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Random Thoughts

Post a card

Hudson Cooper
Posted 7/30/21

Years before cell phones, email and Facebook, there was a simpler way to communicate your whereabouts to family and friends.

Almost everywhere you traveled most resorts, amusement parks, …

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Post a card

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Years before cell phones, email and Facebook, there was a simpler way to communicate your whereabouts to family and friends.

Almost everywhere you traveled most resorts, amusement parks, restaurants and local notable sites sold postcards. Pictured on the front was an image of the site. The back had room for a stamp, an address for the recipient and most importantly room for you to personalize a message.

If you are traveling through Cawker City, Kansas you can visit and then purchase a postcard of the world’s “Largest Ball of Twine.” Created in 1953 by a farmer named Fred Stoeber, the ball made from left over twine was donated to the city in 1961. Perhaps your handwritten message could say “Having a twine time on vacation!”

In Connecticut you can visit the PEZ Visitors Center. There, you can learn about the history of PEZ and see the large collections of dispensers. Your friends will “flip their lids” if you send them a collector’s postcard from that venue.

Danville, Virginia’s claim to fame is the Tank Museum, which displays vintage tanks and other military items. Grab a postcard and message a friend “Tanks a lot for recommending this place!”

Sullivan County, with its memorable history of being a resort mecca, provided ample opportunity for postcards. Almost every hotel, bungalow colony, and scenic destination sold their own postcards. You can go online and search for our county’s vintage postcards and go on a trip down memory lane.

In the United States during the mid 1800’s companies began offering envelopes with images printed on the front. Known as picture envelopes, they became an anticipated part of getting mail and led to the postcard.

The Congress in 1861 passed an Act that permitted privately printed cards without an envelope to be sent via the U.S. mail if they weighed less than an ounce. Jumping on the opportunity John Charlton copyrighted the first postcard in that same year.

The next major development occurred in 1907 when by law, messages and addresses were allowed on the back of the postcard. The front was reserved for images. Known as the divided back period, it spawned the growth of the postcard business.

When people travel these days, many choose Facebook to post pictures and messages to their friends. Sure, it is an easy way to communicate your experiences. But if you want to really make their day, send them a postcard! Many people do not even know that postcards exist anymore. Surprise them with a postcard from San Antonio, Texas with the handwritten message, “Now you too can remember the Alamo!”

I once sent a friend a postcard from Disneyland with a note saying, “I couldn’t find Wally World, but this place is great.” As a bonus I signed it “Clark Griswold.” When I receive a postcard, it brightens my day and I appreciate the personalized memento.

Collecting postcards is a hobby known as deltiology which is derived from a Greek word meaning a “surface used for writing.” Besides benefitting from seeing images from other places, it can be lucrative. Unlike stamp or baseball card collecting, postcards come with handwritten messages and addresses. Sometimes those entries on the divided back increase the value of the card. A postcard sent by a crewman on the Titanic weeks before it sank is valued at $15,000!

A popular niche for postcard collectors are those written by famous writers. Hemingway, Dorothy Parker and F. Scott Fitzgerald often sent postcards. But perhaps the rarest postcard written on the road was from the author of “On The Road.” In 1956, Jack Kerouac sent a postcard to Malcolm Cowley, the editor at Viking Press. In it, Kerouac told Cowley that if he did not receive a contract and a check, he would sell it elsewhere. Viking published it a year later.

So, to paraphrase a famous song, I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a postcard.

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