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.

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The Portal to Texas History

How old is that post card?

  • The first commercial postcards produced in this country were sold at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago Illinois in 1893.  These were the first privately printed souvenir postcards.  So, this should be as early as you will find for United States postcards.
  • Does your card have the words "Private Mailing Card, Authorized by Act of Congress on May 19, 1898" on the back?   The words "Post Card" were not printed on postcards until December 24, 1901.  Cards previous to that had to have the Private Mailing Card Statement.  So, if your card is marked "Private Mailing Card," is dates from 1893 - 1901.
  • Is the address side divided?  A divided back postcard has a line down the middle, or some other indication that one half of the back is for the address and the other half is for a message.  Early postcards had an undivided back.  The back of the postcard was for the address ONLY.  There was often a statement that said "this side for address only."  The postal service started allowing the use of divided back postcards in March of 1907.  So, if your postcard has an undivided back, it is from 1907 or earlier.
  • Does the postcard back indicate that it was printed in Germany? Many early postcards were printed in Germany.  The German cards were of exceptional quality and are some of the best examples of old postcards available.  However, World War I shut down the German printing presses and cards started being printed in the United States or imported from Great Britain.  If your early postcard says it was printed in Germany, it is from before 1915.
  • Is there a white border around the picture? The White Border era dates from 1915 to 1930.
  • Does the picture have a texture like woven linen? Postcards from 1930 to 1944 were printed on a linen texture paper.  They also used brightly colored inks.
  • Does the postcard have a shiny finish on the front, with a color photographic image? Photochrome postcards have been produced from 1945 to present. 
  • For real photo post cards (what the cool kids call RPPCs):
http://www.metropostcard.com/guiderealphoto.html

US postcard eras according to the Smithsonian:

  • 1948 to 1870: Pre-postcard Era
    • mailed cards (homemade, privately made)
    • envelopes with pictures
    • In 1861, Congress allowed privately printed cards to be sent through the mail
    • Charlton copyrights a postal card
  • 1870 to 1898: Pioneer Period
    • Lipman's Postal Cards
    • First US government-produced card issued on May 1, 1893 (at lower postage)
    • One side for address, one side for message
    • Private cards coud still be mailed, but at the full postage rate
  • 1898 to 1901: Private Mailing Card Period
    • private cards send at postcard rate
    • required to say: “Private Mailing Card, Authorized by Act of Congress of May 19, 1898.”
    • if a card said “Postal Card—Carte Postale,” it was allowed to enter the international mail system
  • 1901 to 1907 Post Card Period
    • 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.
    • One side for address, single back
  • 1907 to 1915: Divided-back Period
    • 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.
  • 1915 to 1930: White Border Period
    • With WWI, German printing was no longer allowed/accessible
    • American printers didn't have the same level of technology as the Germans, so these cards are of lower quality.
    • US printers saved ink by leaving a white border around the image
  • 1930 to 1945: Linen Period
    • Brighter colors; ridged texture
  • 1945 to present: Photochrome Period
    • The first photochromes appeared in 1939.
    • Closely resemble photographs

https://www.newberry.org/curt-teich-postcard-archives-collection#findingctpac



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