A picture printed on a thin piece of cardboard, with some text on the obverse side and a pasted postage stamp, duly franked - this is a picture postcard that has been through the mail, something so common that all of us come into contact with it an uncountable number of times during our lifetime; and thus it is a familiar object to the present generation from everyday usage.
After a long and interesting evolution, the picture postcard appeared around the turn of the century in the form described. Today it is not possible to describe its history in full detail; any serious endeavour to do so is mainly dependent on preserved copies - from both before (till 1869) and after the appearance of the correspondence card (i.e. a postcard without a picture), primarily during its first twenty years (1869-1890) - and especially on their current accessibility to the historian.
A further problem in most cases is that, even in the specialist literature, the available descriptions of the copies that have been preserved are far from ideal. Due to the inaccessibility of the original, the contemporary researcher is, unfortunately, very much dependent on such descriptions (often superficial) and reproductions, frequently of just the one (more conspicuous) side of the picture postcard, correspondence card, postal stationery - or on specimens which fall into none of these categories. A truly dedicated researcher would have to travel extensively abroad in order to visit collectors who possess the copies described in the literature. By careful checking and comparison of such specimens, and by searching for others, he might then attempt an authentic history of picture postcards or correspondence cards. Picture-postcard collecting, also called philocartia (earlier also cartophilia) requires such an ideally conscientious researcher because picture postcards were not the object of systematic investigation until quite recently. Moreover, collectors have shown interest only in collecting those copies which had some personal attraction and value for them, without aspiring to conduct research or even making a closer scrutiny of the topic in general.
The situation has now begun to improve, inter alia, because collecting today has a somewhat different content and purpose. In addition to satisfying nostalgia, it also provides an incentive to preserve those materials that, after many historical upheavals and reversals, are still available. As a consequence of enhanced interest in antiques, and generally anything that is old, philocartia may eventually be recognised as an auxiliary branch of architecture, art history, etc., rather like heraldry, which has long been a respectable offshoot of history. After the Second World War, to aid authentic reconstruction and rebuilding of the old centre of Warsaw, and of many buildings in former Leningrad (St Petersburg), old picture postcards were used instead of the photographs that had been burnt with the buildings; the photographs had simply not been preserved, whereas the picture postcards scattered among various private collections, were. Eventually, Czech and Moravian museums grasped the communication value of topographic picture postcards; they founded philocartic collections and are further multiplying them. The nuclei of these collections came mostly from bequests and gifts from local collectors and native citizens.
As distant predecessors of the picture postcard, several types of document can be cited: illustrated visiting cards, which may perhaps have been used in the 14th century (some sources claim the 13th century); playing cards, on the margin of which a player sometimes wrote his name; from about the 17th century illustrated commercial advertisements; from approximately the 18th century, illustrated writing paper; and, from 1840, illustrated correspondence envelopes. Further, from 1854, photographic visiting cards (size approximately 6x9cm) appeared, and these were complemented in 1866 by still larger so-called cabinet photographs (ca. 11x16 cm).
On May 6, 1840, Great Britain issued the first postage stamps in the world to enable senders to pay the postal dues for their letters. Up to then, the cost of postage had been borne by the recipient. The father of this radical reform was Sir Rowland Hill, who also suggested designing and issuing illustrated prefranked envelopes and wrappings for letters. The first design for these items of stationery was apparently sketched in pencil by Henry Cole, Hill’s assistant; his suggestion was not accepted but the alternative design of Sir William Mulready was realized. Both items are simply called Mulready envelopes. They were issued in the values of one penny and two pence in black and blue, respectively - in accord with the values and colours of the first postage stamps. The first postal use of an envelope of one-penny value was recorded as early as May 1, 1840. In the same year, a series of envelopes was issued with parodies of Mulready’s original drawings.
Toutside England, illustrated envelopes spread mostly in the United States of America. There, as early as 1861, John P. Charlton (elsewhere Carllton) and H. L.Lipman from Philadelphia patented the correspondence postcard. On its address side there were three dotted lines for the address, a space for a postage stamp, and the text: Copyright secured 1861 - Lipman’s Post Card - Patent Applied For (elsewhere Lipman’s Postal Card). Also, advertisement texts appeared on Lipman’s Cards, e.g.: This card enables fast exchange of information. It costs just half the amount you would spend for writing paper and an envelope. At the same time, it facilitates postal manipulation. But the post office required the same fee for a card as for a letter. Some other companies had drawn advertisements on such cards. These cards were apparently the first that had official permission for delivery by the state mail service (from February 27, 1861). However, they did not catch on, and for a long time they were not produced. The oldest known copy was posted in october, 1870.
