On Postcards

Any deltiologist worth his or her salt will tell you that postcards are the cat’s pajamas, the bee’s knees, and the eel’s ankle. And postcards have been around almost as long as the modern postal service; in fact, the earliest American printed postcards (or post cards, pick ’em) hearken back (Can one hearken forward? Shakespeare seems to think so.) to the 1840’s and 1850’s–soon after the first stamped letters appeared. Many early postcards bore advertisements or political messaging.

Today, most folks associate postcards with travel and the sending or receiving of the message, “Wish you were here!” and then rarely meaning same. Postcards depicting tourist attractions and other travel-related ephemera appearing on one side became popular with the ready availability of cheap travel in the early 1900’s due to the pervasiveness of railroads and followed by the rise of the family automobile and the network of state and national highways in the western world. Grandpa and Granny could see that the kids sure had a grand ol’ time at Coney Island or the World’s Fair when a hastily scribbled postcard arrived via Rural Free Delivery. Thus, the card itself became a travel souvenir.

On the other hand, in India, postcards began as simply a cheaper way for the masses to transmit greetings amongst themselves. Even today, the rates for sending a postcard via the fine folks at the United States Postal Service run a few pennies less than it costs to mail a letter. The USPS sells pre-stamped postcards by the bundle–a good deal for a quick note to a chum or chumette whilst stuck in traffic or at lunch or waiting for that bus/train/plane.

The typical postcard measures 5 inches by 3 1/2 inches, although some novelty cards vary from this basic model. Copper (metal) postcards, wooden postcards, and even coconut postcards can be found in various places globally. Novelty cards, “saucy” cards (slightly off-color jokes on one side) or even “racy” cards (originating in–where else?–France) are often found, still. The range and types are vast, and collectors often fight over the choicest samples.

The gentleperson would do well to send a handful of these a month to good friends. As stated in the post on note cards, remember to not over-fill the writing side of the card. If the writer uses more than thirty or so words on a postcard, then the writer should have considered sending a note card or even a full-blown letter. “Hey, there! The dog is in a “chewing the furniture” phase–let’s go shopping for some new stuff this next week!” or some such is about all a postcard should carry. Any more than than (or any meatier) requires more than a postcard.

The TL:DR of this post can be summarized thusly: Think of postcards as the Twitter(tm) of the postal world.


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