Postcard (n.) – a card for sending a message by post without an envelope, typically having a photograph or other illustration on one side.
The earliest picture postcard was posted in London to the writer Theodore Hook in 1840. The illustration on this card was hand-painted, and it bore a penny black stamp (the world’s first adhesive postage stamp). Hook probably created and posted this card to himself as a practical joke on the postal service, since the illustration was in actual fact a caricature of workers in the post office. As amusing as this might have been for him at the time, he would have most likely been far from laughing had he known that in 2002 his postcard would sell for a record £31,750.
A postcard is the one thing you are guaranteed to see at almost every shop – nothing peculiar there. What is actually peculiar is that, despite them being an icon and a vital part of any holiday, they aren’t often bought, let alone sent.
In the past (pre-social media days) it was much more common for people to be seen making a beeline for the postcard stand outside a shop and spending some minutes examining each one, turning the rotating stand (to the annoyance of the ones on the other side of it). Postcards bought and stamps collected, a good half hour or so would then be spent reclined on a deck chair on a sandy beach, soaking up the Sicilian summer sunshine, or perhaps lounging on a sofa in the reception of a luxurious hotel in the middle of Prague – either way, a whole lot of postcard writing would be done. Little sketches of the day’s many enchanting and peculiar sights would be nestled between the short recounts on the few lines provided. Addresses jotted down, stamps licked and pasted, foreheads wiped from a hard time of writing (in the case of there being a large number of expectant people waiting to receive a postcard) and your postcards would be ready to be sent.
Besides sending postcards, it is a joy to receive them. It was quite a surprise when I’d received postcards which had been posted weeks before from a country nestled halfway around the world.
I’m not saying that people do not send postcards at all anymore; many still do. It’s just that with so many people’s lives revolving around social media today we sometimes tend to forget that a tangible memory – a private one – can be much more special than one posted on your online profile. Also, don’t get me wrong; sometimes it’s much more convenient to share your holiday memories online rather than by sending them by post.
All the same postcards should not die out. No amount of online albums could replace a precious personal collection of postcards.
Hope you enjoyed this post, although I must say that it’s a dozen times the length of an actual postcard! (Good thing it’s titled ‘Postcards‘ as a plural, huh?)
See you again soon,