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Pictures in the Post

a brief history of the picture postcard
by Judith & Stephen Holder FRPSL

23rd March 2006

Forerunners & Early 'pioneer' cards | Art & Topography | Art & Glamour | France | Italy & Europe | Themes | Topography & Family History | The Post


One hundred years ago collecting postcards was a much more widespread and popular pursuit than stamp collecting, even though the publication of many learned works on postage stamps had by then started turning the craze of timbromanie into the much more advanced discipline of Philately. Postcards were collected by all walks of people, young and old, men and women, and it was commonplace and indeed fashionable among the middle classes to have an album of these pasteboard mementoes. Many a card bore the message 'here is another one for your collection' or 'I was very pleased with the last card you sent me as I did not have it'. Cryptic numbers and initials at the top of a message - indeed sometimes being the only message - revealed membership of an international postcard exchange club.

Like many things this changed, almost overnight, with the First World War. From 1919, with the world impoverished and wearied by war, the craze was not revived, not least because the main driving force of quality printing and ink manufacture had been very much centred on Germany, and the rapid development of the telephone cancelled out the need for many of the previous uses of the postcard, and so far fewer were sent.

With isolated exceptions this situation continued until a few people once again started taking an interest in the mid 1960's and early 1970's and a few new handbooks were published, clubs started up, catalogues appeared and dealers started to offer cards once more as collectable items. Now collecting postcards is once again quite a large international business, although not on the scale of philately, but it is surprising how very few collectors have an interest in both fields. Those of us who do have a foothold in both camps like to say that all these little pieces of pasteboard were designed and printed to be sent through the post with a message on them, making them in truth "Pictures in the Post".

The creation of the postcard by Dr Emanuel Hermann in Austria on 1 October 1869 set in motion a revolution in the communication of the ordinary message of no especial importance, the private note, the mundane or jolly remark, the 'wish you were here' - indeed any short note for which no real 'security' was required.

The first cards are now known as 'correspondence cards', and were the forerunners of stamped postal stationery cards. Some of these did include small illustrations, particularly in Heligoland where the first picture postal cards appear, and in Paris 1889 the Eiffel Tower cards, but the Picture Postcard as we now understand it first appears in any quantity in the early 1890's, with the arrival of Hotel publicity cards. These were small pieces of pasteboard, similar to postal stationery of the period, for the use of holiday makers and guests, with images of the hotels which issued them usually printed as a little vignette at the top.

These slowly evolved into pictorial vignette cards, with a space left on the picture side for a short message, and the reverse side blank or printed for the address and franking. At first this was the strict rule, with nothing permitted on the address side except the address and postal information. It is not till 1902 when the first 'divided back' cards appear, with message and address on each side of a dividing line, leaving the other side free for the illustration, that this changed.

This development came at different times with different countries between 1902 and 1910. This breakthrough allowed for a rapid development of the whole art of design for cards, which although tied to a standard size and formula, yet allowed for an astonishing variety of artistic expression.

Almost all the main developments in the artistic designs of Postcard art originated on the continent, in Germany, Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland. The two main exceptions which developed in Great Britain were the Comic card and to some extent the Real Photograph cards of social, industrial and village history, the artistry being expressed through the camera. The special skills needed to print the fine art designs created for these cards were most highly developed by printers in Germany, especially in Saxony & Bavaria. The techniques for chromolitho and letterpress printing these multi-colour miniatures, often with gilding, embossing and die stamping, have never been surpassed.

With the First World War the genre died immediately, since no business could be done with the Central Powers, now the enemy, and blockades and privations prevented any further development within Europe, enmeshed in a mechanised race to create armaments and destroy what went before. A very few examples of work in the old quality did appear from 1914-1919, but mostly these were of a patriotic nature and tolerated as being beneficial to the war effort, but the Golden Age of Postcards really dies in August 1914, along with so many other manifestations of the old order.

