Friday, October 26, 2012

Real Photo Postcards

By: Corinne Court, Collections Cataloger at Curt Teich Postcard Archives

Teddy Roosevelt at Freeport, Illinois, c. 1910

My favorite postcards are real photo postcards.  An image is photographed and it instantly tells us a story.  What is the expression?  "A picture is worth a thousand words."  It may be a story of a girl's christening, a man's funeral, or not a story at all; just a general view of Paris' Eiffel Tower, a street view of a small village, or a portrait of an actor.

The earliest example of American real photo postcards was dated in 1902. A drawback to photo postcards was the Post Office required that any messages on the card be put on the image and the back was reserved solely for the address. Then in 1907, both address and message were permitted on the backs of the cards and manufactures began to sell real photo postcards with divided backs. For more information about dating real photo postcards, please visit The Collection Protection Shop

I promise not to write a thousand words for each photo postcard, but I want to show a few of my favorites.

One of Amsterdam's three major canals, Keizersgracht. Publisher: Amerongen
I find the artistic line element on this real photo postcard mesmerizing. Line is defined as a mark that spans a distance between two points, taking any form along the way. Your eyes follow along the curves of the bridge and then the line is disrupted by the buildings.  Are the buildings' foundations crooked? 

Publisher: Camera Craft Studio, Inc., New York City
Ladies, would you be interested in wearing this dress? Oh, my mistake, it is a swimming suit from 1922.  Real photo postcards were another medium for Calhoun Robbins & Company to sell their swimsuits.  Printed on the back, "This is to call your attention to our line of 1922 All Wool One Piece Combination Misses and Ladies Bathing Suits in all desirable colors.  Also an unequalled [sic] line of Bathing Caps, Shoes and all accessories."

A religious society and a semi-pro baseball team, together? Who knew!  The House of David is a religious society co-founded by Benjamin and Mary Purnell in Benton Harbor, Michigan, in 1903.  Benjamin Purnell was a baseball enthusiast and encouraged the society to form a semi-pro baseball team.  They toured America from the 1920s to the 1950s.  The men played wearing long hair and beards.

"Blind Pigs Raided 160 Kegs Destroyed, Elk Lake, Ontario." If I'm not mistaken, I believe the person taking this photograph was not too happy.  A temperance movement moved through Canada in the 1920s and, in 1925, it rolled right into Elk Grove, Ontario.  The history of prohibition and how it affected all Provinces in Canada, at different times, is a long story. So grab a drink.

The year was 1919 and Jess Willard was knocked to the ropes by Jack Dempsey.  Jess Willard was full foot taller than Dempsey, but Dempsey had natural speed and best left hook of all time.  If you want to watch the fight, it is available on youtube


  1. Real photo cards are so interesting. I love the ones you chose to share! Thanks!

  2. I love real photo postcards, too. The quality and variety of images is wonderful. Thanks for an interesting post!


Thank you for your comment. Someone will confirm your comment and post it.