When Christmas Came by Postcard

Christmas at our house is over. The grandchildren have gone home. The presents under the tree are reduced to piles of crumpled paper and empty boxes. Leftovers promise quick and tasty meals for a day or two. But the nativity set remains to remind us of what it was all about, the tree still glitters, and a collection of antique Christmas postcards holds a place of honor on a wall.

I recently read a blog post that compared yesterday’s postcard to today’s Twitter post.

The first commercially manufactured postcards came to the United States in 1893. They were cheap back then, needing only a penny stamp, or a two-center later on. The pictures on the front could be romantic drawings or cartoons bearing their own message. Black and white photographs were eventually used, and still later, color photographs. There were postcards for Easter, for Valentine’s day, or every day. No one considered that their missives could someday be eagerly sought after by collectors.

Click to enlarge.

Instead of sending elaborate, expensive Christmas cards like we send today, many people sent their greetings via brightly-colored postcards like these. These were part of a shoebox full we found while readying Hank’s house for sale.

A well-loved card

Not really Christmas-y, but the message reminded people what was important during WWI.

 A vertical line divided the back with space on the larger half for the recipient’s address. The small half was meant for the sender’s message, which had to be very short, like a Twitter post.

Hank remembers that many of his country relatives did not have telephones when he was a boy. If they planned a Saturday trip to town for groceries, they might jot a postcard to his parents letting them know to expect company for supper.

More elaborate cards might be embossed, as was this 1911 one-cent card.

I’ve been a letter writer all my life. It started when my cousin Ruth and I learned to write. We lived a day’s drive apart and we sorely regretted not getting together very often. So we wrote postcards to each other, crowding as much of our 2nd and 3rd grade adventures into our miniature letters as we could. Our friendship grew, one penny postcard at a time, and lasted for a lifetime.

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