After the war there was in a small way a short flowering of the old style of fine art, but now dressed up in the new Art Deco style which had gradually superseded the earlier Art Nouveau. This was particularly successful in Italy, where a number of artists produced cards of superb quality in the 1920's.

However, this was the epilogue to the Golden Age, and most other cards were of a significantly lower quality, both of design and printing, and have remained so until modern times, when 'art' cards have reappeared - again firstly on the continent, especially in France and Germany, mirroring the situation of a century earlier.

What can be shown in a small display only gives a taste of what was the dominating art form in the years before the First World War. Postcards were to the Edwardians what film and television is to us today. They reflected life, they commented on everything, they illustrated every nook and cranny throughout the world. They came in an endless flow running into countless millions, the numbers fed by the widespread and fashionable hobby of collecting postcards, from the height of their popularity at the turn of the century until the start of the nineteen twenties, by which time the craze for sending and collecting postcards which had been forcibly curtailed by the War, had almost ended.

A look at some of these little pieces of decorated pasteboard allows us to enjoy a trip back to a less frantic age and look through history's mirror at habits and styles now largely forgotten.

Postcard designs fit into a small number of generic groups, within each of which are many subdivisions. These groupings are largely considered to be:

1. Early & Pioneer cards, including the postal stationery forerunners, the 1889 Eiffel Tower cards, the first coloured illustrated postal cards of Heligoland, the Hotel publicity cards, Court cards and the first continental Gruss Aus or 'greetings from' cards.

2 Art cards and Artists cards, where the quality of the design is the prime purpose, and publishers realised that one way to sell more cards to visitors was to use the best artists they could hire to work for them. There are many very fine designs of the early period produced by the Vienna Werkstätte, and by established artists such as Alphonse Mucha, Raphael Kirchner and others of the Art Nouveau period. Many people collect these cards by certain artists or certain schools of art. The 'New Wave' of Art Deco with its starker lines started in the Edwardian era as a deliberate contrast to the florid & fluid decorative style of Art Nouveau, and came to its peak, particularly in Italy, with artists such as Umberto Brunelleschi, M Montedoro, Giovanni Meschini & Loris Riccio

3 The First World War, with its vast output of patriotic & propaganda cards, scenes of devastation on the Western Front, overseas campaigns, soldiers, weapons, ships, aircraft and personalities of all the belligerents on both sides, mostly of a much poorer production quality than cards produced before the war.

4 Topographical cards, starting with the 'gruss aus' types of continental Europe and developing into photographic studies of almost anywhere from the centre of the greatest cities to a tiny rural community out in the countryside, produced from printing blocks; but the most sought after are generally the 'Real Photo' types, largely developed in England and now much in demand by collectors for their fascinating mirror on the social history and true image of the time.

5 Subject or thematic cards, on almost any theme which could be imagined, flora & fauna, especially cats and dogs, comic cards - again very much a British development - ships, aircraft, disasters, motor cars, theatrical stars, advertising, politics & historical figures, police, birds, butterflies, sports of all kinds, religious, Jewish & Masonic subjects, and items as obscure as corkscrews, playing cards, children dressed as lawyers & judges, plumbing, dragons & dog carts. In many ways this mirrors thematic collecting in Philately, but goes far beyond that into more obscure corners.

A curious anti-communard propaganda card

Fig. 1 A curious anti-communard propaganda card, apparently part of a slightly larger card, postally used just after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1) and the Commune (March-end May 1871). Backstamped Privas 10 July 1871, some weeks after the end of the Commune.

6 'Moderns', a new field of collecting interest has become popular in recent years these being card produced since about 1970, with modern printing methods, usually larger than the 'Golden Age' cards, and encompassing every conceivable field that had gone before and a few more, including some of a more salacious or risqué style, which would not have been known in the earlier periods.