In 1865, the 5th Austro-German Postal Conference took place in Karlsruhe; the participants were treated to the views of Heinrich von Stephan (1831-1897), who recommended the introduction of an open postcard, printed and sold by the state. Although its reception among the delegates was favourable, the proposal was declined by the German government for fear that part of its income would be lost.
Three years later, the Main Post Office in Berlin received two further similar proposals, almost at the same time. The first (July 1868) came from a Leipzig bookseller, Friedlein, who asked for permission to issue a universal postcard; the second (August 1st, 1868) was from another bookseller in Leipzig, Friedrich Wilhelm Pardubitz, recommending the introduction of a universal correspondence card. One side of the card was intended for the address and, on the opposite side, 30 different texts were printed. These were short phrases: a variety of greetings; congratulations on birthday or nameday; expressions of condolence; etc. The sender of the card could choose the most appropriate phrase and delete the remainder. Both proposals were declined by the Main Post Office, nominally because the cards lacked the character of a letter.
The idea of introducing the open postcard, which had been voiced in Karlsruhe, aroused the interest of the Austrian representative Kolbensteiner, who made the idea known to Dr. Emanuel Herrmann (1839-1902), the Professor of Economy at the Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt. He found the idea so attractive that he pursued it intensely in the following years. On January 26, 1869, he published an extensive article in the Vienna evening newspaper, Neue Freie Presse,with the proposal of introducing an open postcard, the size of a letter envelope, in the territory of Austria-Hungary; the franking was to cost two kreutzers. Herrmann pointed out, inter alia, that letter costs were too high. One-third of all business and private letters were just very brief communications which were not, by their nature, intimate or secret, and hence could just as easily be written on open postcards.
The Austrian Ministry of Posts responded exceptionally flexibly and, contrary to its common practice, unusually quickly. And so, on September 25, 1869, it issued a decree introducing the correspondence card into postal practice. The first copies came into existence on October 1, 1869. A yellow two-kreutzer stamp was printed directly on the card; the yellowish card, measuring 122x85 mm, had one side intended exclusively for the address while the other side was left blank for a written communication.
During the first three months, almost three million of these correspondence cards were sold in Austria-Hungary. Thus, the idea of Von Stephan, realized by Dr. Herrmann, gave the world the correspondence card and eventually also the picture postcard, which developed from it through various interesting stages.
The mass popularity of the correspondence card in Austria-Hungary made other countries of the world wish to follow suit. The first to do so was The north German Confederation (constituted 1866), where the correspondence card was put on sale on June 25, 1870. It was 163x108 mm in size, and a stamp had tobe affixed on it with paste. It was franked with a stamp of the value of one silver grosch, which was the fee for a normal letter inside the country. It is clear that the general public appreciated the enforced brevity of the communication as, in Berlin alone, around 45,000 cards were sold to those interested on the day mentioned. By the end of 1870, over ten million had been sold in Germany.
Still in 1870, correspondence cards were introduced in Bavaria, Württemberg, Switzerland and England (other sources ascribe this event to 1871 and also 1874). In 1871, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Finland, Canada and United Germany followed; in 1872, Norway, Sweden, Russia and Ceylon (Sri Lanka); in 1873, France, Serbia, Spain, Iceland, Chile, Japan, U.S.A., in 1874 Italy, Rumania and Luxemburg, in 1875 Guatemala, in 1876 Greece, in 1877 Turkey, etc. Correspondence cards were successively introduced in postal services all over the world. It must be pointed out that, unfortunately, the data on this point in the specialist literature differ considerably; thus, many discrepancies appear, even in relation to the Jubilee picture postcard of 1894, issued in Vienna on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the origin of the correspondence card [picture VIII, IX].
VIII - A jubilee picture postcard with a portrait of Dr. Emanuel Hermann
In a richly decorated frame with the facsimile of his signature and other texts. The heading says that the postcard was issued to commemorate the invention of the postal card mentioned in the Vienna press on January 26, 1869. Below Hermann’s signature there is the following legend: Inventor of the Postal Card.
