Postcrossing Blog

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

Posts tagged "150yearsofpostcards"

Montgomery Blair hall

So, earlier in the year we had an ambitious idea of putting together a postcard exhibition to celebrate the 150th anniversary of postcards, collecting images and messages from around the world to showcase our collective love for this small format of communication. We contacted a few people and then the opportunity came up to do this exhibition at the UPU, an incredibly important institution that brings all post offices together in cooperation.

They had lots of walls in their headquarters in Bern, though most of them were covered in art… except this one, a huge 10 meter wall divided in 2, on their ground floor lobby. It was black and had the peculiarity of having over 200 deactivated mailboxes on it. Postcards like mailboxes though, don’t they? It seemed like the perfect match, so we decided to go for it!

We received hundreds of postcards in the past couple of months on the call-for-postcards we launched for this exhibition. Choosing just a few of them was a hard job — some were gorgeous works of art, others had heartfelt messages and many were both!

Putting together the postcard exhibition at the UPU

While choosing the postcards to take, we noticed that many of them would be tricky to hang on a wall due to their thickness or odd shape. Also, some of the postcards only made sense if people could see both sides… so we came up with a solution: since we were sticking postcards on mailboxes, why not opening one and leaving some postcards there for people to browse?

Putting together the postcard exhibition at the UPU

This turned out to be a good call, as the “Browse me” encouraged people to get up and close with the postcards, giving them permission to touch and interact with the exhibition. For us personally, it also helped ease some of the pressure of picking just the right postcards, as we could bring a lot more of them!

Some of you have asked whether we’ve taken pictures of every postcard displayed, and I’m afraid we have not. Carefully shooting every single one would have taken a lot longer than the time we had. We brought as many postcards as we could to Switzerland though, posted some images on the website, and are planning to take some more photos of the postcards and their messages when they return to us at the end of October. We don’t want you to feel sad if yours didn’t end up at the UPU — all the postcards we’ve received are unique and so very appreciated. 💛

So finally, here is the result:

Postcrossing postcard exhibition at the UPU Postcrossing postcard exhibition at the UPU Postcrossing postcard exhibition at the UPU

We’re very glad that everything went well, and that we were able to successfully display your messages, images and mini-masterpieces at the UPU. Although the building isn’t open to the public, many delegates from post offices all around the world will get to see and read your postcards throughout this month, while they attend the many events that are happening in October. We hope they too understand how special postcards are in the digital age, and what role they play in connecting our lives — and, indeed, the whole world.

And lastly, here’s a little making-of video of the whole setting up operation that we shot with a borrowed camera. 😊 It took 2 days to put together, with a lot of time spent cutting and measuring. Enjoy!

PS – Our big thank you to Olfa and Stéphane UPU’s philately department, for making this possible!


Tags: , ,

Today is the day we’ve all been waiting for: it is exactly 150 years since the first postcard was sent!

As the very first postcard was being sent on October 1st 1869 in Austria-Hungary, few people could anticipate the mail revolution that would ensue, or just how long postcards would last. One hundred and fifty years later, we’re still just as happy to discover a bit of sunshine on our mailbox at the end of the day, or to send a smile to loved ones or strangers far away. It’s inexplicably charming how something so simple can bring so much joy. 😊

150 years of postcards

Earlier this year, when we noticed there didn’t seem to be that many activities planned to commemorate the anniversary, we decided to take matters into our own hands and use the power of the Postcrossing community to celebrate this historical milestone. We’ve contacted postal operators and postal museums, and also invited you guys and the whole world to join the party by creating events and spreading the word about this anniversary. The response was just amazing! Over one hundred events are taking place in 34 different countries, including 58 meetups, 11 exhibitions, 8 cancellation marks, 8 workshops, 6 seminars, 4 commemorative postcards issued by post offices, 3 guided tours, 2 postage stamps about the anniversary and even one country offering free postage on postcards sent today. Hurray!

We’ve also invited everyone to participate on a postcard exhibition at the Universal Postal Union headquarters in Bern and hundreds of you have sent postcards and expressed your love for the medium in creative forms. We teared up going through all these small tokens of love, and it was a real struggle to pick the 200 or so that we ended up bringing with us, as they were all incredible. So many of you have written about connection and healing, about traveling and learning, about conquering fears, making discoveries, teaching little ones and making the world a smaller place. They were all messages of hope and appreciation, and it was our huge honor to carry your words with us to the UPU and hang them on this 10 meter wall.

150 years of postcards

All throughout October, postal delegates from all countries in the United Nations will walk this lobby and browse these postcards. They too, will realize how much we all treasure these little pieces of paper that travel the world in our stead. We’re so proud of each and every one of you, for your enthusiastic participation and creativity — this would not have happened without you!

150 years of postcards

We plan to show you more of the exhibition later, but for now, it’s time to celebrate! Join a local event if you can, or just take the time to write a postcard (or 10!) to someone you care about to spread the happy vibes.

And last but not least, happy birthday dear postcards!!! 🎉


Tags: , ,

A few months ago, we were doing some research about the origins of postcards for the 150th anniversary celebrations, when we randomly stumbled on an article from 2006 titled “A brief history of the picture postcard”, by Judith & Stephen Holder FRPSL. The introduction reads:

One hundred years ago collecting postcards was a much more widespread and popular pursuit than stamp collecting, even though the publication of many learned works on postage stamps had by then started turning the craze of timbromanie into the much more advanced discipline of Philately. Postcards were collected by all walks of people, young and old, men and women, and it was commonplace and indeed fashionable among the middle classes to have an album of these pasteboard mementoes. Many a card bore the message 'here is another one for your collection’ or 'I was very pleased with the last card you sent me as I did not have it’. Cryptic numbers and initials at the top of a message – indeed sometimes being the only message – revealed membership of an international postcard exchange club.