It must be noted that the whole field of postcard subjects, design and illustration is so vast, that only a tiny portion can be shown in any single display, even quite a large one. Groups of cards which are not included in this display:

Most transport subjects, maritime, railways, road transport & aviation
Military including particularly the vast field of the First world War
Most general topographical subjects other than 'artscapes'
The work of Landscape artists
Much of the very large range of comic designs
Many individual themes such as:
literary, music, sport, photography, social history, animals (except cats), most flora & fauna, children, education, and the many individual publishers, whose work makes many large & fascinating subjects on their own. Additionally only small aspects are shown of advertising, glamour, theatre, and several other popular themes.

Collecting Pictures in the Post can be a bigger undertaking than those unfamiliar with them might imagine!

Group 1 Forerunners & Early 'pioneer' cards

hold-to-light image

Fig. 2 If the card is held against the light an allegorical female figure is seen restraining or arresting the petroleuse alongside a signpost reading Cayenne which refers to the penal colony in French Guiana (as in the story & film Papillon). (This picture shows this double image on a light table). The card is No 35 in a series. No other card or design has yet been recorded. This is probably the earliest use of a hold-to-light image on a card. One of several forerunners of cards which can be found in the postal history of the Franco-Prussian War (July 1870-end January 1871).

Frame 1 The first cards & the War of 1870-1
The first use of cards in any regular manner apart from the first Austrian 2 Kreuzer postal stationery card, was during the Franco Prussian War of 1870-71, when the Germans introduced the Feldpost Correspondence Card & some plain postcards were used in the Balloon Post of the Siege of Paris. Many commemorative cards were produced later illustrating all aspects of the war.

Frame 2 Early Hotel advertising cards
These depicted little decorative line-drawn headpieces, based on the illustrated writing paper common since about 1840. The message is wrapped round the monochrome vignette. They were popular first in Switzerland and France but can be found from most countries where travellers still went on some form of 'The Grand Tour'.

Frame 3 Heligoland - the first coloured cards
The first coloured postcards, apart from the odd private production, are generally thought to have been produced in British Heligoland. From about 1886 the regular postal cards, often with ornate backs with 'Post Card' in decorative lettering, were further embellished with pictorial designs. Firstly these were little coloured vignettes of the island, in the traditional local colours of red, white & green, but they were gradually extended to more ambitious designs reflecting the nature & culture of the island's inhabitants.

Frame 4 1889 - the Eiffel Tower
The first occasion to produce picture postcards on a large scale was the 1889 Exposition Universelle, celebrating the centenary of the French Revolution. Cards by the engraver Libonis are considered the first commercial pictorial cards in the world to be issued in large numbers for general sale to the public.

Frames 5 & 6 Court Cards
Court cards were largely produced in Great Britain. When picture postcards were first permitted in GB in 1894 the Post Office required that they be similar in size to current postal stationery cards, and thus they are smaller than the contemporary cards from Europe. They continued in regular use until about 1900, when the new, larger sizes were accepted by the British Post Office from 1 November 1899.

Group 2 Art & Topography

Court card, Real Photo of Hudson Brothers, Ironmongers

Fig. 3 Court card, Real Photo of Hudson Brothers, Ironmongers, thought to be Bradford, publisher unknown, unused c1903. (Real Photo Court Cards are rarely found)

Frames 7 & 8 Gruss Aus - Germany
The 'gruss aus' format was the quintessential style of the vast output of picture postcards from the German speaking area from about 1894 to 1910; each design having two or more vignette designs with a 'greetings from' legend and the name of the town or district. Often the designs featured coats of arms of the towns or districts, enhanced with gilding & embossing.

Frame 9 Gruss Aus - Bavaria
Sometimes they were printed in a two tone colouring - sometimes silvered for a 'moonlight' effect - but mostly in full colour produced by the magnificent chromolitho process perfected in Bavaria & Saxony. Just a few designs show the start of the Art Deco movement. Eventually the 'gruss aus' style gave way to pictorial & photographic cards.

