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Vintage Photo Travel Postcards

Updated on February 21, 2013

Travel-related photo postcards have been close to my heart ever since I took a three-week bus trip when I was 14 years old. As a member of the Royal Cavaliers Marching Band from Van Nuys, California, I had the opportunity to go on a cross-country tour to compete with other marching bands from all over the US and Canada.

You would think my writing about being a teenager in a marching band would set off the HubPages dork alarm, but the experience was actually quite cool.That was partially due to the fact that the band, the majorette corps and the banner corps (I was one of six "banner girls") were comprised of the most boisterous group of teenagers ever. To round out the entertainment, we also had a musician who was studying to be an entomologist. He was a strange-looking guy who probably didn't have much luck with the girls, so he used to chew live bugs and open his mouth to show the still-wiggling results to anyone who dared to look.

But I digress.

In search of vintage photo postcards

As we traveled, we had opportunities to stop at kitschy souvenir stands. Because of my limited budget, more often than not I picked up travel postcards in lieu of more substantive souvenirs (translation: anything over $2). Being a teenager, I naturally gravitated toward vacation postcards of the weird variety. It's funny to think that postcards that were so contemporary then are called vintage now! Time marches on.

Because a good deal of our trip covered the Midwest United States, many of the postcard images that didn't feature pictures of tourist sites were related to either animals and Native Americans. Because of this, I managed to secure a photo postcard of a jackalope, which was supposed to be a cross between an antelope and a jack rabbit. We didn't have any alcohol on the trip, so I don't think I imagined/hallucinated the existence of that postcard, which I don't have any more. But I can't quite get my mind around how such a being could be spawned. Perhaps it's better not to think too hard about how a jack rabbit and an antelope might accomplish such a task together.

I'm sure I gathered many other vacation postcards during my travels, but the only other one that sticks in my all these years later is so disgusting, I can't even describe it. (I actually had described it here but thought better of it and removed it, given its subject.) Instead, I've provided a link to Flickr so you can see some non-controversial blast-from-the-past travel-related photo postcards.

A Brief History of Travel Photo Postcards

There's actually a rich history to photo postcards. Who would have thought?

The first photo postcards began appearing in the latter half of the 1800s. These early postcards had decorated borders and carried the words "Lipman's postal card, patent applied for," because a patent for these then-unique cards was applied for by John P. Charlton of Philadelphia and then eventually transferred to fellow Philadelphian H.L. Lipman.

In 1873 governments started producing photo postcards. Interestingly, writing was not allowed on the address side of the card until 1907, so people had to write over the photos on the front. If you happen to come across a postcard with writing across the front; that will give you a good idea of the card's age.

As photo postcards became more popular, an art form sprang up around them in Belgium and France, where women hand-tinted them in assembly line fashion. Each woman was responsible for one color, which often included fine detail. To "sharpen" their brushes so they could achieve this detail, they wet them with their mouths. Unfortunately, the lead in the paint began causing illness, so this particular form of photo postcard died out.


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    • WordPlay profile image

      Carla Chadwick 7 years ago from Georgia, y'all

      Hi, Julie. Your best bets are probably to put them on Craig's List and/or eBay. You could also try some antique stores near you, if you're feeling ambitious.

      Good luck!

    • profile image

      Julie 7 years ago

      I have about 150 vintage Black and White postcards from the 1940 World's Fair in NY. They are all showing murals and sculptures at the fair. Anyone have any idea who would want to purchase these?

    • profile image

      Postcard vendor 7 years ago

      I have been printing and selling postcard for nearly five months now. I like it very much because I can share beautiful photgraphs, paintings and drawings in the price that is more affordable to tourists. Nice hub you've got here. Thank you.



    • ActiveCampaign profile image

      ActiveCampaign 8 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

      I'm not sure why vintage collectibles are so appealing. I think the older art styles become absorbed into our culture, so that when we see them something about them just makes them so familiar and inviting.

    • WordPlay profile image

      Carla Chadwick 9 years ago from Georgia, y'all

      I think you can collect anything; it's just a question of whether other people will find what you collect interesting!

      Thanks for your comment.

    • AndyBaker profile image

      AndyBaker 9 years ago from UK

      Great hub - I didn't know that you could collect these!