Postcrossing Blog

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

Posts tagged "postcards-history"

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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Maude Hart

Over one hundred years ago, in February 1913, Maude Hart and her husband embarked on a journey across the world. Postcards were at the height of their popularity back then, and Maude wrote back to their family often during their 9 month trip, especially to her sister Myrtle (who she calls Toots) and her mother “Mussey”.

Family mementos like postcards and their stories have a way of getting lost when people move or families unite and separate… but somehow, Maude’s postcards survived 100 years until Patricia Eacobacci (Maude’s great grandniece) discovered them in her mother’s things and put the story together. She scanned, deciphered and uploaded every card with a lot of care, and set up a blog to share her Postcards from Maude.

The first time we laid eyes on this collection we were quite speechless. Postcards are often seen as a one-off thing, but Maude’s postcards (as well as her photos and letters) tell the tales of a epic adventure from another era, one that took place over the course of 9 months. The trip, organized by Thomas Cook & Son, started in San Francisco, and went on to Hawaii, Japan, Philippines, China, Singapore, India, Egypt, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Ireland and then back to the US. Here are some snippets:

Postcard from Tokyo
Tokyo, Japan April 5
Hello Toots
We are doing Tokyo – a wonderful City. 3 millions natives living here. Only 50 Americans. Just think of it.
Maude
Postcard from Egypt
Port Said, Egypt. May 22.
My Dear Mama, We are now going through the Suez Canal in Egypt. Can only go 4 miles an hour. It is very narrow. Tomorrow we get off & go through Egypt for 14 days. This is a most interesting country. Will take 18 hours to pass through Canal.
Much Love,
Maude
Postcard from The Netherlands
Amsterdam, Holland – Sunday night Sept 7.
My Dear Mama.
Hello Mussey dear, how are you? Here is a view of a wooden wind mill. You see hundreds of them here & the people are dressed just like this. We leave here tomorrow. Hope I hear from home when I reach Brussels.
Tons of love,
Maude

Towards the end, you can feel Maude’s homesickness and her eagerness to return to her dear family. On October 22nd 1913, she boarded the SS Majestic bound to the United States on the final stretch of her trip, and wrote again on October 31st, delighted to see New York once more.

These postcards (and the story within them) are a real treat. Thank you Patricia, for all the work and research, and for sharing them with the world! You can see all of Maude’s postcards and follow her voyage in the Postcards from Maude blog.

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