Linen Postcards (Horse Cartoons)
Mass-produced linen postcards were made between approximately 1930 and1940, with limited production extending into the late1950s as the technology gradually became obsolete.
Linen postcards used a color processing method that fell in between the previous (bromide) method that produce brown-and-white colored "sepia" cards that had to be be hand colored, and the later (chrome) full color cards which is cheaper and easier to produce. Any postcard made after 1945 is considered to fall in the later "chrome" era of production.
Horses in History
The horse drawn carriage was a common form of transport in the United States between 1815 and 1915, with a minor resurgence in the 1930s when the depression made automobiles to expensive for many people to operate.
As such the linen postcard period was one where the use of the horse for routine transport was in sharp decline. And so these cards capture the old humor surrounding horse use, and a new nostalgia for horses as a symbol of a fast-fading and slower-paced era at a time where the future looked uncertain.
Humor in Linen Postcards
While a predominant theme across linen postcards is nostalgia, the also often featured funny cartoons that used comic juxtapositions, puns or risque situations.This often included pinup-type situation or pratfalls (or, as in the example above, both), as well as puns and other word play.
Some cards comment on specific historical events, including several on the topic of gas shortages.
Other popular subjects were state maps and buildings. Period architecture such as diners and gas stations are often the most valuable cards, especially for prominent buildings that are no longer standing. If you prefer collecting cartoons and animals these postcards can still be picked up on sites like Ebay for quite low prices.
Why are they called "Linen"?
Linen postcards were produced from a kind of rag stock that left texture in the form of vertical and horizontal lines thought to look similar to a woven cloth such as linen (hence the name). This cheaper stock was used during the period of WWII so more valuable materials could be used for the war effort.
Linen postcards are becoming more popular as a collectable item, but can currently still be found at very reasonable prices. The more desirable cars are those with bright, clear colors and depicting well known locations. But even less-than-perfect examples can make a great campy collection or decor item.