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.”