The History of the Seaside Postcard — Malcolm Dolby — 29th February 2016.

Malcolm’s hobby is col­lect­ing post­cards of all types. His wife says that it is an obses­sion rather than a hobby. His talk was about post­cards from their intro­duc­tion until the begin­ning of World War I.

Postcards were intro­duced in 1869 as a cheaper altern­at­ive to the penny post. They cost only 1/2d to send. They were a mono­poly of the Post Office until 1896. The post­card, bought from the Post Office, was a plain card with a prin­ted stamp on the address side and blank on the other side for the mes­sage. Many shops and busi­nesses used them as a con­veni­ent way of deal­ing with acknow­ledging orders from cus­tom­ers, because, at that time, the Post Office made up to four deliv­er­ies a day. If a card was posted in the morn­ing it could be delivered loc­ally the same day.

In 1902 cards were intro­duced with a ‘divided back’, as we are famil­iar with today, so that the address and mes­sage could be writ­ten on one side and a pic­ture shown on the other. (Often the pic­ture side was also used for parts of the mes­sage.) The pic­tures were ori­gin­ally in black and white and were often castles or churches.

From 1903 to 1914 there was peace and tran­quil­ity and post­cards were developed with col­oured pic­tures. (We were sur­prised to find that at that time the vast major­ity of cards were prin­ted in Saxony, Bavaria, Germany or Holland. Their litho­graphic skills were super­ior to ours and they could under­cut the cost of cards prin­ted in Britain.)

The cards showed many stock themes from Edwardian life, and many were sup­posed to be comic, although, from what Malcolm showed us, the humour was very mild or not obvi­ous to the modern mind.

Possibly the most common theme (as today) was of hol­i­days. Most post­cards were sold in Blackpool, Scarborough and Brighton. However Malcolm had examples of themes cov­er­ing Home, Servants (house­maids were com­monly por­trayed), Work, Emotions and many others.

The well-known post­card artist, Donald McGill, pro­duced cards as early as 1904, but they were very tame without the bawdy humour of his much later cre­ations that led to his pro­sec­u­tion for obscen­ity in later years.

Malcolm told us that the card and a stamp could prob­ably be pur­chased for less than 1d, making it cheaper to send than a con­ven­tional letter. He showed us examples of about 200 cards.

The ‘comic’ ones at that time were very tame, per­haps show­ing a toff sneak­ing behind rocks at the beach with a box camera to pho­to­graph ladies in their swim­suits (which showed less than a modern even­ing dress!).

The fun­ni­est card showed a boy and a very fat woman sit­ting at a bus stop, with three other ladies stand­ing wait­ing.

The woman said, “ Stand up and let one of the ladies sit down.”

The boy replied, “ You stand up and let them all sit down.”