Dating Postcard Eras

Dating Postcard Eras

Note: Some of the dates are circa, meaning they may vary a few years one way or the other. We give more specific information on these dates and eras in the Postcard Publishing Eras in this section. The dates listed below are useful and apply to most postcards. We did not list the Pioneer Era, pre-1898, because we do not have any national park postals as examples. 

PMC – Private Mailing Cards


Congress passed a law effective July 1, 1898, authorizing the use of Private Mailing Cards (PMC). This was an experiment to raise revenue for the government. The postage rate for a PMCs was one cent, as compared to two cents for a letter. The back of the card was reserved for the address only. The front side of the card was reserved for the message and image. Rural Free Delivery (RFD) had been established in 1896 and it suddenly became possible to send a letter and a PMC to anyone in the country, and throughout the world. 

U/B - Undivided Back Era


PMCs and U/B postcards required that the message be written on the front side. The back side was reserved for the address only. This requirement was changed effective July 1, 1907. The back side of the postcard could now be divided for both the message and the address. The advantage of the divided postcard was that the entire front side could now be used for the image. The popularity of postcards increased with this change in the format.

D/B Divided Back Era


The backs of postcards could be divided effective July 1, 1907. Both the address and message could be written on the back of these postcards. The entire front side could now be used for the image. This was a huge development and postcards became even more popular at this time. This was the height of "The Golden Age of Postcards." Literally billions of postcards were sent through the mail worldwide. Postcards became the most important form of communication at this time. This was similar in many respects to tyhe advent of the internet almost 100 years later.

The Golden Age of Postcards


"The Golden Age of Postcards" was a revolution in how people communicated. Rural Free Delivery was established in 1896. Mail was delivered to homes and businesses throughout the country. The delivery system had been established when Private Mailing Cards was authorized effective July 1, 1898. 

The Golden Age of Real Photo Postcards


Amateur photography became a popular pastime when Kodak introduced the Model 3A Postcard Camera in 1903. The common person on the street could take photographs and have them developed with a standard 5.5 x 3.5 inch postcard back with a stamp box. Real photo postcards could be sent through the mail with a message for 1 cent. Real photo postcards documented life in the early 20th century as no other media could. They are some of the most desirable and collectible postcards among researchers and deltiologists. 

White Border Era


White Border Postcards were postcards that were produced after WWI through the 1920s. Deltiologists called these cards white borders because most of the view cards published during this period had a white border around the outside edge on the front side. White border postcards were printed in the United States. The Golden Age of Postcards came to an end with the beginning of WWI. High quality chromolithographic postcards produced in Europe, and Germany specifically, were no longer imported into the United States. Postcard production shifted from Europe to America at this time. The world economy was very weak and postcard collecting went out of favor due to cost and the availability of more expensive and higher quality postcards from Europe. 

Linen Era


Linen Postcards were developed by the Curt Teich Company in Chicago circa 1930. Linen postcards got their name from the high rag content of the paper that was used to produce them. The main advantage of linen postcards over white border postcards was the colorful inks used in their production. Linens had bright colors and became popular with collectors. Postcard collecting increased in the linen era. Unfortunately this took place during the same period as the Great Depression. One of the most popular postcards designs pioneered by Curt Teich was the iconic large letter designs. Large letter postcards continue to be very collectible and the design concept is still used throughout the publishing industry.

Modern Chrome Era (Pre-Zip Code)


Modern Chrome Postcards, also known as photochromes, were developed by the Standard Oil Company in 1939. These postcards were photographic based images. The process used oil which the Standard Oil Company promoted. Modern chrome postcards replaced linen postcards because they were less expensive to produce. 

Modern Chrome Era (Post-Zip Code)


Modern Chrome Postcards can be divided into two major periods, pre-zip code and post-zip code. Our expertise does not exceed beyond this period. Many different printing techniques have been used to produce contemporary postcards since modern chromes were introduced.

Digital Postcard Era

Circa 1995-Current

Digital postcards are not three dimensional. They are virtual and exist as digital files. They can be erased and cease to exist altogether. The virtual aspects of these postcards put them outside our field of study. The way people communicate has undergone a fundamental change with the advent of the internet and email. Smart phones, texts and emails have become the most ubiquitous forms of communication. 


The information on this page will be updated as time permits. Please feel free to discuss your ideas and thoughts relating to how we communicate and what part both traditional 3-D and virtual postcards play. Feel free to ask us any questions you have relating to traditional postcards. We have been deltiologists for many years and will be glad to share our experience and knowledge with you.