Postcrossing Blog

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

Posts tagged "150yearsofpostcards"

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!

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Ok, so on the last post we’ve unveiled some of our plans for commemorating the 150th anniversary of postcards later this year. These include the 150yearsofpostcards.com website detailing the historical events related to postcards, as well as inviting everyone to celebrate this milestone together on October 1st.

150 years of postcards

Today we’re putting together one more piece of the puzzle, one in which everyone can participate: a one-of-a-kind postcard exhibition at the Universal Postal Union headquarters, all about our love for postcards!

UPU 150 years of postcards exhibition

Your special assignment is to tell the whole world what makes postcards special to you. What is your fondest memory featuring postcards? What do you feel when you open your mailbox and there’s one there waiting for you?

Pour your feelings into a postcard and send it to:

150 Years of Postcards
Postcrossing — PO box 216
EC Tavira
8800–999 TAVIRA
PORTUGAL

This should be a perfect match for the Postcrossing community, as we all have strong feelings about postcards and are very familiar with the spike of excitement when we open our mailboxes. 😍

There will be prizes for the nicest postcards and messages, so don’t forget to add your email address to your postcard — make sure you check all the details here. The best part though is that a selection of these postcards will be exhibited at the Universal Postal Union headquarters in Switzerland 🇨🇭, during the month of October!

150 years of postcards

We’re super excited about this collaboration with the UPU, which is the United Nations specialized agency for the postal sector. They’ve agreed to lend us a wall in their headquarters, and we look forward to covering it with postcards and show everyone just how much postcards mean to all of us.

This exhibition is a pretty big deal, but for it to happen we need postcards… and we’re counting on YOU to participate with the words and images that we’ll be showing in Bern this coming October. Join us in sharing our love for postcards with the whole world!

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Yup, you read that correctly: postcards are celebrating their 150th anniversary this year! Hurray!! 🎉

October 1st, 1869 was the day the Austrian Post decided to implement Dr. Emanuel Herrmann’s recommendations for a practical and cheaper means of sending short messages. Up until then, letters were the norm, but they were expensive and filled with formal etiquette, taking some effort to write. So postcards were born to simplify things… and the rest is history.

For some months now, we’ve been busy behind the scenes researching the history of postcards and putting together a special website to commemorate the anniversary of our favorite means of communication, and to encourage the whole world to re-discover the joy that is finding a postcard in a mailbox.

150 years of postcards!

We know that October is still some months away, but a sesquicentennial anniversary is a pretty big deal and it definitely deserves a party — which is where YOU come in!

Your mission, if you wish to accept it, is to plan a meetup with other local postcrossers to celebrate the 150th anniversary of postcards. Meet new friends, make some postal-themed activities, or just send postcards together. It can be as small or as big as you’d like — the important thing is to have fun and celebrate the postcard. This is a birthday party, after all! 😉

If you’ve never organized a meetup before, don’t worry, it’s easy! Reach out to other nearby postcrossers via private message or on the forum, and when you’re more or less set on a plan, make a post about it on the forum (here’s a quick how-to guide to meetups). There are already a few meetings being planned for this special celebration, and we look forward to adding lots more to the events page.

This next part is optional, but in the spirit of connecting the world, it would be super cool if these meetings were connected with other meetings happening simultaneously, or with other postcrossers celebrating the day. If internet is available in the place where you’ll meet, consider livestreaming or reaching out to other meetup hosts in advance, to set up a video chat so everyone can say hi! Let us know what your plans are, and we can help spread the word about it.

Ok, I think this is all for now! We’ve written a bit more about these meetups on this forum post, where you can ask further questions.

Come discover the history of postcards on 150yearsofpostcards.com, and spread the word about this remarkable #150yearsofpostcards anniversary — let’s make it a party that the whole world will remember!

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