Postcrossing Blog

News, updates, and all kinds of goodies and stories from the postal world!

Remember some years ago, when we randomly stumbled on a 19th century postcard exchange club called Kosmopolit, that sounded suspiciously similar to Postcrossing? 🤔 One author described it as a “fraternity of enthusiastic picture postcard exchangers” and there were also reports of “cryptic numbers and initials at the top of a message”, which sounds really familiar…

We were super curious to find out more about this Postcrossing predecessor, but at the time we wrote that blog post, we couldn’t find much more information online about the club… until later, when we heard of a book by Claus-Torsten Schmidt, which seemed to be the definitive guide to the association! Once again, our friends Claas (aka Speicher3) and Christine (aka reisegern) came to the rescue and managed to track down the book in Germany!

Kosmopolit book

They’ve kindly translated some parts of it for us, and now we know much more about Kosmopolit than we did before. So get ready for a few posts about this amazing Postcrossing precursor! Here’s Claas to report on their findings:

The book by Mr. Schmidt is a chronicle that is based on documents and newspaper advertisements, which the author interprets and classifies. At the end of the 19th century there was an incredibly confusing plurality of small picture postcard collector associations, even in small towns. There were also associations that represented the interests of the many postcard dealers.

Years before Kosmopolit was founded, Fritz Schardt owned a trade for paper and stationery supplies and he also sold postcards. Already in 1896 he placed advertisements for the sale of postcards in publications like the “Zeitschrift für Ansichtskartensammler” (Magazine for postcard collectors) and “Der Postkarten-Sammler” (The postcard collector). Such magazines were very important for the huge collector scene at that time.

In 1897, the magazine “Der Ansichtskarten-Sammler” had called for a motto for the salutation between collectors of picture postcards. In March 1897, the proposal by Paul Zetsche from Hanover won: “Gut Ferngruß!” (meaning, Greetings from afar!) was since then the “official” salutation between postcard collectors.

In June 1897, Schardt finally founded Kosmopolit in Nuremberg, using that motto on their logo.

Kosmopolit logo Kosmopolit articles of incorporation (in German)
Kosmopolit logo and articles of incorporation

From then on, the activities of the association were documented in the “Internationale Postkarten Zeitung” (International postcard magazine), their club magazine.

Kosmopolit club magazine header
Kosmopolit club magazine

The association published member address lists to enable the exchange of cards, organised postcard exhibitions, issued their own postcards on festive occasions and sold the emblem rubber stamps. Here’s a special postcard, issued for New Year’s celebrations:

Kosmopolit New Year's celebration postcard
New Year’s celebration postcard

Kosmopolit representations were quickly established in many regions of Germany, but also in other countries, the so-called “Consulates”. For example in Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, Hungary, France, Russia, USA, Turkey, Italy, Switzerland, Norway, Brazil, … Interestingly, some of these consulates were headed by Germans (we must not forget that this was the time of colonialism).

Early on, there were thousands of members, and many small associations joined Kosmopolit. But there was also much quarrelling and intrigue… Within the first years, Schardt founded further collector associations, members were expelled, there were complaints and insults. Back then, there were already members who did not send back postcards after an agreed exchange, and so discussions ensued about other members who were not keeping up their part of the deal when exchanging postcards. In the association’s magazine, Kosmopolit is compelled to point to their members that the exchange rules must be observed.

 Kosmopolit  rules detail

The text reads: “Exchange among members. The daily increasing number of complaints for not returning the cards leads us to point out §4 of the statutes to the members of Weltverband Kosmopolit. We will be uncompromising in our use of the above paragraph.”

Unfortunately, we don’t know what statute §4 was, but here’s an excerpt from other statutes, providing information about the aims of the club:

Kosmopolit Charter 1 and 2
Charter 1 and 2.

About the purpose of the association, it is said:

§2
Purpose. The purpose of the association is:

  1. "The members receive postcards, scrapbooks, technical literature etc. cheaper by contracts concluded between the association and the publishers.
  2. The international character of the association gives the opportunity for exchange and correspondence with collectors from all over the world."
Kosmopolit Charter 8
Charter 8

§8
International exchange

“Members who wish to exchange postcards must indicate this at the time of registration and have to reply all postcards with equivalent cards from their town. Not answering may result in exclusion. Rubbish cards and advertising cards are excluded from exchange. Members are expected to complete all received cards within 8 days at least.”

