Postcard Mania

Deltiologists of The World, Unite!

A Brief History

If we send a letter, its envelope implies some sort of privacy for its contents, right? Now think of a postcard. Anyone can read what is written on it. Privacy schmivacy. So why do we send them? Well its probably because we don’t care that the postman knows we’ve had a lousy time, in the rain at (INSERT SUITABLE BRITISH HOLIDAY DESTINATION).

The study of postcards is called deltiology. Deltiologists are concerned more with the artist or publisher, than trying to ascertain where or when a particular postcard was produced. Of course that’s not to say that the subject matter or fashions depicted on a postcard can’t be used to arrive at an approximate date for a postcard.

First British Postcards

The first British Postcards were issued in 1894 when the Royal Mail gave permission to publishers for the manufacture and distribution of picture postcards. The first company to produce them was the Edinburgh printing firm, Stewarts. Their early postcards contained pictures of landmarks or scenic views. Of course, the postcard is used to inform Aunty Mabel of your time at the seaside, but they can also serve as a useful souvenir of your holiday.

Saucy Seaside Postcards

By the 1930’s the first of the saucy seaside postcards were being produced. You know the sort of stuff. Red faced fat man on the beach with his handkerchief knotted at the corners, hears his wife say, ‘You know Wilf, I feel like a new woman’. As the dolly bird in tiny red spotted bikini wanders past, Wilf retorts (to himself, naturally), ‘So do I.’ Priceless.

At their peak, upwards of 16 million of these treasures were produced. However, by the 1950’s the Conservative government, in their infinite wisdom, decided that they contributed greatly to the apparent deterioration in public morals and they were cracked down on. The renowned artist Donald McGill was the main target on their hitlist. However, the more liberal attitudes of the 1960’s saw a return to popularity. It was the 1970’s and 80’s which saw the demise of this great British institution. A reduction in the quality of both humour and artwork, coupled with the rise of alternative humour saw to this.

Originals are now greatly sought after and can reach high prices at auction. Perhaps the best known saucy seaside cards were produced inland at Holmfirth in West Yorkshire, by a company called Bamforths.