Post cards seem to transcend time. You may not get a personal post card via snail mail as often as you did before everyone could send an email from their pocket, but; the post card industry is still very much alive and well.
Many people seek out the post card stand on vacations, looking for perfect photos to stash in a box of memories. The Grand Canyon, Disney, Niagara Falls, Las Vegas, The Statue of Liberty- chances are you have at least a handful of post cards from some of these iconic destinations. The photography is beautiful, and generally maintains its quality longer than a traditional photo. You may even have a post card or two from Fitterer’s if you’ve shopped here over the years!
Prior to the age of technology, when traditional mail and the still very new landline telephone were the primary means of communication, post cards were a big business. There’s a whole history surrounding these printed cards – one (that we at least) were largely unaware of.
This week, a post card from the early 1900s inspires our throwback!
We found, almost by accident, a fun ( albeit small, in terms of today’s versions) antique post card in our cabinet today. The card measures 5.5 x 3.5 inches, and based on the research we did , looks to date back between 1907 and 1915.
The front of the post card found in our cabinet this week! We believe it dates somewhere between 1907 and 1915
The card features a whimsical photo of a couple, hand drawn question marks composed of flowers, and a banner with the question “Would you care?”. We were able to find a few of these online that were actually sent by post, but ours is blank. Could be that it was purchased as a collectible and given to the store by someone over the years – or it may have just been here at the store all of that time.
We learned that post cards were primarily manufactured in Europe during the early 1900s, but this card states that it was printed in the U.S. In addition to the ‘Printed in the U.S.’ statement, are the words ‘Theochrom Serie 1219’.
The back view of the post card found today – despite some marking over time, its in great condition for its age! Note the ‘ Printed in the U.S. ‘ text
We read that the majority of post cards were printed in Europe prior to WWI, so we weren’t as sure about the dating for this piece. A quick Google search for ‘Theochrom Serie 1219’ immediately brought up this card, as well as some history on the manufacturer. The company, Theodor Eismann , produced these cards.They were in fact a German company, which makes the ‘Printed in the U.S.’ message even more curious. It turns out there’s an interesting history regarding the move of Theodor Eismann printing equipment to the U.S. – for more on Theodor Eismann, follow the link here!
Its fun to dig into the history of these little finds – and you really cannot help but smile at this Post Card. Its lighthearted , and possibly not something you’d expect for an early 1900s collectible.
Who knew you could learn so much from a simple post card?
Keep reading for some fun facts about the history of post cards! And be sure to check out the link to the Smithsonian website where we got the bulk of our information.
Did you know?
- The history of post cards can be broken up into distinct periods
Though its difficult to put an exact date on every post card, there are about eight different time frames that separate their history
- It wasn’t until 1861 that congress passed an act to allow cards from private printers weighing under one ounce to be sent in the mail. This was the same year that the first post card in the US was copy righted.
- Between 1891 and about 1901 Private Post Cards were printed identifying themselves as “Private Mailing Cards”, to distinguish private vs. government produced cards. This period of time also restricted where text could be placed – for example, no message could be placed on the side of the card that was intended for the address.
- The period from 1907-1915 is considered to be the “golden age of postcards”. This can be attributed to the overwhelming popularity of the post card during this era.
- Post cards were largely produced in Germany during the early days ( up until World War I) Though American post cards became more the norm at this time, quality fell due to a lack of technology for manufacturing.
- When quality fell during the change over to US production, people became less interested in collecting cards , effectively ending the “ golden age” of post cards. In order to save ink – the entire card was not filled with ink, leaving a white border. Cards made between 1915-1930 are likely to have this border.
- Starting in 1930 , new technology allowed for cards to be printed to look like linen – this was the gateway for the photochrom era ( essentially post cards as we know them )