Postcard History

This article is a continuation of Postcards History.

Undivided Back Era, 1901-1907

In 1901, the U.S. Government granted the use of the words “Post Card” to be printed on the undivided back of privately printed cards and allowed publishers to drop the authorization inscription previously required. As in earlier eras, writing was still limited to the front. However, during this time, other countries began to permit the use of a divided back. This enabled the front to be used exclusively for the design, while the back was divided so that the left side was for writing messages and the right side for the address. England was the first to permit the divided back in 1902, France followed in 1904, Germany in 1905 and finally the U.S. in 1907. These changes ushered in the “Golden Age” of postcards as millions were sold and used.

Divided Back Era, 1907-1915

By this period, divided backs were almost universal, except in a few monopolistic governments. Previous to and during this period, a majority of U.S. postcards were printed in Europe, especially in Germany whose printing methods were regarded as the best in the world. However the trying years of this period, the rising import tariffs and the threats of war, caused a swift decline in the cards imported. Thus the political strains of the day brought about the end of the “Golden Age”.

Early Modern Era (White Border), 1916-1930

During this period, American technology advanced allowing us to produce quality cards, although we often produced inferior ones in order to compete in the saturated market place. Public appeal changed and greeting card publication declined. However the view card market remained strong. The cards of this era were usually printed with white borders around the picture, thus the term “White Border Cards”.

Linen Card Era, 1930-1945

Changing technology now enabled publishers to print cards on a linen type paper stock with very bright and vivid colors. View and comic cards were the most often published. Sets and series were few and far between and the greeting card was almost exclusively replaced with the new French-fold cards. Among the best cards of this era are the political humor cards of World War II.

Photochrome Era, 1939-Present

The Union Oil Series began in 1939, launching the new era of photochrome cards. Photochromes are commonly called “Modern Chromes”, are still the most popular cards today. Since the earlier days of fine printing craftsmanship, these are the best reproductions to come along in years. Collectors are expressing interest in these cards. Also despite the increase in postal rates for postcards from one cent to the current twenty-nine cents, postcard popularity continues to rise. Even the greeting post card is making a big return, though usually seen as reproductions of old cards, more and more new original art is being produced.

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