Postcards could be considered the first form of social media, like Twitter, short and sweet. Maybe you collect postcards as some collect “likes” on Facebook. Or pin postcards to your bulletin board like Pinterest. Who hasn’t sent or received a postcard at some time?
History of the postcard
Postcards have probably been around as long as the postal service. The earliest known picture postcard was a hand-painted design on card stock posted in London in 1840. Postcards in the US started off as hand written advertising to influence customers. The first printed souvenir postcards were created in 1893 to advertise the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
Only the US Post Office was allowed to print postcards until 1898 and you could only write the sendees address on the front of the postcard where the stamp went. Some senders wrote a message around the image on the reverse side in the tiniest of scripts. Tweet. Nine years later the divided postcard was allowed so the address could be written on one side of the line along with the stamp and a message on the other.
An 1873 postcard required a 1₵ stamp and after 100 years of slow increase in price reached double digits in 1978 at 10₵. We currently spend 32₵ in the US.
Facebook is surely a faster method of communication and may still be free but how many times do you look back at an old message even if there’s a picture attached? Do you tape them to your refrigerator?
I remember as a kid how excited I’d get when I got mail, and a postcard from some far away land was even better. I’d pin it to a bulletin board, one made of cork, with tacks. Today I get email. This is usually faster and even more often comes from different parts of the world.
Deltiologists are collectors of postcards. Some collectors choose to limit their acquisitions to cards by specific artists and publishers, or by time and location. Worldwide, deltiology is thought to be the third largest hobby after stamp and coin collecting.
Don’t we all collect something? Can we be Pinterestologists?
Souvenirs and memories
Before convenient photography was available for the general public postcards provided an image to remember a place visited or to send a quick note to family and friends. You didn’t even need an envelope and could send one to yourself.
Decades ago when I visited over a dozen US National Parks I bought at least one postcard at every park just in case my cheapo camera failed. Plus I stamped the park’s passport stamp on the back for the date because I knew I’d never remember a special book for that.
Scrapbooks full of postcards are similar to jpgs on your computer and Instagram sends those precious memories into cyberspace.
Postcards from South Africa
While traveling in South Africa I’ll be visiting a lot of interesting places and parks. I plan to buy postcards and send them to you. All you have to do is leave a comment below. Twelve people will be chosen to have a postcard sent from me and when received I ask you to post the postcard on your blog, if you have one, or on Geogypsy’s Facebook page. I will post the chosen recipients on January 25th which marks one week until I leave.
This may be a little slower than the current social media. But then who doesn’t like to receive snail-mail that’s not a bill?