Frame 10 Gruss Aus - Alsace-Lorraine
This selection shows 'gruss aus' cards from Alsace-Lorraine, an area by tradition part French & part German in character. Although formerly part of France for about two hundred years, it had been incorporated into Germany since the war of 1870. Some of the designs show the softened effect of the French influence. Note the clover leaf and cycling motifs, and again the beginnings of Art Deco designs around 1900.

Frame 11 Dresden
Situated on both sides of the River Elbe Dresden was an ancient Slav town which became the capital of Saxony in the later middle ages. The city, long celebrated for its fine art & architecture and the baroque splendour of its public buildings, has been described as Venice on the Elbe. It was the centre of high quality printing during the golden age of postcards. Tragedy struck the city on 13-14 February 1945.

Illustrated chromolitho Correspondenz-Karte

Fig. 4 Illustrated chromolitho Correspondenz-Karte from Teplitz Schonau to Langensalza in Thuringia (near Erfurt); postally used 5 June 1890, Teplitz Stadt cancel on Austria 2 Kreuzer Arms issue. Probably the earliest known card from the Czech part of the Austrian Empire.

Frames 12 & 13 Gruss Aus - Czechoslovakia - Bohemia & Moravia
What we now know as Czechoslovakia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until its collapse in 1918. The tradition of fine artists from the region is revealed in the many superb 'gruss aus' designs found there. 'Gruss aus' cards from Moravia are less common than those from the more populous and industrialised Bohemia, and show subtle differences of style.

Frame 14 Austrian Patriotic cards
As well as 'gruss aus' cards Austria produced large numbers of patriotic designs celebrating anniversaries and national events, especially depicting military affairs and the long reign of the Emperor Franz Joseph. Many designs were printed with spectacular use of gilding, bronzing & embossing. The different parts of the Empire had designs which differed slightly, influenced by the different languages, races & cultures of which the polyglot Empire was composed.

Frame 15 Italian Patriotic cards
The Italian designs of the period in some ways more closely follow the Austrian style than the German one. They are more flamboyant and imaginative in their composition, with strong use of colour and graphic styles, experimenting with mixtures of the Art Nouveau & Art Deco styles more than was probably done elsewhere.

Frame 16 Swiss Commemorative cards
Many fine early cards were published in Switzerland, in particular designs commemorating various events and national occasions. As might be expected a number of these feature the Red Cross and many of the most striking designs are on the reverse of official postal stationery cards.

Group 3 Art & Glamour

Frame 17 Art & Artists - Alphonse Mucha
Quite soon postcard publishers realised that to sell more cards their designs needed to have something extra to attract the public's attention, and they started to hire the services of the best designers and illustrators of the day. The highest design standards were reached by artists of the Art Nouveau period, especially in Paris, and in Vienna, where the Wiener Werkstätte group of artists produced outstanding designs, now rare and expensive. Alphonse Mucha is probably the most celebrated of the artists who worked in the postcard field and his designs have always been amongst the most sought after. His famous theatrical, poster-art style is instantly recognisable.

Frame 18 Art Nouveau
The Art Nouveau movement produced an astonishing array of designs across the whole of Europe, although as it was centred on Paris, artists were drawn there from many countries. Some of the Russian cards of the period are particularly striking.

Frame 19 Art & Artists - Raphael Kirchner
Raphael Kirchner is one of the most celebrated artists, whose early designs appear crude but full of imaginative ways of expressing a simple idea. His work falls into three 'periods' of design, his middle period being the best known with his 'girlie' designs so collected by the soldiers in the trenches, the World War One 'pin-ups', in a style which at the time would have been classed as risqué although relatively mundane by modern standards. It is said that his wife was the model for all his déshabillé designs.

An art deco design by Montedoro.

Fig. 5 An art deco design by Montedoro.

