A collection of postcard images documenting the golden age of flowing artesian wells across the United States and the world, generally from the early 1900s and with a bias toward Texas. Also included, from time to time, are other water-related postcards.

history of post cards

  • Postcards were the quickest way for folks to quickly communicate with each other before the widespread adoption of the telephone (Willoughby 1992 p13)

  • Unofficial trade cards and decorative envelopes went on sale before official postcards became available (Willoughby 1992 p10):

advertising card circa 1890; from my collection

pre-postcard illustrated envelope from 1893; from my collection

pre-1898 souvenir card (circa 1890s); from my collection
  • In1840, Britain introduced uniform postage; before that, postage was charged by distance for letters  (Willoughby 1992 p22)
  • Since 1861, the US would accept anything properly stamped, including cards, through the mail (Willoughby 1992 p31)
    • Cannot be considered as true postcards because they were not eligible to be posted at the postcard rate. (Willoughby 1992 p38)
    "On February 27, 1861, the United States Congress passed a law permitting privately printed cards, one ounce or under, to be sent through the mail." (Petrulis 2017a)
  • John P. Charlton obtained a copyright on a postal card (Willoughby 1992 p31) in 1861 (Petrulis 2017a)
    • Charlton transferred the copyright to Hymen L. Lipman (1817-1893 [dates via wp]) [What year?]
    • Lipman later produced "Lipman's Postal Cards"
    • The printing of Lipman's postcards pre-date Austria's cards, but the earliest dated card postdates the Austrian card by about a year [The earliest known postmark on these cards is October 25, 1870, from Richmond, Indiana. (Petrulis 2017a)]
    • Lipman was the first to introduce the name "postal card"
    • Not an official issue by a postal authority; the first to be sanctioned by a postal authority.
    • These cards are exceedingly rare and are valued at $4,000 to $6,000 (source)
    • Lipman was the first to register a patent for a pencil with an eraser on top (wp
    • Lipman started the first envelope factory in the US (wp)
  • Dr. Heinrich von Stephan (1831-97) is the first person to officially propose a postcard-like form of communication (Willoughby 1992 p28)
    • He proposed a pre-postaged stiff card the size of a letter for the purpose of sending a short note [What year?]
    • Postal authorities rejected his idea as too complicated and costly
    • He was  later appointed the postal director for the North German Confederation
    • After that he was the Prussian Postmaster General and helped create the General Postal Union
  • Dr. Emanuel Hermann (1839-1902) in January 1869 in Vienna, Austria, also introduced the concept of a letter-shaped card for short messages. (Willoughby 1992 p30)
    • Nine months later, Austria implemented his idea as the Correspondenz-Karte
  • The North German Confederation was the next to adopt the postcard [they could have been the first!] (Willoughby 1992 p30)
  • The world's first postcard was introduced by Austria in 1869, the Correspondez-Karte (Willoughby 1992 p25):

Austrian postcard from 1871; from my collection
  • The US didn't produce a postcard until May 1873 (Willoughby 1992 p31)
  • "By law, the government postcards were the only postcards allowed to bear the term “Postal Card.”" (sia):

A copy of the first US postcard from 1873; from my collection 
  • The oldest known picture postcard was issued for the 1881 Trade and Industry Exhibition at Halle in Germany (Willoughby 1992 p38)
  • Souvenir postcards became popular at the Paris Exhibition of 1889, especially those showing the Eiffel Tower  (Willoughby 1992 p41)
  • The World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1889 presented the US's first official pictorial cards for sale (Willoughby 1992 p42):

from my collection

from my collection
  • "On May 19, 1898, Congress passed an act allowing private printing companies to produce postcards with the statement “Private Mailing Card, Authorized by Act of Congress of May 19, 1898.” Private mailing cards now cost the same amount of money to mail as government-produced postcards: 1¢. The words “Private Mailing Card” distinguished privately printed cards from government printed cards." (sia):

private mailing card from around 1900; from my collection

private mailing card approved for international mail circa 1900; from my collection

private mailing card approved for international mail circa 1900; from my collection
  • "In December 1901, the Postmaster-General issued Post Office Order No. 1447, which allowed the words “Post Card” instead of the longer “Private Mailing Card” on the back of postcards. Private printers were now also allowed to omit the line citing the 1898 Private Mailing Card Act. However, messages were still not allowed on the address side of postcards. By this time, the front of most postcards had images, which eliminated it as a space for messages. Because of the absence of message space on the address side of postcards, the Post Card Period is also known as the Undivided Back Period." 1901 to 1907  (sia):

single-back postcard from 1907; note "Made in Germany"; from my collection

single-back post card from circa 1905; from my collection
  • "In 1907, a major change on the address side of postcards occurred. This change was prompted by the Universal Postal Congress, the legislative body of the Universal Postal Union. The convention decreed that postal cards produced by governments of member nations could have messages on the left half of the address side, effective October 1, 1907. The Universal Postal Congress also decreed that after March 1, 1907, government-produced cards in the United States could bear messages on the address side. Congress passed an act on March 1, 1907, in compliance with the Union’s decree, allowing privately produced postcards to bear messages on the left half of the card’s back." divided back period 1907 to 1915 (sia):

double-back postcard from 1908; note "Made in Germany"; from my collection
  • In 1909, Congress passed the Payne-Aldrich Tariff which cut off the low-cost importation of postcards. "Although American printers and publishers had strongly promoted the tariff to protect and develop the postcard trade in this country, it ironically did just the opposite. The tariff and a combination of other factors eventually contributed to the demise in the postcard’s popularity, and ultimately sounded the death knell for the postcard industry in America. The most noticeable effect of the tariff was the gradual deterioration in the quality of the pictures and artwork. American printers did not possess the advanced technology to match the high quality of German lithography. There were a few exceptions, of course, like the Detroit Publishing Company. But in general, the standards had clearly declined after the tariff, and as a result, people began to lose interest in postcards." (source)
  • The postcard boom ended at the end of WW I (Willoughby 1992 p16)
    • Domestic production was of a lower quality than the Germans.
  • US printers weren't as high a quality as the Germans; often produced cards with white borders from 1915 to 1930 to save ink:
a "white border" card; from my collection

  • From 1930 to 1945, linen postcards were popular; often characterized by bright colors:

from my collection
  • From 1945 to present, postcards have been produced with phytochrome methods:

  • Petrulis, A., 2017a, Lipman Cards 1861-1872: http://www.metropostcard.com/card01lipman.html accessed September 10, 2017.
  • Willoughby, M., 1992, A History of Postcards--A Pictorial Record from the Turn of the Century to the Present Day: Wellfleet Press, New Jersey, 159 p.
  • Miller, George. Picture Postcards in the United States, 1893-1918. (New York: Crown Publishers, 1976). New York State Library call number: A,769.5,M648,76-8880


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