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News > Old Scholar > SPSC 1920s Picture Postcards

SPSC 1920s Picture Postcards

SPSC Archivist explores the history of the postcard in the lead up to International Postcard Day on 1 October.
25 Sep 2023
Old Scholar

A number of months ago, I received a donation into the school archives of what I thought were a number of small formal photos from the 1920s, roughly the size of my hand. On further inspection, I realised that these pictures were not simply photographs, but photograph postcards from the 1920s! They were printed during the height of commercial photography postcards, only 30 years after the inception of the photograph postcard. But did you know that postcards have been around since the 18th century?

In 1777, a French engraver published sheets of cards with greetings that could be cut out and sent through the post. The idea was to be able to send short messages without the necessity of a full letter. The idea wasn’t well received, as this form of message didn’t allow any privacy to stop servants from reading the mail. It wasn’t until the 1860s that the idea was circulated again.

The United States allowed privately printed cards to be sent through the mail, which led to John Charlton patenting a postal card. This quickly faded out. But in 1860s Germany it was suggested that a simple card to write short messages be produced to reduce the cost of sending a note. You would think that the third time the charm, but no. The idea was just a few years too early.

It wasn’t until in Austra-Hungry, 1869, Emanuel Hermann suggested another similar idea A light brown 8.5x12cm card with space for an address and a short message. It was at this time that the postcard started to take hold.

Not too long later the postcard evolved from a simple card to having simple sketches and designs printed on one side. When photography hit the mass market in the late 1880s, photographs of many subjects were printed on postcard.

This diversity led to an international interest, and the first international postcard club was established in 1897! Members of the club would collect and send cards from all over the world.

But it was from the 1900s onwards that postcards really began to boom, both in production and in interest. It was during this time that photos of St Peter’s College and student formal photographs started to be produced on a variety of postcards, a small number of which are at this moment collected in the archives.

Mrs Elisabeth Bramford
SPSC School Archivist

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