More on Real Photo Postcards

Real Photo Postcards were popular from the very early 20th century to as late as the 1950s.  Negatives of family photos would be sent out to photography houses which would print them up as postcards. Thus, they could be mailed to distant family and friends. The real photo postcard trend was not limited to family photos. In the early twentieth century free-lance postcard photographers roamed the world taking photos of all kinds of places and things and were paid by postcard publishers for their negatives. Some of these photographers had their own small postcard publishing businesses. These commercially-sold real photo postcards often have white hand-written captions identifying their subjects. The white writing is part of the photograph (the result of the photographer’s using a black marking pencil on the negative, which gets reversed and becomes white in the positive print).

Real Photo Postcard-Freelance Photographer

Real Photo Postcard-Freelance Photographer

Though family portraits are probably the most common type of real photo postcard, the most valuable real photo postcards contain images of unusual and uncommon glimpses into early twentieth century life:

  • people engaged in occupational activities such as working on roads, in blacksmith shops, on ships, or in any walk of life
  • people in uniform– particularly military
  • unusual images of animals
  • images of early farm equipment such as tractors
  • images of transportation including horses and buggies, early cars, boats, trains and airplanes
  • images of post-disaster damage including famous tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes
  • images of sports including teams, players and game being played

Why Do People Collect Ephemera?

I’ve been reading up on ephemera on the net and the reasons that people collect ephemera are as varied as the categories that the Ephemera Society of America lists on their website. You have the specific collectors that everyone knows about, like postage stamps, baseball cards and postcards. And then you have the folks who collect anything that catches their eye. I think the bottom line is that those who collect it, do so because it gives a window on our past. A daily menu from 1938 gives us a picture of what an ordinary person did in their everyday life. This is the part of history that doesn’t get written into history books. But those little glimpses are more fascinating than the accounts written in books because it allows us to imagine how it might have been.