PHOTOTYPE. FRIEDL, VIENNA, 1894
IX - The reverse of the previous postcard
The frame, which determines the space for an address, contains names of countries according to the year of postal card introduction (between 1869-1894). Their comparison (using a smaller magnifying glass) with data in the text shows that individual years are not always consistent.
The popular response to the issue of correspondence cards was roughly the same everywhere - enthusiastic reception and rapid usage in daily practice by millions of people. In England, as many as 575,000 cards were sold on the first day and, within several weeks, 1,500,000 cards were posted every week; in the complete year 1870, the number of cards posted was 75 million. Various sources in the literature cite other enormous numbers, all based on statistical information. By the way, before it became standardized in its present shape, the correspondence card underwent many variations in format.
In contrast to the correspondence card (i.e., the postcard, which is state Post office stationery), the picture postcard was originally the result of private production and enterprise. Many attempts at its introduction had been made long before the advent of the correspondence card. The introduction of private products of this kind into postal communication should have been permitted by the postal administration, but it is well known that regulations exist to be circumvented. So, who was the postcard’s first private entrepreneur, where did it happen, and what was the result like? It is difficult to say, you must judge for yourself.
As early as 1777, one of the first names emerges from the anonymous world of prevailingly second-rank painters and engravers; the Frenchman Demaison made an attempt to issue open greeting cards with engravings and a printed text but it soon failed, due to lack of interest on the part of the general public,especially the so-called high society, who disliked the feeling that anyone could read the text. After suffering severe financial losses, Demaison gave up the idea, and finally disappeared without trace in the bloody turmoil of the French revolution.
Apparently, the first congratulation cards were issued in Scotland, with the inscription Compliments of the season. The first of them were produced in 1841 in the printing house of Charles Drummond in Edinburgh. The cards were sent in envelopes; a one-penny stamp was pasted on the envelope for local Scottish destinations, a two-pence stamp for England and abroad.
I have forgotten to send congratulations to my friends, declared Henry Cole, the director of a museum in London several days before Christmas 1843; he may have been the already mentioned collaborator of Rowland Hill. So he ordered about 1000 cards with a printed Christmas theme which were subsequently hand-coloured. In this way, the first English Christmas picture postcards are said to have originated; they were sent in envelopes. Other versions of the event exist, other names are given, etc.. It appears that, in the 1850s, an English Chief Master of Hounds, Nicholas Perry, sent postcards with an invitation to hunt. Similar cards, with pictures, were also used in Germany from the 1860s. In England, at that time, visiting cards with a short communication, and franked with a one-penny stamp, were posted.
An Englishman, Baron Raphael Tuck, apparently originally an impecunious book-printer, has also been denoted as the inventor of the picture postcard. His situation is said to have changed when he started the production of Christmas postcards in 1866. (According to one report, he invented the picture postcard only in 1884.) One day, it occurred to Tuck that a postcard - provided with a view of a landscape or a foreign town - or a congratulation card with the corresponding picture - would say much more to the recipient than lengthy writing and, at the same time, it would save the sender time and effort. These assumptions were perfectly fulfilled. After several years, he was the owner of a vast establishment for the production of picture postcards.
In 1868, a picture postcard of the unusual size 18x12 cm, the designer of which was a lithographer, J. Miesler of Berlin was delivered by post. On the front side, eight outstanding Berlin buildings are pictured in decorative cartouches while the visiting hours are specified in the middle, below the inscription sehenswürdigkeiten Berlins (sights of Berlin).
Almost coincidental with the introduction of correspondence cards, imprints of various companies’ stamps (of rubber and metal) began to appear on both the text and address sides. They can also be found on writing paper, for instance below the signature of the owner of the company. In addition to manually imprinted stamps, various companies’ additional printings (such as their logos and pictures), started to be used on the text or address side; these were prepared in printing houses. Sometimes (more or less) talented individuals occasionally drew something for the recipient, as they had previously done on writing paper. However, for this purpose, correspondence cards of a larger size were more convenient. The first cards of the north German Confederation were of such a kind; they appeared in the first half of the 1870s, and were significantly larger than the first Austro-Hungarian correspondence cards.
