HISTORY OF THE POSTCARD

Many of the photos on this site are from topographical picture postcards.
Cards with messages had been occasionally created and posted by individuals since the creation of postal services.
The world’s first postcard appeared in Austria in 1869.
Postcards have been used in Britain since they were first introduced by the Post Office in 1870. These were plain cards issued by the Post Office. They had a pre-printed stamp.
The address was written on one side of the card and the message, often very brief, was written on the other side, without a picture.
Great Britain was slower than its continental neighbours to latch on to the possibilities of picture postcards.
On the 1st of September 1894, the Post Office allowed postcards published by others to be posted. A halfpenny adhesive stamp was added to these cards before posting. Several manufacturers produced cards. The first publisher to include pictures to the cards is believed to have been George Stewart of 92 George Street, Edinburgh.

From 1895 onwards, a size of 4.75 ins x 3.5 ins was adopted for postcards. These were known as Court Cards. The address was written on one side. The reverse bore a small picture leaving sufficient space to write a message.

The Spot Derby
The picture postcard began to appear a few years later and during the Paris Exhibition of 1889 they received a big boost in popularity as a means of sending messages. It triggered off a craze for postcard collecting and caught the public’s imagination, in fact that in their heyday between 1890-1920,they even took the place of traditional family photo albums.
Virtually every country in the world produced cards in ever increasing numbers.
In 1899 the standard size of 5.5” x 3.5” already in use in other countries, was accepted in Britain. The address,, and nothing else, still had to be written on one side of the card. The other side being for the picture and message. In many cases the picture covered most of the card, leaving little room for the message.
A magazine was published from 1900-7 to cater for the craze, and publishers met the demand by issuing postcards on every imaginable subject. Millions of postcards went through the postal system every week, and a high proportion finished up in someone's album, to be rediscovered by collectors in the second half of the twentieth century.
In 1902 the Post Office changed its rules and allowed pictures to appear on the front of postcards and message and address both to appear on the back. The message was to be written on the left-hand side of the back and the address on the right-hand side of the back. Great Britain was the first country to allow this practice. From around September 1902 onwards, postcard manufacturers began to issue cards with a line drawn down the middle of the back to show where the message and address should be written. These cards soon replaced the earlier ones with 'undivided backs'.


Queen Street Derby

The years before the First World War have been called 'The Golden Age' of picture postcards as everybody used them for messages before the telephone was widely in use. Cards of all descriptions and subjects were produced and personal collections were popular, many of these cards being produced in Germany. With the outbreak of hostilities this supply came to an end.
After the war the hobby never recovered, understandably a nation trying to come to terms with the enormous casualties found it very difficult to resume any pre-war trivialities.
In 1926 the Post Office specified the sizes of postcard that were allowed Min size: 4 ins x 2.75 ins. - Max size 5.875 ins x 4.125 ins. Postcards larger than the sizes above became more common later in 20th century.
The role of the postcard changed becoming increasingly associated with the Seaside Holiday.
Picture cards became status symbols and would reflect a person’s position in society. Cards such as those published by ‘Valentines of Dundee’ and ‘Raphael Tuck’ in particular, were especially sought after as these were of the highest quality. During this golden period, postcards featured every imaginable subject. Examples included hand painted picturesque views of famous sites and buildings, while excellent photographic images captured major political and sporting events, as well as recording and celebrating important moments such as early aviation.
These cards are historically significant because they provide an insight into the social history of the world, by visually showing defining moments which include the First World War, and the rise of industrialism.
Topographical postcards are of particular interest to the more historically minded collector. They are an excellent way of showing how a particular town or city may have changed over the years, how people dressed and which modes of transport were available at that point in time.
By the 1970's, however, the medium began to regain its credentials as an advertising and art item, and today has a high profile again. Moreover, since the 1950's, old postcards have been keenly collected by a growing number of people.
Picture postcards from the past 100 or so years are now appreciated by tens of thousands of British collectors.