Moving Pictures

I love postcards. I’m sure not many people do, but I still buy and send them. Usually they go to my grandparents or to friends who are celebrating a birthday. I’m sure I’m old-fashioned, but in the digital age of online communications, there is something special about getting something in the mail.

Postcards started in Austria in 1869. Germany followed a year later. The idea quickly spread across Europe and reached the US by 1873. Two decades later postcards were a popular trend. At the beginning of the next century it caught on in US, where until 1907, people had to write their message on the picture on the front because regulations only allowed the address on the back of the postcard.

Up until World War I, German printers were the largest postcard producers. During the war, the US imported fewer German postcards, so people had to buy local ones. The printers saved ink by not printing to the edge of the card and leaving a white border around the image. This is also when a description of the picture was printed on the back.

Would: We use ‘would’ in the past to show a repeated action in the past.

In the 1960-70s, companies and governments started to use postcards as a form of advertising. Their customers would send to their friends photos of company headquarters or products. This trend in Britain is described in a book called Boring Postcards collected by photographer Martin Parr. In it are 155 postcards of airport terminals, housing estates and unexciting locations throughout the country. While it may be funny, it’s actually a unique study of British architecture and social life from the mid-1900s.

Museums have many examples of postcards through the ages. They can show us what was happening socially and culturally in a particular place. The Smithsonian Libraries in the US have tens of thousands of postcards in its collection. Many show scenes from former British and French colonies, including cards from Morocco, Egypt, and India. They give us an idea about the local culture of the time. Other postcards show natural disasters, such as those showing damage after a major flood in Dallas, Texas in 1908.

Despite Facebook and Instagram, tourist shops in any city have postcards and there’s usually at least one person browsing them. There are even magazines like Picture Postcard Monthly for collectors.

Heck: Once considered a strong swear word, today ‘heck’ is used as a mild exclamation. In this case the writer is using it to show emphasis.

I’ve bought postcards and used them as photos when I wasn’t able to take pictures or the photo on the card shows something spectacular and memorable about the place. Heck, some I’ve even bought and framed – the artistry was special in some way and it reminds me fondly of a particular place and time. Even if I can’t always find a post office, I think there’s a certain romance attached to them that will beat back a digital death.

Original article by Jacy Meyer – Phoenix, Arizona. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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I love postcards. Usually I send them to my grandparents or to friends. I think there is something special about getting something in the mail.

Postcards started in Austria in 1869. The idea quickly spread across Europe and reached the US by 1873. Two decades later postcards were a popular trend. In the US until 1907, people had to write their message on the picture on the front because the law only allowed the address on the back of the postcard. During World War I, many postcards had white borders. The reason was because printers wanted to save ink.

In the 1960-70s, companies and governments started to use postcards as a form of advertising. Their customers would send their friends photos of company headquarters or products. You can read more about these postcards in Martin Parr’s book Boring Postcards. The tradition of the funny postcard started in the 1920s. Over time they changed as people’s trips changed.

Postcards can also tell us about history. Museums often have many examples of them through the ages. Postcards from the old British and French colonies sometimes show the local culture of the time. Other postcards show natural disasters, such as those showing damage after a major flood in Dallas, Texas in 1908.

Descriptive language: To beat back a digital death: The writer is saying that the romantic idea of postcards can fight against the popularity of digital communication.

Despite Facebook and Instagram, tourist shops in any city have postcards and there’s usually at least one person browsing them. And I certainly like them. Sometimes I buy them simply because I like the image. I think there’s a certain romance attached to postcards that will beat back a digital death.

Original article by Jacy Meyer – Phoenix, Arizona. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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I love postcards. I’m sure I am in a minority, but I still buy and send them. Usually they go to my grandparents or, if I know it is someone’s birthday, I’ll send them greetings from some place different. I’m sure I’m old-fashioned, but in the digital age of online communications, there is something special about getting something in the mail that isn’t a bill or advertising flyer.

Idiom: To follow suit: This idiom comes from cards. Hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs are called suits. To play the same suit is to follow suit. Today it means to do the same as someone else.

Postcards can trace their ancestry back to Austria. The country introduced mailable cards in 1869. Germany followed a year later. The idea quickly spread across Europe and even made it to the US by 1873. These initial postcards grew in popularity with advances in printing and, not surprisingly, Parisian publishers experimented with special edition postcard sets by the most eminent artists of the time. Postcards meant anyone could send a photo of their travels, their surroundings or even their home. While the postcard craze hit Europe in the 1890s, Americans didn’t follow suit until around 1905, when the cards began to be sold in record amounts, purchased by collectors and clubs began to be formed. Strangely, according to US postal regulations, until 1907, only the address was allowed on the back of the postcard – your message had to be written on the front, with the picture.

Up until World War I, German printers dominated the postcard market but the US entrance into the war saw postcards decline. Postcards were supplied mostly by printers in the US during the war, and the printers saved ink by not printing to the edge of the card and leaving a white border around the image. This is also when a more descriptive explanation of the picture was printed on the back.

In the 1960-70s, companies and governments got into the act – using postcards almost as social media – getting their customers to send to their friends photos of their headquarters or products. This craze in Britain is documented in a book called Boring Postcards compiled by photographer Martin Parr. In it are 155 postcards of airport terminals, housing estates and more dreary locations throughout the country. While it may be amusing, it’s actually a unique study of British architecture and social life from the mid-1900s.

In this context, ‘bent’ means a tendency.

Another interesting aspect of British postcard culture is the development of humor. Funny cards first made their appearance in the 1920s, mainly looking at the growing British seaside holiday tradition. When Brits started changing up their typical trip to the seaside with ones in Spain in the 1980s, Europeans took their humorous postcard bent to a new level, adding some bawdiness and often nudity.

Museums are great collectors and exhibitors of postcards. As a study in history, they are great examples of what was happening socially and culturally in a particular place. The Smithsonian Libraries in the US have tens of thousands of postcards in its collection. Many depict scenes from the then British and French colonies, including cards from Morocco, Egypt, and India, giving a glimpse into the indigenous culture of the time. There’s another series of photographic cards that look at the aftermath of a major flood in Dallas, Texas in 1908. There are picture cards of men in bowler hats sailing past flooded electrical poles and submerged taverns in make-shift rowboats. Others show men in suits sitting on top of floating train cars, waiting for help.

With sites like Facebook and Instagram able to send your own holiday pics straight to friends and family for free, is the postcard dying? Looking at any tourist shop in any city, one would definitely say no – racks of postcards can always be found and there’s usually at least one person browsing them. There’s a magazine out of the UK, Picture Postcard Monthly, that’s aimed at collectors of both old and modern postcards. There’s a still operating Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York City and a National Postcard Week.

Heck: Once considered a strong swear word, today ‘heck’ is used as a mild exclamation. In this case the writer is using it to show emphasis.

I’ve bought postcards and used them as photos when I wasn’t able to take pictures (inside certain churches) or the photo on the card shows something spectacular and memorable about the place. Heck, some I’ve even bought and framed – the artistry was special in some way and it reminds me fondly of a particular place and time. While sometimes I curse myself (you can never find a post office when you need one!) for buying postcards, I think there’s a certain romance attached to them that will beat back a digital death.

Jacy Meyer – Phoenix, Arizona

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