As we already know, there had been repeated complaints that members had not returned cards as agreed. In their magazine, Kosmopolit published an advertisement in which reminder postcards (“Mahnkarten”) were offered, which could be sent to defaulting members.

Reminder postcards Reminder postcards
Reminder postcards

The reminder postcard states: “If I do not receive compensation by … I feel compelled to arrange your removal from the association.”

Thank you so much to Claas and Christine for this excellent investigative work! It’s so cool to learn more about this 19th century version of Postcrossing, and even notice that it already had a few of the same challenges we see on the site today… 😅 On the second part of this series, we’ll focus on Kosmopolit’s wishlists, statistics and badges — so do check back in a few weeks for more!

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Two whale-themed stamps, with a whale-themed cancellation mark on top

Orla (aka ohegarty) caught our attention when she sent us a postcard for the 150th anniversary of postcards a few years ago featuring a whale-themed cancellation mark that she had designed!

Turns out, she’s the postmaster of a seaside community in Newfoundland that has the best beach in the world for watching humpback whales, so the design and initiative made total sense. We were curious to find out more, so we asked her a few questions:

How did you get started sending postcards? What is your earliest memory of them?

I am a first generation Canadian Irish immigrant. My grandfather sent me/our family postcards and letters in the 1970s-1980s from his various travels to visit his children and grandchildren.

How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?

I read about your launch and early success but did not join back then. I was reminded of this site when a postcrosser sent a cancel request to my post office (I am now the post master in a small rural seaside community) and designed/ordered a special humpback whale cancel since our town is famous for being able to watch humpback whales feed from our beach.

Have you been surprised by any place that you have received a postcard from or sent a postcard to?

Every send or receive is a surprise. The rare countries are extra special though, I have to admit.

Show us your mailbox, your mailman/mailwoman, your post office or the place where you post or keep your postcards!
ohegarty's mailbox, with a postcard featuring mailboxes in its front
Orla’s mailbox
ohegarty's postoffice window, featuring drawings detail of one of the drawings in a window
The decorated windows of the post office where she works.
What’s one way that postcards have changed your life for the better?

Joining the Postcrossing community opened up a different kind of creativity for me. And a different kind of connection to other humans that feels more real than our common electronic virtual square on various social media platforms.

What is it your favorite part of the Postcrossing process?

Reading a new profile and thinking of what I could send to make their mailbox extra special.

Have you inspired other people to join Postcrossing, or met other members yet?

I’ve inspired at least four IRL friends to join and none of them know each other! I’ve only met the 4 people that are now members because of me, but I’ve attended an international virtual meetup — I know that’s not the same but still counts.

Do you have any other interesting hobbies or things that you’re passionate about?

I have the worlds largest collection of feminist postcards and feminist postage stamps. Actually, I’m not really sure about that claim but I’m willing to find out about other collections like mine!

I’m passionate about Feminism. I started the Counting Dead Women Canada list. Femicide is the ignored tragedy on our planet.

PS: You can hear Orla talk about postcards and her life in Newfoundland on episode 89 of the Postcardist podcast!

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The writing prompts invite postcrossers to write about a different topic on their postcards’ messages every month. These are just suggestions though — if you already know what you want to write about, or the recipient gives you some pointers, that’s great too!

This month’s prompt was suggested by iwritedeb! She suggested that we all write about our neighbourhoods, which seems like a great way to learn more about people all over the world! Where do you live, what’s it like, and is there anything unique about it?

In September, write about your neighbourhood!
The view from my window

I live in a pretty suburban area, but within a stone’s throw of farmland. If I look out of my window, I can see a hayfield which has recently been harvested. There’s a small farm nearby with geese, a field where a horse and a pony hang out together, and a lot of nice houses, each with their own garden. We’re not far from the town centre, but here it’s nice and quiet.

Often in the UK you don’t know your neighbours very well, but I like going for walks in the area, so people see me around and we know each other well enough to say hello. Strangely enough, my little corner of Yorkshire is full of Welsh people: there are two other Welsh families on our street, including a gentleman with a dog who is even keener about the rugby than I am (the man is, I mean, not the dog). I always joke that it’s because the weather in Yorkshire is so similar to the weather in Wales: it’s always raining!

