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Collectible Corner

Articles about Vintage Paper

& Collectibles

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE POSTCARD IN THE UNITED STATES by John McClintock PIONEER ERA (1893-1898)

Although there were earlier scattered issues, most pioneer cards in today's collections begin with the cards placed on sale at the Colombian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois on May 1, 1893. These were illustrations on government printed postal cards and on privately printed souvenir cards. The government postal card had the imprinted 1-cent stamp while the souvenir cards required a 2-cent adhesive postage stamp to be applied to it. Writing was not permitted on the address side of the card.

PRIVATE MAILING CARD ERA (1898-1901) On May 19, 1898, private printers were granted permission by an act of congress, to print and sell cards that bore the inscription "Private Mailing Card". Today we call these cards "PMC's". Postage required was now a one-cent adhesive stamp. Dozen or more American printers began to take postcards seriously. Writing was still not permitted on the address side, however many publishers often left a wider border on the side or bottom of the view side so a short message could be added.

POSTCARD ERA (1901-1907 The use of the word "POSTCARD" was granted by the government to private printers on December 4, 1901. In this era, private citizens began to take black and white photographs and have them printed on paper with post card backs. Writing was still not permitted on the address side.

UNDIVIDED BACK ERA (1893-1907) The above three eras can also be grouped into the general heading of "undivided back".

DIVIDED BACK ERA (1907-1914) Post cards with a divided back, that is, with a printed vertical line down the middle, were permitted starting March 1, 1907. The address to be written on the right side and written messages to be on the left. Many millions of cards were published in this period. Up to this point most cards were printed in Germany who was far ahead of this country in the lithographic processes. With the advent of World War I, the supply of post cards had to come from England to the United States.

WHITE BORDER ERA (1915-1930) Most of our postcards were printed in the USA during this period. To save ink, a border was left around the view thus we classify them as "White Border Cards". High cost of labor, inexperience and public taste caused production of poor quality cards. High competition in a narrowing market caused many publishers to go out of business.

LINEN ERA (1930-1944) New printing processes allowed printing on post cards with a high rag content that caused a "linen like" finish. These cheap cards allowed the use of gaudy dyes for coloring. The firm of Curt Teich flourished with their line of linen postcards. Many important events in history were recorded on these cards.

PHOTOCHROME ERA (1945 to present) The "chrome" post cards started to dominate the scene soon after they were launched by the Union Oil Company in their western service stations in 1939. Mike Roberts pioneered with his "WESCO" cards soon after World War II. Three-dimensional post cards also appeared in this era.


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