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Posts tagged "postcards-history"

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:

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

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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2020 is a Leap Year, so how about a look at some old postcards illustrating one of the best-known Leap Day traditions? If you’ve never heard of this, the tradition is that on Leap Day (and only on Leap Day!) women can propose to men.

In 2012, Huffington Post rounded up this and other marriage superstitions related to Leap Day around the world: in some countries, it’s bad luck, while in Finland if the man refuses he has to pay a fine and give the poor lady enough material to make a skirt. (In times past that was a pretty significant fine, and a useful gift!)

Take a look at some of these postcards we found!

The Manhunt in 1908 The Maiden's Vow in 1908 In 1908... Careful, that's a fine specimen! Maidens are eagerly waiting, their traps enticingly bating...
My heart and money... I lay them at your feet Unsafe for a poor lone bachelor!

The Scottish tradition is that proposing women had to wear a red petticoat as a sort of warning to let men know they were going to propose… but I’m not sure how anyone could check on the petticoats of some of these ladies! We don’t think they’d let you try… (quite right, too!)

We had no idea that Leap Day postcards were a genre of their own, but we found a whole collection of them curated by Alan Mays on Flickr, as well as the others we gathered above! Do you know any other traditions or stories related to Leap Day in your country?


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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!


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Anyone who has ever received a postcard knows they’re tiny windows to far away places, transporting us to different landscapes and realities. Sometimes those places are so enticing they make us wish we lived close enough to pay them a visit! The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota is one of these places. Have a look:

The Corn Palace 1

No… those are not huge tapestries on the walls… they’re murals made out of corn!

Built in 1921 in the Moorish Revival style, the Corn Palace is an arena where different types of events take place. But the special thing about it is that every single year its facades are decorated by local artists using corn ears, as well as other grains and native grasses. Corn is a major crop in the area – and they’re proud of it!

Postcards from the Corn Palace tell the story of each year’s theme. 1957's theme was “Popular Athletic Games and Attractions in the State”:

The Corn Palace

In 1999, the theme was “Building as a nation”:

The Corn Palace

And in 2009, “American’s destinations” were featured:

The Corn Palace

Between Memorial Day and Labour day each year, a theme is picked and new decorations are stapled and nailed to the walls, and you can follow the corn-structions on their Corn Cam. :) The theme for 2015 is “South Dakota’s 125th”, so if you’re in the area, go check it out – and maybe grab a postcard for the rest of us!

A big thank you to Brenda (aka 9teen87), who owns a huge postcard collection, and brought these great postcards to our attention. You can see these and other interesting postcard topics on her blog.


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Guy Atkins has been collecting postcards for years, especially from the Edwardian era. This was the golden period of postcards, which were then at the height of their popularity. With up to 6 daily mail deliveries (imagine that!), many people used them as we use Twitter or text messages these days — just to say “I’m thinking about you” or to convey some practical information (“I’ll arrive on the 10am train”).

It’s not so much the pictures on the postcards that capture Guy’s curiosity — instead he prefers the fascinating messages they hold. It all started when he was browsing an antiques market in London, where he found a perfectly boring postcard, sent on 21 December 1904 to Miss Emerson… which hid a very intriguing message. It said:

“Come home at once, all is forgiven. We have not had any news from father. There is heaps of m – – – y waiting for you to spend. Surely after that you could not stay away.”

One cannot help but wonder… what happened? What did Miss Emerson do that needed forgiving? And did she stay away or go back home?

I guess we’ll never know. And yet, the thrill of that mysterious message stays with us, and it stayed with Guy as well, who decided to collect other such intriguing postcards from that time. He has just launched a book with 100 of his best cards, appropriately titled Come Home at Once. Come Home at Once

We’ve had this book for a week or so, and I have to say, it is delightful. Perfectly sized, filled with mysterious messages that just draw you in and make you wonder. Some are funny, others shocking, some just confounding. Many don’t seem to say much at all… until you note the strategically positioning of the stamp, hiding a whole other layer of meaning. Some… well, we’re still trying to figure them out!

Come Home at Once

In order to promote his new book, Guy and his publisher have generously offered to give away 10 copies of the book to 10 lucky postcrossers! It’s like an early Christmas treat! :)

For a chance to win one, all you have to do is leave a comment below. And if you have any tips on how one could make the message on a postcard more intriguing, do share!

Good luck everyone! Check back on this post around this time next week for the winners (randomly picked by Paulo’s number generator, as usual).

And the lucky postcrossers, as chosen by Paulo’s random number generator are… ludovico, Marie_S, foxfires, Shelleh, Kami-chan, librarymail, Huari, EngelDD, BLehner and vilnius. Congratulations to the winners and thank you everyone for the comments! What an outpour! :)


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