Frame 20 Art Deco
This was a style which gradually came to prominence from about 1900, which with its more severe lines and simplified blocks of colour, developed as a deliberate contrast to the swirling curves and exaggerated drapery of Art Nouveau. After the First World War, which stopped almost all production of art cards, a small group of artists in Italy kept the high standard of design flourishing during the 'roaring twenties', when most other cards had become dull, unimaginative and poorly or cheaply produced. The great names of this small group are Umberto Brunelleschi, M(arcello?) Montedoro, Giovanni (?) Meschini, Giovanni Nanni & Loris Riccio. Very stylised, often with the use of solid blocks of colour, they stand out from all other designs of the period as a last flowering of the Golden Age of Postcards.

Group 4 France

Frames 21 & 22 The Paris Exhibition 1900
The Paris 1900 Exhibition was rather better organised than our own ill-constructed Millennium projects, attracting millions of visitors and spawning many more millions of postcards, some rather dull but a good number of fine quality. Large numbers of different designs were issued, quite a number in long series, occasionally with more that one hundred different designs in each.

Frame 23 Paris Inner Districts
Paris at this time was generally considered the cultural & artistic centre of the world. Uncountable numbers of cards were produced depicting every corner of the city.

Frame 24 The People of Paris
Many Paris images are wonderfully animated, taken by contemporary photographers, freezing a moment in time, with people, vehicles & animals, showing the extraordinary array of people who lived & worked in the city, of all ages and from all classes.

Frame 25 France - Nord, Picardy, Champagne
All over France the same photographers who worked in Paris, as well as local ones, captured the images of towns & villages in every département of France. As in Paris, the man with the camera seemed to achieve a much greater depth of field, more animation, and sharper contrast than most of his contemporaries in other countries. This frame shows the area of France before it was ravaged in the First World War.

Frame 26 France - Brittany & Normandy
These provinces were fortunate in being largely untouched by the First World War, although that was not the case with the Second, and many of the cards reflect the maritime character of the region and its semi-rural small town hinterland. Note the family scrubbing the pig at St Souliac, of course by LL, probably the finest and most versatile photographer of his day.

Frame 27 France - Bathing & the Seaside
The British middle classes were much attracted to the northern & Atlantic seaside towns of France, many of which prospered greatly from the rise of a holiday industry. Hundreds of cards depict the joys of bathing and the beach, swimmers with their splendid all-over costumes, and the mobile changing huts, which were sometimes pulled into the water by a horse.

Frame 28 France - Large Letter Town Names
This is a particular feature of French postcard manufacture although it does appear less commonly in other countries as well. The letters of the town name form the frames for many little images, sometimes in the counters of the lettering, sometimes in the thickness of the text. Designers of these cards became more and more imaginative until eventually the genre destroyed itself by becoming over elaborated and losing its original simplicity.

Group 5 Italy & Europe

Frame 29 The Italian Riviera
Saluti da Italia the Italian 'gruss aus' cards reflect the Grand Tour around Italy and the Italian Riviera resulting in many superb artscapes, a style with softer images than cards from the German speaking areas, such as the designs by Manuel Wielandt. Again, as with Dresden, the publishers Velten, Nister & Zieher are prominent in this style.

Frame 30 Italy - the Bay of Naples
The Bay of Naples, dominated by the looming presence of Mount Vesuvius, inspired artists to produce many lovely designs of the district and its people. The style is typified by the use of bright pastel colours, which appears to be a contradiction in terms, but which can give some striking yet soft results.

Frame 31 Italy - the Bay of Naples - Pompeii
In the nineteenth century Pompeii became one of the most famous places in the world, especially after the publication of Lord Lytton's 'The Last Days of Pompeii'. Large numbers of rather dull cards were produced but so were a few beautiful designs showing the vibrant colours and astounding images of the wall paintings. Additionally, many cards depicted the various eruptions of Vesuvius in spectacular colour images.

