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Development of the Picture Postcard



"If You Want to See Who's Boss Start Something."
Artist and date unknown (ca. 1900).
MSUM acc# 1998:84.135.
Gift of John Turner.

The first postcard is attributed to Austrian Emanuel Herrmann in 1869, although other postal card forms were in circulation since the late 1840s. With postcards, brief handwritten messages could be mailed inexpensively and quickly. Picture postcards appeared in Europe in the 1870s and, by the beginning of the 20th century, became very popular in the United States.

The "American Golden Age" of photographic postcards took place at the time when many of the cards in this exhibit were produced, between 1905 and 1915. Photography had been in practice for a full fifty years by the turn of the twentieth century, but for many Americans it was still very much a novelty, especially for rural populations. Advances in transportation and mail delivery made it easy and therefore popular to exchange quick greetings in this manner.