The concept in that last sentence sounds oddly familiar, doesn’t it? 🤔 We couldn’t find much more information about it at the time, so we put the quote aside and continued our research. And then some time later, we read this blurb on a book called “The Picture Postcard and its Origins”, by Frank Staff:

kosmopolit blurb

So erm… back in the 19th century, Germany already had a Postcrossing-kind of thing going on… and no one had told us about it?! 😳

Weltverband Kosmopolit

Information in English about the club is scarce, but with the help of Claas (aka Speicher3) and Christine (aka reisegern) we found out that Kosmopolit was founded in 1897 in Nuremberg, by Fritz Schardt. We are not sure how it worked exactly, but members seem to have sent postcards to each other with the greeting Gutferngruß (meaning, greetings from afar), and signed or stamped each card with their name, address and membership number.

Curiously, sometimes the sender asked for a “revenge card” to be sent back to them, a quirky expression that just means they would like to receive a card in return. Messages were mostly kept to 5 words or less as the postage was cheaper that way — so it seems clear that the goal here was collecting, rather than connecting with people in a more meaningful way.

Kosmopolit lost steam following the First World War and eventually disappeared, leaving behind a trail of mysterious postcards. You can explore some of these cards in this gallery.

It’s fascinating to us that something like this existed over 100 years ago… and also that we had no idea about it, despite the fact that the club had over 20,000 members at its peak of popularity. We’re very honored to somehow continue the legacy of Kosmopolit these days, albeit in a different format!


Tags: , ,

About a month ago, we’ve enlisted the help of the Postcrossing community for the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of postcards. The plan is to take over a wall at the Universal Postal Union's headquarters in Bern 🇨🇭 and fill it with messages showing the world’s enthusiasm for postcards.

Since then, we’ve received dozens of postcards from you guys, and we’re feeling quite overwhelmed by this avalanche of mail. Your kind words and all the memories you’ve been sharing with us about postcards are just incredible! All the stories, poems, drawings and carefully crafted pieces of mail art make our hearts melt.

Over the past few weeks we’ve uploaded a few of the postcards we’ve received on the gallery… but we thought perhaps a video would be a better way to showcase more of them. So without further ado, here it is:

We hope you liked it! Please don’t be sad if you don’t see your postcard on this video though, as this is just a small selection. Many more have arrived in our PO box, and we treasure every single one of them. 😊

If you haven’t sent in yours yet, what are you waiting for? Send us a postcard telling us what makes postcards special to you, and join us in this worldwide celebration!



You might have noticed that the postcards we’re familiar with today (picture on one side, and space for the address, postage and a message on the back) are very different from the first postcard issued in 1869 by the Austrian Post.

Correspondenz Karte

The Correspondenz-Karte, as it was initially called, was just a brown rectangle of paper with space for the address and postage on one side, and a short message on the back. Despite the decorative border, they weren’t meant to be fun or especially pretty. Instead, their purpose was much more practical, enabling short messages to be sent cheaply through the post, a departure from letters and their formal etiquette. Their look was as concise as the messages they carried.

So, when did these lackluster pieces of cardboard begin to be adorned with images and acquired the modern format of our beloved postcards?

Well, that’s a longer story… but in a way, an almost inevitable development. From ancient papyrus to Gutenberg’s bible, decorations have been sneaked onto the pages of written materials ever since humans began to record history on paper. In the 17th and 18th centuries, printing developments brought images to the masses: commercial invoices would sometimes showcase a little miniature of a storefront, and often people carried illustrated calling cards with them. Also common were letter sets featuring elaborate illustrations both on the writing paper and on the envelopes. In 1840, the same year that the Penny Black was issued, Royal Mail launched its own decorated prepaid letter sheets.

Postcards with illustration vignettes

Thus, even though the original postcards did not feature illustrations, there were plenty of other items with images on them, and so, bit by bit, they were introduced on postcards as well.

At first, images appeared on the corners of the message side of the postcard, as small vignettes often with advertisement to a hotel or restaurant. Slowly though, other images made their way onto the postcard format and by the 1880s, postcards with the Gruss Aus (greetings from) salute and a few illustrations of a town were a popular holiday souvenir in German-speaking countries.

Divided back postcards

And then, as photography and printing techniques evolved further still, photos started covering more and more space in postcards, with just a small area left for messages. Finally, in 1906, at the Sixth Postal Union Congress in Rome, the UPU declared that postcards with a divided back could be sent internationally. With no need to write the message on the front any longer, pictures were free to take over the whole space on one side of the postcard.

And this is how the modern format of the picture postcards we know and love today came to be! 😊 If you’re curious to learn more, check out the History page we’ve put together for the 150th anniversary of postcards, and stay tuned for more interesting tidbits of postal history here on the blog.

PS – Our friends at papersisters made a neat postcard to celebrate the 150th anniversary of postcards, and generously sent us a bunch to give away! So if you’d like a postcard with a greeting from the Postcrossing’s headquarters, here’s your chance: leave a comment below and let us know one cool postal fact about your country. We’ll pick 15 random commenters by this time next week to be the recipients of one of these postcards. Good luck!

Ok! Giveaway closed, and the winners as chosen by Paulo’s random number generator are… Tabse, jime2e4a, Stargrace, picketfence4, LuSays, BrittJohnson, betslets, Bia5546, fmstrada, surlykitty, duck2006, Daniela_P, yudi, serendipity2 and jm1122. Congratulations everyone! Keep an eye on your mailbox for the incoming postcard. 📬


Tags: , ,