Frame 32 Austria & Italy - Trieste
Un saluto da Trieste, the Italian 'gruss aus'; cards from the famous Adriatic seaports of Trieste & Fiume show the Austrian, Italian & Hungarian influences which bore upon the area, and show their importance as maritime cities, Trieste being the Liverpool of the Austrian Empire. As well as art cards, many plain, even dull, streetscapes and general views were also published in the city.

Frame 33 Austria, Hungary & Yugoslavia - Fiume
Fiume was a smaller centre than Trieste and was the port of the Hungarian half of the Empire. Its cards reflect the political changes and upheavals experienced in the area during the closing years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Postcards from the early 1920s, when the city had such a turbulent political life (and issued its own stamps), are particularly sought after.

Frame 34 Luxembourg
Many cards published in Luxembourg were rather dull and unimaginative but a few more striking designs can be found, reflecting the national character. The 'gruss aus' format is rather rare with Luxembourg cards and the designs show a blend of French & German styles, rather as in Alsace. A poignant card shows the six daughters of Grand Duke William IV, which fact led to changes in the application of the Salic law of succession, and to the accession of Grand Duchesses Marie Adelaide & Charlotte, the two eldest children in the picture.

Group 6 Themes

Frame 35 Nelson
Nelson is a name so famed in British history, like Churchill, Gladstone & Disraeli, that there is no need to mention his first name. In 1905 considerable numbers, of fine cards were produced to commemorate the glorious death of the national hero at Trafalgar, which defeat of the French slowed down the advances of Napoleon, and led to the British Navy ruling the waves for another century.

Frame 36 Edward VII - Royal Visits - to Leeds
The explosion of postcard production coincided with the passing of Queen Victoria and the accession of King Edward VII. Thousands of images reflecting the respect for the King held by his loyal subjects were published, in particular records of the Royal visits made to many towns throughout the Kingdom. This frame shows a selection commemorating the Royal visit to Leeds on 7 July 1908.

Frame 37 Theatre Advertising
The London & provincial theatre had a golden age in the Edwardian era and some fifteen hundred theatres were available for local or touring companies. Advertising was largely done by street posters and the specialist printer of these was David Allan & Sons, with factories in Harrow & Belfast. Many of these striking and graphic posters, drawn by leading artists of the day were produced as publicity postcards.

Frame 38 Cats - Artist drawn designs
Animals of all kinds were popular subjects for picture postcards, and probably none more so than cats and dogs. The subject of cats in particular seemed to attract special attention form the many comic artists who were active at the time. Shown here are designs by Tom Browne, G Studdy (Bonzo), Lawson Wood, Violet Roberts & Donald McGill amongst others, as well as the cartoon character Felix the Cat.

Frame 39 Cats - Louis Wain
The artist who became most famous for drawing cats was the strange, troubled figure of Louis Wain 'The Man Who Drew Cats'. His style is unique, not liked by everyone, but the concept of 'A Louis Wain Cat' has passed into the language. His rather sad life ended in a mental hospital in July 1939, but his legacy of the anthropomorphism of cats was largely publicised by picture postcards.

Frame 40 Christmas Cards
Christmas cards became increasingly popular from the 1870s in the fourfold format and postcard publishers saw the vast potential market and acted accordingly. Very large numbers of Christmas postcards were produced especially in England and America, many of them rather mundane but a choice few very imaginative, attractive and appealing, with the clever use of design, gilding, embossing & glitter.

Frame 41 New Year Cards
Although the tradition in England was to celebrate Christmas, in Scotland, France and much of the continent, New Year was a more important festival, and many cards were produced depicting Father Time, the 1st of January, a calendar, a New Year pig, or a straight-forward winter scene exactly like a Christmas card.

Frame 42 Valentine Cards
Valentine cards, like Christmas cards were a natural development from the 'paper lace' cards of the 1870s to 1890s, and Valentine postcards became increasingly popular, especially in America, from about 1903. They are far less common than Christmas and New Year cards, and British ones in particular are now becoming quite difficult to find.

