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               April, 2013

  Contact the Editors:
      Charles Hansen, Editor & Contributor
      Jenna Mills, Associate Editor & Contributor

  Read previous newsletters: Newsletter Archives

  Post Cards
  — Charles Hansen

        My dad had collected a bunch of post cards, and he had a nice album with slits for the corners of the post cards, but how old are the post cards? Many had postage and a cancellation date, so those are easy to date. They are mostly from 1911 to 1915, but a large group has nothing on the back while several have writing on the back and no postage or cancellation by the post office.

        The first picture postcards appeared in the 1860s to mid 1870s, but they became more popular at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois starting in May of 1893. As an aside my grandfather worked at that exposition as an interpreter for a while. Messages were not permitted on the address side of the card, and they printed This Side for Address. From 1898 to 1901 Congress granted private printers permission to print and sell cards labeled Private Mailing Card. They required 1-cent postage, and still no message on the address side. The term Post Card came around in the early 1900s. From 1901 to 1907 Post Cards had an undivided back and If it said Post Card it was privately printed. Government issued cards had Postal Cards.

        This is one of the Post Cards from my dad's collection, on the other side is a clown with a belt that says Humpty Dumpty and Little Jack Horner, so this card was printed before 1907. Starting in 1872 the postage for post cards was 1-cent and except for two short periods stayed at one cent till 1952. During WWI from 1917 to 1919 postage went to two cents and another brief period from 1925 to 1928. The penny postcard now costs 33 cents to mail.

        This is a later post card with the divided back. It is an Easter card with a boy sitting and two baskets of eggs by his sides. It was sent to my dad from his Aunt Fred (actually Fredelene but everyone called her Aunt Fred). If you look closely you can see Printed in Germany in the lower left corner.

        Beginning on March 1, 1907 postcards with a divided back were permitted in the U.S. Britain had pioneered this in 1902. The address was on the right side and the message was on the left side. This started the golden age of postcards and from 1907 to 1914 millions of postcards were printed, mostly from Germany, but when the war started printing switched to England and finally the United States. In 1915 cards with a white border appeared to save ink and between 1915 and 1930 these White Border cards were printed and many were poor quality and many publishers went out of business due to changes in public taste for post cards.

        Size of the postcard is also an indication of the date, cards larger than 3.5 by 5.5 may date before 1898. Cards smaller than 3.5 by 5.5 may date from 1898 to 1902. And if they are 3.5 by 5,5 the may date from 1902 to 1970. The first card above is 3.25 by 5.5 so it may be from 1898 to 1902. The second card is 3.5 by 5.5 so probably issued after 1907

        Dating postcards is pretty easy if you know when they changed the rules for postcards, and later ones can be dated by the content as well as the back of the postcard, so hopefully you will know when your Aunt Fred wrote the postcard.

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