The first preserved pictorial additional print made in a printing house by a professional printer is on a card of the north German Confederation. It was made or commissioned by the bookseller and owner of a printing house, August Schwartz in Oldenburg. After the Franco-Prussian war broke out, he sent a card with a Latin communication on July 16, 1870, to his father-in-law and mother-in-law in Magdeburg (where they were beleaguered on the way from Marienbad because of troop movements); on the address side, in the left corner, he printed a picture of an artilleryman attending a cannon. As the picture is not much larger than the stamp pasted in the opposite corner, the whole composition was interestingly balanced from the point of view of graphic art. The additional printing is probably black (as judged from a reproduction). Schwartz made others besides this specimen but the number is unknown. Apparently, further examples have been preserved but the oldest of them is that described above.
X - This is the so-called Manojlovič postcard
The main motif of the illustration is a dragon that holds an unrolled scroll of paper in claws intended for an address. The only exemplar from May 1871 survived. This card, with a full page illustration on one side is considered by some collectors to be the first picture postcard, however they forget that it is just an illustration on the address side, not an illustration on the message side. The preserved card bears two stamps - one on each side.
COPPER ENGRAVING. AUTHOR OF THE DRAWING - P. MANOJLOVIČ. ENGRAVER - R. VON WALDHEIM. VIENNA, 1871
According to some sources, the first private additional printing featured a depiction of the monastery stift Melk an der Donau on an Austrian correspondence card of the first issue in 1869. It was posted in Vienna on December 31,1869. But the vista of the monastery appears in further issues of correspondence cards from the years 1883 and 1897. By comparing depictions in all three issues using a quartz lamp, their identical origin can be established; obviously, they were repeat printings of the first issue.
XI - The first illustrated card of Léon Besnardeuxe
Sometimes spelled as Léo Benardot, Besmardeux, etc. motivated by the presence of French troops in Brittany (about 40 thousand men) concentrated in Conlie near the small town of Sillé le Guillaume.
LITHOGRAPH (REPRODUCTION). L. BESNARDEUX, SILLÉ LE GUILLAUME, 1870
One of the most interesting illustrated postcards comes from the distribution office of the journal Zmaj (in Serbian, Dragon), which appeared in Vienna in the Serbian language, and was therefore printed in Cyrillic script. This drawing, advertising the journal, was designed by a Serbian army surveyor serving in Vienna, Petar (sometimes written Peter) Manojlovič; it was engraved in copper by R. von Waldheim. Allegedly, the cards were printed in October or November, 1870 (or, according to more recent information, in 1871), [picture X].
To facilitate the work of censors during the Franco-Prussian war, a decree was issued that letters should be posted in open envelopes, so some logically minded correspondents began to send letters on halved writing paper. In 1870, in the town of Sillé le Guillaume, where troops were located, the entire stock of writing paper was soon exhausted. A skillful local stationer, Léon Besnardeux, who had left over card board in his store, soon discovered a simple solution. He cut small cards from the cardboard and printed emblems of the local troops around the address and the space for the stamp - and he was hardly able to print enough. A stamp had to be pasted on the written cards, as on a letter. A few unused specimens have been preserved, but not a single posted item. A reprint of one of the cards is shown in picture XI.
On October 1, 1870, when the correspondence card was introduced in England, an advertisement postcard for the royal Polytechnic in London was also issued. It has a drawing with text welcoming the introduction of a lower postage rate, as compared to that for a letter, and an announcement of the institution‘s social events.
XII - A German postal card
Issued at the beginning of 1873 with a picture of the Sněžka Mountain top. Similar to Schwartz’s Artillerist the drawing is a little larger than the printed stamp in the opposite corner (postage of one silver groschen). Some researchers believe that A. Schwartz is the author of this picture. It exists in two colour versions - dark (or snuff-coloured) and black and there are probably also two versions of the drawing which insignificantly differ from each other.
STAMPED BY POST ON JULY 22, 1873
Ludolf Parisius (according to some sources, Rudolf, Brisius, Praisius, etc.) - a parish priest in Osterode - is also considered to be the inventor of the picture postcard. Two human characteristics allegedly stood at the origin of this invention - necessity and laziness. In 1870 (according to other versions 1871 and also 1872), Parisius, a student at the university of Göttingen, was ordered by his family to write congratulation cards to all his relatives. To make the job easier, he painted a sufficient stock of congratulation cards and reproduced them on a hectograph, an apparatus for duplication from a gelatine layer, using aniline ink. When a local stationer, Heinrich lange, learned about this idea, he started to print similar postcards himself but no posted copy has been preserved. The next specimens aspiring to be the first picture postcards were issued in 1872 by Frank Rorich in Nuremberg. One was embellished with an engraving of Zurich (six views of the town), the other with a view of Nuremberg. What the address side looked like is, for the time being, a subject of speculation.