Frame 43 Easter Cards
It may seem surprising to us now that a large number of Easter cards were produced in the Edwardian era, but in a less secular age many people sent out cards at Easter as they did at Christmas. This was particularly true in France and the Catholic parts of Europe.

Frame 44 Novelty Cards
Publishers vied with one another for the attention of the buying public and one of the results of this was the production of Novelty cards. The term is applied to any card which has something cut out of it, or affixed to it, or printed on a different surface from the norm. Thus cards are found printed on leather, on metal, on cork, bamboo & celluloid, and with cloth, feathers, hair, string, sparkle & glitter mounted on the image. Other cards squeaked, were perfumed, or had 'mechanical' movement which allowed moving parts to be adjusted to give, for example, a variable date, or a changing message. Some were produced as small gramophone records, which could be played, scratchily, with an appropriate needle on a phonograph.

Group 7 Topography & Family History

Frames 45 & 46 A Suffolk Childhood
The fastest growing form of collecting at the present time is of cards reflecting family history, village & street scenes, churches, shops and countryside all telling part of a story of earlier lives within a family. This section shows one such theme of A Suffolk Childhood. Prominent in this type of collecting is the search for 'Real Photo' cards, which were produced straight from the photographic (glass) negative, and not through the transitional stage of a printing block. These are now keenly sought after and were usually produced locally in very small numbers.

Group 8 The Post

Frame 47 The Post & Postmen
The Posts of the world have inspired large numbers of designs, showing their various aspects, postmen, post offices, postal vehicles, letter boxes and letter writing. Curiously the subject attracted many comic artists of the time, and this frame includes the work of John Hassall, Lance Thackeray, Agnes Richardson, G E Studdy, Lawson Wood, Mabel Lucie Attwell & Donald McGill.

Frame 48 Post Offices - in India
Not unnaturally Post Offices of the world are a popular theme among postcard collectors. Many countries have produced pictures of Post Offices large & small, in particular England & France. This section shows a selection in British India.

Frame 49 Stamp Cards - Switzerland
At the start of the twentieth century Stamp cards perhaps rather surprisingly became popular, and those from Switzerland published by Henry Heller & Menke-Huber were the finest examples of these. The relatively small numbers of designs produced represent some of the highest achievements of postcard producers using the chromolitho process, which was at a peak of skill around 1895-1910.

Frame 50 Stamp Cards - British Empire
Stamp cards were produced depicting the issues of every country in the world, and those of the British Empire were particularly popular. The main publisher was Ottmar Zieher of Munich. He produced cards in a fairly standard format, showing contemporary or recent stamps, usually with a coat of arms, and often gilded & embossed.

Frame 51 Stamp Montages
Stamp Montage cards were a curious product popular for a short while in the Edwardian era, the whole design being made up from cut-up pieces of used postage stamps. Particularly striking amongst these were the designs made from French 'Sower' stamps, and the intricate and clever constructs made in China, which often feature the Junk issues, sometimes being used to create illustrations of a Junk.

Frame 52 The Language of Stamps
The Language of Stamps cards must have caused much confusion among recipients, as curiously the language was far from constant, and the variations found in the 'alphabets' may well have sometimes sent the wrong message. Not only do the positions and their quoted meanings seem to differ from country to country, but also from publisher to publisher in the same country.

There are so many other themes, subjects and sub topics, that this display can only touch the surface of what there is to collect. It is not unlike being asked to show the whole of philately in fifty frames, a concept which would make a philatelist raise his eyes to heaven and smile knowingly. Another fifty frames would fill a few gaps, especially in the extensive fields of transport, military & sport, and some of the myriad permutations of topographical subjects, from all the countries of the world.

Remember, all these pictorial pieces of pasteboard were designed to be written on and sent through the post, and in their way they are as much a part of postal history as stamps, postal stationery and covers. It is strange that so many stamp collectors do not see the interest, fascination and sheer delight of 'Pictures in the Post'.

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