My neighbourhood is kind of quiet and unexciting, but I’m sure you can all do better than that! You can write about your neighbourhoods in the comments right here, on the postcards you send out this month… or both! We’d love to hear from you.

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We have a super special treat for you today! The Little Mail Carriers have visited the Postal History Foundation in Arizona (USA), and are here to show the important work they do there, bringing stamps (and excitement!) to classrooms. Let’s go!

The Postal History Foundation (PHF for short) is located just west of the University of Arizona, in a residential neighborhood in central Tucson. It’s a non-profit organization with a dual mission of research and education: they provide stamps and lessons to students across the country and the world! We were excited to hear about this cool initiative… so we invited ourselves over for a visit. 😊

The Little Mail Carriers visit the Postal History Foundation

The building was a church many decades ago but now holds a workroom, a contract US Postal Service station, a museum area, the philatelic sales area, and the education department… as well as millions of postage stamps! We were going to deliver some mail to the postmaster, but were immediately distracted by the beautiful old post office in their museum section of the building, which is located just straight ahead across the lobby.

The Old Naco Post Office

This old post office is from the town of Naco, Arizona, which is on the southern border of Arizona and Mexico. It was originally ordered as a kit and set up in a building in Naco in the 1890s. All the wood, glass, and metal parts are the original ones! Normally, the Old Naco Post Office is very popular during tours and also with the students in their field trips, but sadly these are suspended because of the pandemic.

Inside the Old Naco Post Office Inside the Old Naco Post Office

We got to see their old hand cancelling machines, self-serve stamp dispensers and even an old letter sorting box (the wooden structure that looks like a grid) from the town of Casa Grande. Above in the mail sorting box are some scales for weighing mail. Below you can see a collection of hand stamps from around the state, such as “Special Delivery” or “Return to Sender.”

Special rubber stamps and cancellation marks

After looking at all of the cool machines in the Old Naco Post Office we decided to go to the current USPS contract station, which is in a little room off of the lobby. When going into the post office, we walked past more post office boxes from Naco that were preserved for viewing in the lobby. Here, you’ll also find a vintage pedestal USPS postal box — we put a donation in there to help with the kids educational program. We delivered our mail and looked at all the current US stamps for sale. The colorful stamps at our feet are the new Lunar New Year stamps. Did you know that 2021 is the year of the ox?

Post office and stamps at the PHF Stamp Discovery program

The kids program at the PHF is called Stamp Discovery. Every year it supports over 13,000 students and teachers across the United States and other countries with stamps, and lessons using stamps. Of course, this year has been a little different because of the pandemic, but it was still interesting to see the variety of lessons that teachers and parents can order for their students. In the education file room, they are stacked on top of the files, in shelves at the left and the right of us. These boxes contain lessons and stamp packets for students. If a teacher orders a lesson, for example, “Three Branches of US Government”, the teacher receives a worksheet that they can copy for their students, and stamp packets for each student to use with the lesson.

Lesson plans and stamp cabinets

Above you can see the filing cabinets that line the room and continue into another room. They contain US stamps filed by Scott number and also foreign stamps sorted by topics. If a child wants “dogs” to add to their stamp collection, they can write a letter or fill out the order form online, and the people who work and/or volunteer here will send her/him some dogs on stamps. The volunteers who work here are super heroes — they are what enables the education program to function and support so many children and teachers! During a normal year, students would visit the museum for field trips and the director of Stamp Discovery would visit classrooms in the city and suburbs of Tucson. Several of the libraries in Tucson have stamp treasure chests, which inspire kids that visit the library to learn about stamps and the topics on them by checking out books connected with stamp topics.

We walked into the big room off of the lobby and saw all the desks where the sorting and processing of donations happen. The PHF receives philatelic donations almost daily in the mail or by people who drop them off. Volunteers sort through and distribute stamps to the education department for the kids and some of the higher value stamps are put in the sales department for collectors to buy.

Owney the mail dog!

Proceeds from the sale of stamps in our philatelic sales department are used to pay for the running of the facility and the education program. Stamps, postcards, and collectible covers are sold there. People donate to PHF because it is a non-profit that inspires kids to learn with stamps and start a collection, thus growing the hobby of stamp collecting, called philately.

Also, we were allowed to go into a display case and visit Owney the famous Mail Dog in US history. There are special pictures, statues, and covers about Owney in the case. It is near the Old Naco Post office so that when the kids tour the old post office they can say hello to Owney, the stuffed dog, and learn about his history from the 1890s. Many books have been written about Owney and the education program has lessons about him. His books are also in the library, which is our next stop!