XIII - A German postal card
Issued at the beginning of 1873 with a stuck small picture of castle ruins in the upper left-hand corner. It is an octagon 35x26 mm. It is a miniature black and white steel engraving, demonstrably cut from something with scissors (the edges are not straight). It could have been cut from a tourist booklet, a leaflet, or a book, or it may be a picture intended for cutting and sticking to postal cards for the purpose of advertising and promoting a specific location or neighbourhood. It is interesting that none of the two postmarks are on the printed stamp. Both are on the left of the address side. The message side contains a German text written by pencil partly in Gothic types and it is difficult to read it. Then we can notice a drawing of a bottle, maybe a wine bottle, and a number of signatures. Important is the hand-written date - 14th Okt. 1874.
An additional print of a small picture of the uildings on the summit of Sněžka Mountain is almost of the same type as Schwartz’s picture of the soldier at the cannon. On the oldest posted copy [picture XII], the date is given as July 22, 1873. From a reproduction, I know of a copy stamped with the date of August 17, 1873 and, from the literature, of one with the date August 24, 1874. In Czech literature sources, the date of June 23, 1873 is given in one example but without any details; I consider this to be copied erroneously from the reproduced specimen mentioned above but, to be on the safe side, it is best to attribute these additional prints simply to the year 1873. The card with the peak of the Sněžka is considered, especially in Czech literature, to be the oldest Czech picture postcard. However, due to the fact that it was actually a German product, it is better to regard it as one of the developing types of picture postcard, albeit the first displaying a view from the territory of Bohemia.
It is clear from the literature that there were also cards with the picture of the Sněžka Mountain pasted on the card like a stamp. They were printed on thin paper, without or with adhesive. After cutting, they were pasted on German correspondence cards, issued from 1873, placed in the upper left corner in the same position as the additional prints described above. It is probable that drawings of the Sněžka mountain summit, both printed on a separate paper and additionally printed directly on the card, are identical, but with colour variants. In the older literature, two examples with pasted pictures are cited as being posted on August 17, 1874, and September 24, 1874, but without any additional data. There were also cards with pictures of other places besides Sněžka: there is, for instance, the castle Kynast, under the Giant Mountains (Chojnik in contemporary Poland), as documented by a copy [picture XIII] which was sent from Hermsdorf (Polish Sobieszow) on October 15, and delivered in Děčín on October 16, 1874.
Later on, private additional prints appeared on the obverse side of the correspondence cards, i.e. on the side intended for communication. But it required changes in the postal regulations in the 1870s, 1880s and a little later in the 19th century to clear the way gradually for a postcard without a printed stamp with a specific monetary value, that is to say to the picture postcard. For instance, in England and Germany, it was permitted to produce correspondence cards privately in 1872. In the same year, in Austria-Hungary, it was permitted to superimpose private advertisements in the form of additional prints on the address side of the correspondence card; from 1882, however, only the communication side could be used for this purpose. The private production of picture postcards was permitted in Austria-Hungary later, from the year 1885, approximately. Eventually, private entrepreneurs printed the entire correspondence card, both with and without additional prints; soon, complete picture postcards appeared with the so-called long address, i.e., with printed lines and a space for pasting a stamp on the address side. Apart from the written address, however, nothing else was allowed there, following the model of correspondence cards.
In 1875 (sometimes 1874 is cited), August Schwartz produced his first picture postcard using an original xylograph (wood engraving) by the graphic artist Gubitz; no thing is known about the address side. In the autumn of the same year, he published two series, each of 25 picture postcards, as a commercial enterprise. He used a fair stock of xylographs that had been used for illustrating the journal Volksbote, which he also published.
We shall never be absolutely sure who produced and sent the very first picture postcard. It was the result of many experiments and coincidences, sometimes even of sheer chance (for instance, when there were military conflicts). The picture postcard owes its origin to several concurrent factors, of which the most decisive were the means of mass production, the popularity of the new mode of communicating messages, and the promise of substantial profits for the entrepreneurs.
