B102/33 Postcards


Plain postcards consisting of a single, standard sized stiff card with the address on one face and the correspondence on the other were introduced in Britain in 1870, some 30 years after the introduction of the uniform penny post in 1840 - they could be sent at a reduced cost of ½d (0.2p). These buff coloured cards came with their own integral stamp and were very popular; privately produced cards, which needed a stamp to be affixed, were allowed in 1872 and many companies used the correspondence face as an advertising medium.

Victorian Card The Paris Exhibition of 1889 is generally credited with the popularisation of the illustrated card - the correspondence face now contained a pictorial view as well as the message. However it was the Penny Post Jubilee exhibition in 1890 when special cards were printed that saw changes to the British postal regulations. These regulations were in force by September 1894 but were sufficiently unclear to prevent widespread adoption until amended on 1st November 1899 - which date can be said to be the effective start of the British pictorial postcard and explains the scarcity of true Victorian cards. Postal regulations were strict that only the address could be on one face thus the views tended to be vignettes (oval shaped) or sized so that a margin was left below it for a short note - in this example that Douglas was so hot that everyone was copper coloured (nostalgia isn't what it used to be!).

This original style of postcard is generally referred to as 'un-divided back' to distinguish it from today's format in which one face contains the picture and the other is split by a vertical line between a correspondence section and the address. The change in British Postal regulations to allow address and correspondence to share the same side occurred in 1902 - pressure for this change is credited to Frederick Hartmann who had set up a substantial postcard publishing company in London. Cards produced at this time often had words such as "This space as well as the back may now be used for communication (Post Office Regulations)"

The Paris Exhibition cards featured the Eiffel tower and started a craze both for collecting the many different views and subject matters but also for having postcards franked at unusual sites such as on top of Mountains or tall buildings. The Manx equivalent of this was the summit of Snaefell. Estimates of some 500 million picture postcards sold per year in Britain in the early 1900s have been quoted, fuelled by this collecting craze - it is these cards that were safely kept in albums that now fetch the high prices.

The heyday of the postcard was the 14 years from the turn of the 20th century until the start of WW1 - there were of course many fine postwar cards but in general after that period the cards of the major companies predominate, especially as one enters the 1930s. The various views and subjects portrayed is enormous - only in one area are Manx cards deficient as when the so-called comic cards (i.e. those with a rather racy message) appeared the Manx authorities introduced a postcard censoring committee that regulated those cards that could be sold.

There were several local photographers who turned their talents to postcards - some specialised or became well known for certain topics:
D Collister, Douglas, produced many views of Cunningham's camp and its visitors
Arthur Hadley, Ramsey, produced innumerable views of tourists seated in their horse drawn vehicles and, post war, in their replacement charabancs
S. Kieg , a son of Thomas Kieg, produced many fine photos of early motorcycle races
many of the views shown on the cards of the major companies were by local photographers.

Other amateur photographers produced local cards as for example Samuel Green of Union Mills who produced his own postcards of local views around 1910/20.

Online Pages:

I have used Edwardian postcards to illustrate various topics throughtout my site - cards of Methodist chapels wouls however appear to be very uncommon and I would appreciate any being brought to my attention. Collections of the pictorial views previously used on postcards were also popular.

The following are pages that contain a number of postcard images, relating to mass tourism:

Offline References

Edwardian Postcards form the basis of many books exploiting the common nostalgia for long-gone buildings or scenes.

B. Snelling Britain in Old Postcards : The Isle of Man Manx National Heritage/Sutton Publishing (ISBN 0-7509-1011-9) 1996

S. Dearden and K. Hassell The Isle of Man A Postcard Tour Richard Stenlake Publishing (Stenlake Publishing for vol 4)
Volume 1 : Ramsey and the North (ISBN 1-872074-66-9) 1995
Volume 2 : Douglas and the East (ISBN 1-872074-76-6) 1996
Volume 3 : The South (ISBN 1-872074-95-2) 1997
Volume 4 : Peel and the West (ISBN 1-84033-016-3) 1997

K Rodgers (compiler) Our Heritage ...This was our Island Port St. Mary: Friends of Port St. Mary (ISBN 1-899932-00-3) 1995

Railways are a highly collected subject for Postcards

Finlay, Ian The Trams of Wales and the Isle of Man in Picture Post Cards Netherlands:European Library 1984 (ISBN 90-288-2590-8)

An unexpected topic well covered is that of the Manx Cat as illustrated by Louis Wain's Cat-postcards

R. Kelly Tales of the Tailless Douglas: The Manx Experience (ISBN 1-873120-22-2) [1996]

 [Return to Manx Note Book] 

[subject catalogue]  A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  J  K  L 

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 2001