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Exhibitions and Events: Wish You Were Here: Postcard exhibition (2012)


May 1 - August 24, 2012

Upon their inception in the nineteenth century, postcards were simply meant to be a cheap, fast way for people to exchange short messages. However, as the decades rolled on this invention of convenience was transformed into a medium of social commentary and an essential aspect of vacationing. From the hills of Hollywood to the Florida beaches tourists scrawl "Wish you were here!" on the reverse side of images taken from the world’s most visited destinations.

This summer exhibition showcases postcards from several collections which feature Furman University, Greenville Woman’s College, Greenville, South Carolina, foreign destinations, and the Thanksgiving holiday.

History of Postcards

  • The United States Postal Service (USPS) began issuing pre-stamped postal cards in 1873.
  • 1893, privately printed souvenir cards, became very popular as a result of the Columbian Exposition held in Chicago, after postcards featuring buildings were distributed at the fair. In 1908, more than 677 million postcards were mailed.
  • May 19, 1898, the Private Mailing Card Act allowed private publishers and printers to produce postcards, but they had to be labeled "Private Mailing Cards". This prohibition was rescinded on December 24, 1901, when private companies could use the word "postcard."
  • March 1, 1907, the USPS allowed private citizens to write on the address side of a postcard. Before this, postcards were not allowed to have a divided back and correspondents could only write on the front of the postcard.
  • 1907-1915, considered the Golden Age of postcards. A majority of U.S. postcards were printed in Europe, especially in Germany whose printing methods were regarded as the best in the world. The end of the Golden Age was brought about by the outbreak of World War I, which blocked the import of the fine German-printed cards.
  • 1916-1930, the White Border era in the U.S. happened as a result of advances in American technology which allowed the printing of quality cards, printed with white borders around the picture.
  • 1930- early 1950s, the Linen Era saw postcards printed on textured paper similar to linen cloth, which allowed the increased use of bright colors in the designs.
  • 1939 to present, the modern “photochrome” postcards, which usually contain photos on glossy paper, began to dominate the market in the 1950s and have done ever since.
  • The study and collecting of postcards is termed deltiology.