Western National Parks Postcard E-Book Series
We plan to produce the following series of ebooks. Each ebook will feature different units managed by the National Park Service The estimated publishing frequency will be 3 to 4 ebooks per year. The size and scope of each ebook will depend on the number of postcards, and messages, we chose to feature of the different locations. You are welcome to contact us for updates to our publishing schedule.
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Utah National Parks and Monuments
- Zion National Park
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Arches National Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Utah National Monuments
- Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks
- Glacier National Park
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Mount Rainier National Park
- Dakota National Parks and Monuments
- Carlsbad Caverns and Big Bend National Parks
- New Mexico and Texas National Monuments
- Petrified Forest and Painted Desert National Parks
- Arizona National Monuments
- Death Valley National Park
- Desert National Parks and Monuments
- Redwood and Lassen National Parks
- Crater Lake National Park
Our publishing schedule will depend on the time we have to devote to the next ebook on this list. This has been a long-term objective we began many years ago when we started collecting national park postcards. We evolved from private collectors to professional dealers to hosting the only National Park Postcard and Paper Show in the country from 1993-1998. We were members of the International Federation of Postcard Dealers, IFPD, for many years and conducted business with collectors and dealers throughout the world. We are authorities on national park postcards and ephemera, with an emphasis on Yellowstone National Park.
Listed below are the principal eras of postcard publishing. In some cases the dates are listed as circa. We used a plus or minus 5 years as a circa date. Circa means an approximation of the date listed. We will be as specific as possible in the descriptions and dates in this article and ebook
We will be using the abbreviations and eras listed below to identify postcards in our ebook series. These are considered to be standard periods of postcard publishing in the field of deltiology. “The Golden Age of Postcards” begins as early as 1893 and extends through 1918 in some cases. We begin the Golden Age with the Congressional authorization of Private Mailing Cards on July 1, 1898. The transition at the end of this period depends on what reference is used. Technically the transition began in 1909 with the Payne-Aldrich Tariff. This was a tariff on imported printed materials, including postcards. The beginning of WWI in July 1914 was a more serious event that limited imports of postcards from Europe to America. We use the year 1915 as the date for the end of this period because that is the last year that John Winsch imported postcards from Germany to the United States. Dorothy Ryan uses the date 1918 in her book “Picture Postcards in the United States 1893-1918.” “The Golden Age of Postcards” effectively came to an end with the beginning of WWI and the termination of imported printed materials from Europe, and specifically Germany, to the United States. Postcard production shifted from Europe to America after WWI.
The Golden Age of Postcards – July 1, 1898 – 1915
PMC – Private Mailing Card – July 1, 1898 – December 24, 1901
The words “Private Mailing Card” were printed on the back side
The message had to be written on the front of the card
The back of the card was reserved for the address only
U/B - Undivided Back Era – December 24, 1901 – March 1, 1907
Also known as the “Post Card” Period
The words “Post Card” were printed on the back side
The message had to be written on the front of the card
The back of the card was reserved for the address only
D/B – Divided Back Era – March 1, 1907 – circa 1915
The back of the card was divided for both the address and message
The entire front of the card could now be used for the image
WB – White Border Era – circa 1915 – 1930
Very few postcards were published from 1915 to 1920
The White Border effectively began circa 1920
L – Linen Era – circa 1930 – 1950
A few linen postcards were published in 1929
A few small manufactures produced linen cards into the early 1960s
MC – Modern Chromes or Photochromes Era – 1939 to present
Pre-Zip Code – 1939 through July 1, 1963
Post-Zip Code – July 1, 1963 forward
RP – Real Photos – circa 1903 – 1960
Real photo postcards were 3.5x5.5 inch photographs with a postcard back
Deltiology is derived from the Greek word “deltion,” meaning small writing tablet, or card. It is commonly used today to define the study, or collecting, of postcards. Postcards were the most popular collectibles in the world during the “Golden Age of Postcards,” circa 1898-1915. Today they are thought to be the third most popular hobby after stamp collecting and coin/banknote collecting. This ranking is subject to debate, as postcards offer a wide range of reasons for study. Some reasons for studying and collecting postcards include images, publishers, artists, photographers, advertising, topics, locations, postal history, captions and last, but certainly not least, hand-written messages. The social history derived from postcards can be far-reaching. We will discuss some of these subjects in more detail.
Postcards evolved from trade cards in the late 19th century. Trade cards were published as advertisements for a wide range of products and services after the Civil War. They were some of the first examples of colored printing, with the development of chromolithography. The process for creating colored images prior to this technology was by hand coloring or tinting, a slow and labor-intensive process. The advent of lithography, and the subsequent development of chromolithography, made it possible and affordable to produce high-quality colored prints in large numbers. We will discuss chromolithographic prints and how they were created in this series of ebooks.
Trade cards were often produced in sets or series. Some of the most prolific and popular trade cards were produced by thread and sewing machine companies. Trade cards became popular collectibles. The “Golden Age of Trade Cards” was the period circa 1880 to 1900. They went out of favor at the turn of the century in large part because of the introduction of postcards. Postcards offered a major advantage over trade cards, they could be sent through the mail with a message. Postcards changed the way people communicated, similar in many respects to the internet almost 100 years later.