Correspondence cards with additional prints and picture postcards from the 1870s are very rare, and very few survive from the 1880s. The picture postcards from this period were monotone, mostly with small pictures, often indistinctly printed. Later on, the picture part began to improve, to be brightened up with colours, and to occupy more and more space on the communication side until there was almost no space for writing a greeting to the recipient. At first, it was not possible to use the address side for writing, so the senders wrote around the margins, in the free space in the pictures, and also across the illustrations. However, with printing techniques gradually improving, most senders abandoned this practice as cards began to appear in the form of beautiful colour lithographs, with framed mottoes in relief gilt or with colour emblems, etc. Writing was altogether impossible in some cases because picture postcards were also produced with, for instance, rotating disks, movable or translucent (with another picture against the light) sections, and even playing music al tunes. (For the last of these, however, it was necessary to have a special playing machine.) Further, picture postcards were decorated with feather, fabric, moss, cork, human hair or glass powder, and they were also made from other untraditional materials or in non-standard sizes. There were, for instance, formats ranging from an uncommon minisize, 9x4.5 cm, (a picture postcard of Mělník posted in 1901) up to a giant size, 30.8x22.8 cm. Among the minisizes, by far the best known is 14x4.3 cm (Venice, Barcelona, etc.). Also, picture postcards are known in odd shapes (e.g., a half-litre beer glass, a carp, a mug, a pig, a plate, a chest, etc.). The thematic diversity and decorative style of the picture postcards were boundless; consumers were often captivated, and sales soared. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, picture postcards became the most widespread items transmitted by post. This period of the greatest boom in picture postcards, which will probably never be surpassed, is justly called the Golden Age of picture postcards (approximately 1897-1914). In contrast to the previous period, it is far better documented.
The next principal dividing line in the history of picture postcards arose from the separation of the address side into two sections, one being intended for the address, the other for a communication. Thus, the space for the text of the communication was unambiguously demarcated, and it did not have to overlap and interfere with the picture part any longer. In this way, picture postcards with the so-called short address originated. England was the first country to recognise the logic of the matter, and the division occurred there in 1902. France followed and, on November 25, 1904, Austria-Hungary as well. In 1906, the member countries of the World Postal Union agreed on the general use of the left-hand side for correspondence, the right-hand side for the address, although it was not compulsory for the two sections to be of equal size. In 1906, the era of picture postcards with a long address officially ended but, for several years therafter, the habit of writing the communication also on the picture side persisted, especially among the older generation. Even so, postal services were handling picture postcards with long addresses, mostly from old stock, for many more years; the writers themselves used to divide the address side into two parts (with pencil or pen). Hence, around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the picture postcard began to appear in the shape we know so well today. For many collectors and writers, the Golden Age of picture postcards ends with the year 1905 or 1906. The limit is not exact as, for a long time afterwards (approximately until the First World War), the predominant part of the production was of top quality, as far as both subject matter and print execution are concerned.
The development of picture postcards, and the formation of an entire industry specialized in their production, understandably could not have happened at the end of the 19th century without improvements in printing techniques following research and many discoveries in the field. The striking role played by Czech inventors in the rise of the new printing techniques is certainly worth mentioning. Alois Senefelder (born November 6, 1771, in Prague, died February 26, 1834, in Munich), was the inventor of lithography (he made the basic discovery in 1796). Jakub Husník (born 1835 in Vejprnice near Křimice, died 1916 in Prague), was responsible for many inventions (including the so-called albertotype, which was established later) and especially for the practical utilization of phototypy, and Karel Václav Klíč (born May 31, 1841, in Hostinné, died November 15, 1926, in Vienna), was the inventor of photogravure.
At present, the activity of collecting picture postcards is denoted by a hybrid word - philocartia. The creator of this linguistic melange is not known but it is nothing to boast of. Anyone can make up such composite words but, occasionally, some of them take hold, and enter general use. The first part of the word is of Greek origin and means love (filein = to love), the other part is probably derived from the German Karte (=postcard, card) or from the French carte (= card; carte postale = postcard). As already mentioned, prior to the introduction of the term philocartia, the name cartophilia was used, which originates from the same bases. But the term philocartia has not yet spread world-wide, for instance, in the United States, picture postcard collectors are called deltiologists (from the Greek deltion, which means a writing tablet).