Sales department at the PHF

After talking to volunteers and looking at the processing room, we went out the side door to the patio. The PHF also includes a second building which is the Slusser Memorial Library. This is a modern building dedicated to Peggy Slusser, a lady who lived and worked in Tucson. This building contains a basement full of archives, a reading room, and the stacks of books. Behind the doors to the right are over 30,000 books and journals about philatelic history and the US Civil War. This library is used by researchers, collectors, authors, and of course, school children during field trips. On the walls of the library are paintings commissioned for the library about western adventures in postal history and an exhibit case. You can learn more about the library exhibits and paintings on the museum section of their website.

Slusser Memorial Library

Well, our visit has come to an end. We were amazed at all of the stamps, donations, and the children’s program. The Old Naco PO is a little unique gem of postal history and the library is first class. Exploring around the world is fun, and if you can’t physically travel, you can explore the world through stamp collecting. We’re glad the Postal History Foundation is around to help children everywhere do just that!

Goodbye, Postal History Foundation!

Our huge thank you to Lisa Dembowski, PHF’s Director of Education who graciously took the time to show the Little Mail Carriers around. That was a really cool trip, and we can’t wait to see where they’ll go next!

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Annie (aka freezeframe03) is back with another great DIY tutorial, this time featuring paper postcards! She’s made dozens of beautiful papercrafted postcards over the years, and is here to guide you on how to make the postcard below. Enjoy!

A yellow and green postcard with some flowers glued to it, and the sentence Live the live you've imagined written on it.

The most important thing in making a papercrafted postcard is to make sure it is sturdy and nothing added to it will come loose in the mail.

I began with a 4”×6” (10×15cm) piece of 70lb (114 g/m2) sketch/drawing papers. I sprayed them with Distress Oxide Spray then sprayed one of them again through a stencil. I chose the one on the right to work with this time.

Crafting materials: papers, stencils and ink

Next, I’ve rubber stamped the words with a waterproof archival ink, and toned down the brightness of the background paint by rubbing the ink over it lightly and darkened the edges.

Rubberstamp being applied on the postcard

I’ve used cutting dies to cut flowers and leaves from the same 70lb sketch/drawing paper. You can also cut these by hand, if you’d like, using your drawings or a template you’ve downloaded.

Using cut dies to make the flower shapes

I’ve painted them with watercolors. (Sometimes you just have to hope your mail won’t get rained on.)

Cut out flowers, after being painted with watercolors

Before gluing the flowers to the postcard, I splattered thinned black acrylic paint to the background. I use a spray glue to adhere the flowers and leaves to the background. I then press them down firmly with a brayer. When dry, if there are any loose edges, I use a fine tip glue to get underneath the loose area and glue it down firmly.

Gluing materials

When my postcard front is finished, I glue it to a heavier paper (this Canson XL paper is 98lb, or 160 g/m2). I glue it to a piece larger than my postcard then trim around the postcard. Set the postcard under a flat weight so that it dries flat. Check the edges to make sure they are one. Any loose edges can be glued with a fine tip glue. If you don’t have a fine tip for your glue, put some on a toothpick to smear where needed.

Stucking some sturdy paper to the back of the card

It is now a sturdy piece of art that will travel through the mail easily and not get caught in any of the postal machines.

Art can sometimes leave the finished piece warped and even messy on the back. Working on one paper to create your art then adhering it to a clean paper will help to flatten the piece and you don’t have to worry about a messy backside.

The final postcard!

The back can be decorated also, just like any other postcard.

The decorated back side of the postcard

Within the United States, a papercrafted postcard can be mailed at the regular postcard rate (unless you’ve added something that will make in non-machinable — in that case, extra postage is needed.

There are so many different ways to make a papercraft art postcard. But as I mentioned previously, make sure it is glued and put together well and that it is sturdy enough to withstand the traveling it will do. Most of my handmade postcards arrive at their destinations as if they were hand delivered.

If you have any questions at all or need some further detailed info, I am more than happy to help out with both.

Thank you Annie, that was brilliant! Check out Annie’s blog for inspiration in all kinds of crafts and art projects, and also this great topic on the forum where postcrossers post their creations.

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