Postcards were referred to as postals when they were introduced in the United States in 1898. The U.S. Congress gave private printers permission to print and sell postals with 1-cent postage on May 19, 1898, effective July 1, 1898. These early postals were labeled “Private Mailing Cards” (PMC) on the back. PMCs were authorized by Congress in as an experiment to raise revenue for the government. Letters, and government postals prior to 1898, required 2-cent postage. There was little incentive to use privately printed postals before July 1, 1898, because of the higher cost of postage and the limited space available for the message in comparison to a letter.
A major development took place near the end of the 19th century that would forever change the way people in America could communicate. Rural Free Delivery (RFD) was established in 1896 in the United States and became an official part of the Post Office Department’s services in 1902. It suddenly became possible to send mail to almost anyone throughout the country, and the world. Postcards were an affordable and effective means of communication. The introduction of PMCs was the beginning of the “Golden Age of Postcards,” circa 1898-1915. Postcards were the main form of communication, and the most popular collectibles in the world, during this period. The endeavor to raise revenue was an outstanding success and large numbers of postcards were published and sent throughout the world before the beginning of WWI. Some estimates put the number of postcards published during this period in the billions.
PMCs and undivided back (U/B) postcards mandated that only the address be written on the back side. The message on these early postals had to be written on the front. This requirement changed on March 1, 1907, when the Post Office allowed for the back side of the postcard be divided. The address and message could both be written on the back side and the entire front side of the card could be used for the image. Early U/B postcards were becoming very popular and divided back (D/B) postcards became even more popular. The period 1907 though circa 1912 was the height of the “Postcard Craze.” Postcards were widely collected and postcard clubs were formed throughout the country. Postcards were exchanged among club members and different clubs and hundreds of millions were sent throughout the world with hand-written messages. Most of the postcards from the “Golden Age” sold for one penny and required a one-cent postage. They were called “Penny Postcards.” Exceptions included artist-signed and high-quality chromolithographic postcards that sold, usually in sets, for as much as 2 ½ cents each.
The beginning of WWI saw the end of the “Golden Age of Postcards.” Most of the high-quality chromolithographic postcards from the “Golden Age” were produced in Germany. Trade with Germany, and Europe in general, came to a halt in WWI. Many of the German and European postcard factories were damaged or destroyed in the war. The global economy began to decline after the war ended. A severe recession hit the United States in 1920 and 1921, when the global economy fell very sharply. Postcard production shifted from Germany to America at this time. The superior chromolithographic postcards printed in Germany were replaced by lower-quality offset printed postcards manufactured in America. Postcard collecting declined at this time due a combination of factors, including a weak post-war economy and the increase use of radio and television. Postcards were no longer the primary form of communication.
Postcards produced in America in the 1920s are known as white border (W/B) postcards. Most of the postcards produced in this period had a white border around the outside of the image. White border postcards are mostly collected because of the rarity or image and not the quality of the printing.
Curt Otto Teich, an American of German descent, developed a new and more colorful style of postcards in the early 1930s. These new postcards were called linens (L) because of the high rag content of the paper that was used. Curt Teich developed an offset printing process that used colorful inks. Linen postcards are known for their bright colors. These colorful postcards quickly replaced the lesser quality white border postcards and were very popular. Unfortunately the depressed economy in the 1930s affected their overall sales. Nevertheless, linen postcards were embraced by the public and revitalized the postcard collecting hobby at this time.
Linen postcards were introduced in America during the same decade that several new national parks were being established. Curt Teich produced linen postcards for all of the national parks. Visitors to the national parks provided a continuous market for postcards with new tourists visiting the parks every year. The Curt Teich company developed the iconic large letter postcard designs for most of the national parks. Large letter national park postcards were created by in-house artists with views of the park inside the letters. A 50-pane USPS stamp set was issued in 2002 with large-letter postcard imagery of the 50 U. S. states.
A new type of postcard was developed by Union Oil in 1939. These new postcards were called chromes, or photochromes. One reason Union Oil may have developed these cards is because they used a petroleum base in their production. Union Oil began carrying these moden glossy postcards in their western service stations. Customers could get a new card by going to different service stations. These postcards had a glossy finish. They were considered to be modern and began to replace the older style linen postcards. Modern chrome postcards became widespread after WWII. There are two basic periods that chrome postcards can be divided into, pre-zip code, before July 1, 1963, and post-zip code, after July 1, 1963. These modern postcards are more contemporary and appeal to many collectors because they can remember and relate to the views and scenes on the front of the cards. These modern chrome postcards dominated the market and continue to be produced today. However, there has been a wide range of new types of postcards developed in the meantime.
The last era of postcard production, and communication in general, occurred with the advent of the internet. This is beyond our expertise. Digital and virtual postcards, and communication, is a wide open field for study and research. 3-D postcards, hand written and sent through the mail, are real objects. They were produced by real people and the messages they wrote were in the moment. They represent personal and spontaneous correspondence at that time. The emotions and observations they convey are an interface into, and a manifestation of, social history. Hand-written communication on postcards is generated by real people and should be saved for reference. This is especially the case when they are tied to a specific location, or locations, such as national parks. This is primary source material and need to be conserved.
Let us know if you have any questions about postcards or our ebook series. We have been active deltiologists and national park postcard collectors for more than 40 years and will help you however we can.
Thank you and good luck in your pursuit of knowledge,
Jack and Susan Davis