Picture-postcard collecting was already widespread in the nineties of the 19th century, as witness the existence of the first specialist journals in Germany in 1896, when two of them commenced publication, and the number increased to eight by 1905. A specialist journal began to appear in Italy in 1898, in France in 1899, and in Hungary three journals were being published by the turn of the century. These are either predecessors of or direct evidence for, the systematic collecting of picture postcards. The origin of ad hoc private collecting of correspondence cards and picture postcards can be placed far earlier, maybe in the mid 1870s and the collection of picture postcards had become a worldwide fashion twenty years later. It was at first considered to be an entertainment or a sport, indeed it was reported in the sports sections of the daily press. A quote from the book Memorial Book Published to Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Invention of Lithography , Prague, 1899, is worth mentioning. On page 30, one reads: (n.B. The following paragraph should be in old-fashioned language.) At the present stage of sporting pursuits, it can be said that the public have devised a sport from lithographed products. For how else can one call the collecting of that innumerable series of postcards which, being coloured in harmony with the mood of the scene, present pictures of figures or landscapes, and serious or humourous scenes, in such impressive amounts. Almost every place, however small, now has its postcard. Obviously, sport was not involved, though the enthusiasts of that time had to do much hunting for postcards.
At the end of the 19th century, this sport virtually became a mania. Collectors were passionately pursuing everything related to a particular locality (the life of a town, village, square, street), to topical events (a train crash, military manoeuvres, a visit of the sovereign, fires, floods, a greeting from a ball), which appeared on picture postcards, sometimes within 24 hours of their occurence, and to particular styles (Christmas, Art Nouveau, humour and eroticism). At that time, tourism did not exist in the sense we know it today, so it is no wonder that every picture postcard was received with pleasure, as an attractive souvenir. And so picture postcards were sent from various trips, whether domestic or foreign, pleasure or business, indeed from every outing, walking, bicycling or whatever. There were also lady collectors with such a degree of fanaticism that they positively required their admirers to send them picture postcards.
It was a fashion in every family of the so-called high society to have an exhibition album, where the loveliest picture postcards were placed on view, bringing the tang of far-away countries. Picture postcards were exchanged, purchased at a tobacconist’s, stationer’s, station stalls, etc., and also in specialist shops. The appearance of the last of these was a consequence of the unprecedented collecting boom; those interested could choose from a rich range of domestic and exotic picture postcards.
At the end of the 19th century, the collectors began to associate in clubs. In Prague, the Club of Picture Postcard Collectors was founded in 1900 (see the following chapter). The then-common style of club life was pursued, regular meetings were held for the exchange of cards, and group trips and also exhibitions were arranged. The last of these belonged inseparably to the collecting of picture postcards. On these occasions, the collectors presented the results of their efforts (often lasting many years) to a wide range of those interested, and they made it possible for others to look into their otherwise meticulously guarded and protected private collections.
The history of exhibitions of picture postcards in the Czech lands started in 1899. As far as we know at present, the first documented instance took place on Sunday, July 9, 1899, in Hradec Králové. This Exhibition of Picture Cards was organised by the local committee of the Central Education Foundation in the Střelnice Building. Several hundreds of selected rare cards, sent from various parts of the world were on show. This exhibition was just one of the attractions of a Foundation Festival, which also included playing skittles, a concert, lectures, a marionette theatre, and fireworks.
The second exhibition was held during August 26-29, 1899, in Sobotka. The event was focused on a display of posters and picture cards (postcards), again organised by the Central Education Foundation in a secondary school; 1500 postcards were exhibited. Special interest was attracted by a collection of Russian and Siberian postcards. The third exhibition of picture postcards took place during September 16-18, 1899, in Rychnov nad Kněžnou, where 5247 cards were on show; this number sounds incredible but has been verified. The fourth exhibition was held in September and October, 1899, in Roudnice nad Labem. The fifth picture postcard exhibition was the first to take place in Prague, in December, 1899 (see the following chapter). Up to 1901, at least 15 further picture postcard exhibitions took place in the Czech lands.
International exhibitions have been arranged since 1898. From May 1 to 31, 1898, there was an exhibition in Leipzig; in 1899, exhibitions were recorded in Venice (Italy) and Nice (France). It was in Nice that the Czech painter, Jan Mukařovský, won the only awarded Gold Medal for his thematic picture postcard design. Two other international exhibitions took place in 1900: in Budapest, two Czech collectors gained the first prize and four others the second prize. In Paris, on the occasion of the World Exhibition, a well-known Prague publisher of picture postcards, Josef Šváb Malostranský (by the way, also the first Czech film actor), won the highest prize - the Grand Prix. He not only published picture postcards but also sold them in his stationery shop in the Prague street Mostecká (see picture 63).
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