10 Things You Didn’t Know: Vintage Postcards

1 The origin of postcards is steeped in a bit of controversy, with Austria, Germany and the

This humorous St. Ignace, Mich., card with delivery tag was mailed to Richard Brown’s mother,  Miss Lucille Wilson. (Photo courtesy Richard Brown)

This humorous St. Ignace, Mich., card with delivery tag was mailed to Richard Brown’s mother, Miss Lucille Wilson. (Photo courtesy Richard Brown)

U.S. each staking claim to a piece of the historical postcard pie. The first postcard patent in the U.S. was submitted by John P. Charlton in 1861, and then sold to Hymen Lipman. However, this early postcard did not feature images. There are also reports of the first souvenir picture postcard showing up in Austria in 1869, followed by the first advertising postcard making its premiere in Britain in 1870.

2 German-born artist Rudolph Dirks’ rascally comic strip characters “Hans and Fritz” inspired a game-changing series of postcards in the early 20th century, which featured the troublemaking young boys. In keeping with the devious behavior the duo was known for, the postcards had to be held to a heat source to reveal the joke on the postcard.

3 Picture Postcard Monthly, based in Nottingham, England, is the longest-running postcard magazine. Single issues are available digitially, as well as a full-year online subscription at http://www.postcardcollecting.co.uk/subscribe.php.

4 Hundreds of postcard collectors gather regularly on PostcardCollector.org to talk postcards and enjoy superb postcard galleries.

5 Postcards were among the first items used by charities to share news of their efforts and raise much-needed funds. During World War I, The Salvation Army released a series of postcards that featured images of “doughnut girls” dishing out homemade doughnuts – fried right in the field – to soldiers stationed overseas, while also offering them a healthy dose of appreciation and encouragement from home.

6 The popularity of postcards is celebrated in a few spectacular museums. Next time you’re in the Windy City, be sure to stop by the Chicago Postcard Museum, and while you’re in the state of Illinois, check out Libertyville, Ill., and take in the Curt Teich Postcard Archives – featuring more than 365,000 postcards. Plus, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston includes a number of impressive postcards among its various collections, as does The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

7 An age-old debate between deltiologists (postcard collectors) and artists is the use of postcards to create art. As collage art started to take hold in the early 20th century, artists including Pablo Picasso used bits of newspaper, wallpaper and postcards to create pieces of art.

8 Postcrossing is a modern postcard exchange program. Participants sign up on Postcrossing.com, receive the name and address of another member, mail a postcard to

Art By Eva Daniell, published by Raphael Tuck, French, series 176, undivided back, VF. $150. (Photo courtesy Cherryland Auctions)

Art By Eva Daniell, published by Raphael Tuck, French, series 176, undivided back, VF. $150. (Photo courtesy Cherryland Auctions)

that person, wait to receive a return postcard and register it in the system. In the eight years this project has been active, more than 400,000 people from 217 countries have participated and 16,758,199 postcards have been received.

9 Postcardy.com is a popular virtual postcard hub, filled with tips and advice about collecting postcards, links to sites for connecting with fellow deltiologists and viewing postcard collections.

10 Basic methods for preserving postcards include: storing them in photo albums, placing them in non-acidic plastic wallets – which offer a way to preserve and present postcards – or framing them.

Compiled by Antoinette Rahn. Sources: Postcard Collector by Barbara Andrews, Smithsonian Libraries, Picture Postcard Monthly, Postcardy.com, The Salvation Army (www.uss.salvationarmy.org), Lake County Forest Preserves (www.lcfpd.org).

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