Long before the use of emails and texting, the popular way to communicate was with letters. With the development improved printing methods on cardstock, the postcard became a very popular method of sending greeting to friends and family. Writing a note on a postcard was always short and had already some humorous, lovely or cheering printed message along with a photo, drawing or illustration.
Since they were lighter in weight and not a full long letter, the U. S. Postal Service delivered them for the cost of one cent, anywhere in the country, so known as Penny Postcards. That rate changed to two cents from 1917 to 1919 and from 1925 to 1928. After 1928 the mailing cost remained one cent until it was raised back to two cents in 1952. The actual cost of the postcard could range from for just a few cents.
The earliest forms were known as ‘private mailing cards’ or ‘private cards’ and were authorized by the Postal Service in 1898. Using the term ‘post card’ was allowed as of 1901. The themes of the postcard were only limited by one’s imagination. All types of animals, children, adults, fantasy, entertainment, locations or holidays would be placed on one side of the card and on the other side was a place to address the card, including a short message. The most popular themes involved children and animals; from frogs, to dogs, rabbits, alligators or turtles.
Another popular card style were drawings or photos of local places in towns and cities. Sending such visual images of one’s home to friends and relatives was an easy way to show others what the location looked like since sending copies of photographs was not that wide spread in the early 20th century. A nice selection of postcards from all the states is online. Postcards were not just restricted to the United States, they became popular in many countries.
For the family historian this can be so important an asset to learning about our ancestor’s hometown and even the street they loved on or a business they operated. Ordinary shops, streets, school, businesses, churches, etc. were the type of postcards sent.
These postcards arriving at one’s home were always welcomed in the day’s mail. They were sweet reminders that someone was thinking of them, enough to pick out a card and mail it.
The photo postcard above from 1915 has marked six buildings that the senter's husband built in town, which she described on the back. She sent this card to friends in Maine.