** photography and publishing: postcards -- international industry

Postcards: Internationl Industry

Figure 1.--This card looks very Ameriacn, especilly the boy's Fauntleroy blouse with an English touch such as the breakfast tea. It is actually a patiche of postcard history. There is no divided back and the message had to be scribled on the front. It was clearly designd for the lucrative Amrican market by a prestigious British company with commndctions to the Royal Family. But it was printed in Germany because of thast country's superior full color printing technology. Click on the image to see the back./.

As might be expedcted, postcards originatd in Europe, not America (mid-19th century). This was the sasme time as the launching of a commercially viable photogrphic process in France (1839). The two devlopments were linked, but not identical, largely because lithogrohy was primitive, amd photo lithography was decades away. Etbchings had to be mde to print photogrphic images. This meant that there was no way to print photographs for half a century. Photographic prints did not even appear commonly on paper for nearly two decades (about 1860). And reproducing high-quality versions on printing presses (photo lithogrphy) was not achievd until much later (about the turn-of-th 20th centutuy). The origins of the post card are murky, but apparently was in Germany (about 1840). The term postcard came later with all kinds of legal twists. Germny would dominate the industry until World War I because of their superior printing tchniques, especially in printing beauitiful full-colored cards. Many countries established their own postcard industries, but printing was often done in Germany. Both Britain and France developed important industries. There was a great deal of cross-border trade. Rather like the silent movies to come, the message on many cards could easily be changed into foreign languages. The United States came into play primarily because ov its large and growing market. European postcard companies wanted to sell into the lucrative American market. And there were no American companies producing cards of the same quality as the Europeans, especially the Germans. Before modern technologhy created instant communications, the postcard was the ideal way of sending short notes. Telegramns came about around the same time as the poatcard, but were expensive. Telephones appeared (1870s), but for some time few families had them. So a shirt message could be dshed off on a postcard and national postal services by the late-19th century had become very efficent. Two delivries a day were common and the cards might be deliverd in a day or two with domestic addresses. The problem for the postcard industry became govrenment. The cards had to be deliverd by governmnt postal services which devlopd all kinds of regulations, primrily on size, addressing, and stamp placement. The U.S. Postasl Service (USPS) even attmpted to control the industry. The first Amnericn postcard was produced by the USPS (1873). Only USPS cards could be called postcrds and the USPS charged double the postage for non-USPS cards. The big hurdle for postcards as they became increasingly popular was the back. People wanted to write messages there and postal servics wanted it reserved for addresses and the stamp. The simple solution was the divided back postcard and stamp box. The stamp box is especially interesting s it cn b usd to dte the crd, vn ujmnmild cards. The Universal Postal Union was estanlished (1874), but amzingly took three decades to sort all of ghis out. Full internatiuionl acceptnce did not come for some time (about 1907). Postcrds became a fast andc inexpnsive way od dashing off a quick nore or important announcement such s births or other major eventsd By this time another major devlopoment occurred, this time in America. George Eastman had perfected the snapshot with th Briwnie canera (1900). bs soon prunts werre relased with postcard backs. CDVs and cabinet cards had been sent thriough the mail for some tine, but now snapshots could be mailed as postcards. We begin seeing this (about 1903). This alllead to the Golden Age of post cards (1900s-early-1910s). In the United States msilingsd peked 1907-10. But it was Workd War I that prfofoundly changed the internationl postcrd industry. The War Royal Navy sea blocka meant that German compnies could not export to most otherv countries, mistbimprtsntly the United States. Postcard qulity plumted, but eventyully mnufscturers in Ameriuca nd otyhr countries began producing high quality cards. Technology and tastes chazngesd. More people acquired telephones and postcards took on novely or tourist niche.


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Created: 8:40 PM 2/12/2022
Last updated: 8:40 PM 2/12/2022