of the postcard, the U.S. finally consented, and in 1907, senders could write on the back, but only on the left side, as the right side was reserved for the address of the receiver. During this time, it cost one cent to send a postcard domestically and two cents overseas.
Postcards have been printed on leather, wood, plastic, and even fine silk. We send postcards to highlight our travels, to make the receiver laugh, and even to remember history. Even though the increase in postal rates has jumped to $0.23 today, postcard popularity can be seen in every kiosk and souvenir shop around the world. With varying costs from $0.20 to more than $1, postcards are a great way to send home well wishes or become a keepsake of a memorable time in one’s life.