Postcard Era History
PIONEER ERA (1873-1898) Postal cards
issued by the American Postal Service and
pre-stamped 1˘ began in 1873. Picture postcards were
sold at the
Columbian Exposition in Chicago in May 1893
for the first time commercially. Undivided back, usually a multiple view card and commonly called a "Souvenir
Card" or "Mail Card".
PRIVATE MAILING CARD (1901-1907)
Government gives private printers the OK to print
and sell postcards but required the term
"Private Mailing Card" to be included on the
card. Now referred to as PMCs, they also had an
UNDIVIDED BACK ERA (1901-1907) The
government gave permission on 24 Dec 1901 to use
the wording "Post Card" on the back of privately
printed cards. Cards still had an undivided back
which was to be used for the address only so
most used cards of this era had writing on the
DIVIDED BACK ERA (1907-1915) This was
considered the Golden Age of postcards. On 1
March 1907 the divided back era began and both
the message and address were allowed on the back
for the first time in the United States. Most
cards had images that filled the front of
the card without any border.
WHITE BORDER ERA (1915-1930) As World War
I began, German publishers were unavailable.
U.S. publishers printed most postcards and the quality
significantly decreased. Most of these postcards have a
LINEN ERA (1930-1945) Publishers began
using linen paper with a high rag content that
you can see and feel but usually used cheap
PHOTOCHROME ERA (1939-PRESENT) Modern
chromes have great chrome colors and a very
slick finish that look much like a glossy color photo.
Can also be in a matt finish.
REAL PHOTOS (1900-PRESENT) Real photos
are highly sought after now after being ignored
for many years by collectors. Dating them is difficult and not
an exact science. While postmarks can give you a
"not newer than" date the best method for
determining the approximate age is often the
stamp box on the address side. Often, the stamp
box will contain the name of the company that
produced the photo paper of the postcard.
Pre-stamped postal cards issued by the American
19: private publishers and printers allowed
to produce postcards. Senders had to attach a 1˘
stamp. Manufacturers required to print the words
“Private Mailing Card” on the back of the card.
Changing design features can help approximate
dating of these cards Messages were not allowed
on the address side (the back) of the Private
Mailing Card, so some small blank area was often
left on the front/picture side for writing short
messages. Further information printed on the
back of the card included “Authorized by Act of
Congress of May 19, 1898”, “This side is
exclusively for the Address” and often “Postal
Card - Carte Postale”, indicating the card might
be sent abroad.
The labeling on the back of the postcard changed
from “Private Mailing Card” to “Post Card”.
Messages were still not allowed on the back with
the message. The back was undivided by a line.
1: The back was divided by a vertical line
and messages were allowed in the smaller left
area, while the address was put on the right.
The blank area on the front for messages was no
save ink, US printers left a white border around
the picture on the front of the postcard. The
back of the card was divided more evenly, making
the message area bigger. More description of the
photograph was included on the postcard back.
1930 - 1944:
Because of improved printing processes, brightly
colored images were printed on postcards made
with a high rag content. The resulting postcards
looked as if they were printed on linen cloth.
The white border often remained, but there were
also Linen Period postcards with no white
The Union Oil Company started carrying
photochrome-style postcards in their western
service stations. The postcard images are close
to real photographs. The quantity produced
slowed during WWII. This type is postcard is
still produced today.