For many 20th century Americans there was nothing more exciting than opening the mailbox to find a postcard from a loved one who was traveling abroad, on vacation, or simply living in another city. The postcard, a simple piece of thick paper that could be dropped in the mailbox for less money than a standard enveloped letter, became synonymous with travel. But why? What was it about these cards that had folks buying them in every city they visited. What started as a way of communicating quickly became an obsession with the advent of Postcard Collecting. Otherwise known as Deltiology.

Deltiology (from Greek δελτίον, deltion, diminutive of δέλτος, deltos, “writing tablet, letter”; and -λογία, -logia) is the study and collection of postcards. Professor Randall Rhoades of Ashland, Ohio, coined a word in 1945 that became the accepted description of the study of picture postcards. -Wikipedia

Postcards are a way of remembering where we’ve been, or a way of saying “wish you were here”. To find out more, we need to think back to a time before Facebook, Cell Phones, The Internet, and even Television. Back to a time where it wasn’t uncommon to wait weeks between correspondence because the only way to communicate was a handwritten letter delivered by a man who more than likely rode up to your house on horseback.

Postcards date back to the 1890’s and some would argue even earlier. According the the Royal Mail, “The first recorded postcard was sent by writer and practical joker, Theodore Hook, in 1840”. It seems countries in Europe, and the US, all had a part in the evolution of what would become the official ‘postcard’. According to the website Jewels Postcards in their article titled ‘Deltiology 101’  “…And it was not until October 1869 when Dr Emmanuel Herrman succeeded in persuading the Austrian Postal Authority to accept his invention of the first Official Postcards”.

In the beginning the only postcards allowed were official government issue postcards bearing the 1 cent postage. The first unofficial postcards could be mailed with a 2 cent stick on postage stamp. Later in the United States “an act of Congress on 19 May 1898 gave the right to private publishers to publish cards that could be mailed for the same rate as the government cards, and these were to be inscribed, ‘Private Mailing Card”.

At the very start of the 20th century Postcards became immensely popular collectables. That still continues to this day as you’ll find them in many supermarkets, drug stores, and souvenir shops. Our modern postcards may not be as fun to look at as many of the Vintage Postcards, that give us a glimpse back in time, but they are still nice to send to a loved one for that unexpected ‘Just thinking of you, wish you were here’ moment.

Here at Bags Unlimited we have some nice samples of early 20th century postcards that we think you’ll enjoy. It’s no wonder collectors find them so interesting. Not only do they have some artistic and historical significance, but sometimes they also contain correspondence giving us a peek into what life was like long ago. One of my favorites was from Viola who was ‘automobiling’ in a ‘Stanley Steemer’ back in 1907. Please have a look through the gallery. All our Postcards have been displayed in various archival poly sleeves and stored in museum grade archival boxes. You can find out more about Postcard Collection Supplies and our other archival storage products to protect your collections by visiting us here.
We hope you enjoy these as much as we did.

And for another really interesting look at Postcards check out some British Postcard History called ‘A postcard through time’ at the Royal Mail’s Postcard Gallery.

Thanks! Visit us again soon.

Huge thank you to our sources. For way more information on Deltiology check out these sites that have some really great info on the subject.

The Curt Teich Postcard Archives Collection being housed at The Newberry in Chicago. “The Curt Teich Postcard Archives Collection is widely regarded as the largest public collection of postcards and related materials in the United States”

The Center of Southwest StudiesTips for determining when a U.S. postcard was published

Jewels PostcardsDeltiology 101


The Royal Mail Group