Real Photo Postcards

Bessie's place edenvillePostcard collecting (“deltiology”) has been a popular hobby throughout modern history. During the early 20th century in particular it became very popular to create and send personalized photo postcards of local people, events, and locations. Over the years, these vintage and regional postcards have become a valuable historical resource to see images of every-day life from the past.

Three things happened around the same time to inspire this popular hobby of creating and collecting photo postcards:

  • The development of Rural Free Delivery, providing regular daily mail service to all rural areas.
  • Federal postage rates for postcards dropped from two cents to one cent in the late 1890s.
  • The Eastman Kodak Company developed and marketed the Folding Pocked Kodak as well as other models such as the Brownie Box Camera. These were easy-to-use and inexpensive cameras that allowed anyone to take quality photos.

The film negative size for these cameras was just right for printing onto special postcard paper, which was pre-printed on the back with spaces for message, address, and postage. The postcard cameras even included a small door that would open enough to allow the photographer to inscribe a caption or message onto the negative itself.

During the early 20th century, these photo postcards became almost like our contemporary emails and Instagram posts, an easy quick way to send an inexpensive and personalized message to friends and family.


Midland County Historical Society. “Wish You Were Here” Vintage Postcard Exhibit. Midland, Michigan: 2009.

Gable, Walter. “A History of Picture Postcards.” Written History of Seneca County, New York. Seneca County, New York: 2007. Web. Accessed May 29, 2014.


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