of the Postcard
1873 - 1898
The United States Postal Service began issuing pre-stamped postal
cards in 1873 as a quick and easy way to send short notes. Only the USPS
was allowed to print postcards.
Mailing Cards Era, 1898 - 1901:
On 19 May 1898 Congress passed the Private Mailing Card Act which allowed
private publishers and printers to produce postcards. Additionally the
act changed the rate from a 2¢ letter rate to a 1¢ "private
mailing card" rate. The required words "Private Mailing Card"
and the statements "Authorized by Act of Congress of May 19, 1898"
and "This side is exclusively for the Address" differentiated
the privately printed cards from the USPS cards. Messages could only be
written on the front of the card. Cards with the term "Postal Card
- Carte Postale" were allowed to enter the international mail system.
Card Era, 1901-1907:
In December 1901, the United States Post Office issued Post Office Order
No. 1447. This allowed the use of the words "Post Card" instead
of the longer Postal Mailing Card. Messages were still not allowed on
the back of cards. This era is also called the Undivided Back Period.
Real Photo Era, circa 1900 -:
Real photo cards where produced from a negative in black and white or
sepia tones on film stock paper. Many postcard collectors consider real
photo postcards more collectible than lithographic cards for their unaltered
On 1 March 1907 a major change on the backs of postcards occurred. The
left side of the back of the card allowed messages, while the right side
was for the address. This allowed for the image on the front of the postcard
to fill the entire space.
Border Era, 1915-1930:
Up until this period German companies had been the predominate postcard
printers. The beginning of World War I caused a shift to postcards supplied
by printers in the United States. Ink was saved by not printing to the
edge of the card and leaving a white border around the image. It became
the fashon to have a more complete desciption of the postcard included
on the back.
New printing processes were developed that allowed postcards to be printed
on paper with a high rag content. This gave the postcards a look of being
printed on cloth or linen. The colors used became brighter and more vibrant.
Most postcards retained the white border, but some were printed to the
edge of the card.
Modern Photochrome-style Era, 1939 - to date:
Modern Photochrome-style postcards first appeared in 1939 with the Union
Oil Company carrying them in their western service stations. Production
of the postcards was slowed during World War II because of supply shortages.
The photochrome postcards are in color and are the closest to real photographs.