Postcards, a semi-endangered species in today’s social media world of cellphones with cameras, Instagram and Facebook, takes us time traveling to New Orleans over a century ago. The weird and wonderful messages crammed into a small space were a forerunner to Twitter in that the messages were limited and much less than 180 words.
They provided weather reports. They told of hotels and hotel rooms where they were staying. Cemeteries were also prominently mentioned. Not surprisingly, they talked about restaurants. A postcard with no dated postmark from later in the century says: “Hi! Having a good time. Nightclubs are beautiful. It is 90 degrees today. Moscas are really showing us around. We’ll see you soon. Love, Dom & Jen.” It was sent to Mr. & Mrs. Lee Castelli in Chicago Heights, Illinois.
According to the Library of Congress, the Detroit Publishing Co. by the late 1890s had accumulated a large stock of negatives and prints that were used to sell calendars and prints suitable for framing, The company also offered tourist views of hotels and resorts and landscapes such as Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Park.
Privately printed postcards began appearing in Europe and the United States. The first American “postcards” were souvenir mailing cards sold at the Chicago Columbian Exposition in 1893. No writing was permitted on the backs of these cards so they were not very popular. When the “Greetings from ...” caption became available, they still weren’t well accepted because writing was forbidden on the address side, the message offered no privacy and postage was 2 cents — the deal breaker.