Part 6 : Seaside Photography - The Picture Postcard

1. Picture postcard of Brighton Beach near the Aquarium. Post-marked 1st March 1909, this coloured card was produced by the firm of Max Ettlinger & Co. Ltd of London & New York

The Origins of the Official Post Card

In 1865, at the Austro-German Postal Conference held in Karlsruhe, Germany, Dr. Heinrich von Stephen put forward the idea of an "open post sheet" made of stiff paper or thin card, which could be used as a cheap form of written communication. However, Dr Stephen's idea of an officially produced postcard was not adopted.

In January 1869, Dr. Emmanual Hermann of Vienna, a professor of economics, revived the idea of producing printed postcards and on 1st October 1869, the Austrian Post Office issued the world's first official postcard. The postcard was a great, popular success and around 2 1/4 million postcards were sold in the first three months.

Other postal authorities in Europe followed the Austo-German example. On 26th May 1870, the British Postmaster-General recommended the production of "Correspondence Cards" and on 1st October 1870, the first official postcards in Britain were issued by the Post Office. These early postcards were printed by the famous firm of De La Rue and incorporated a printed, stamp. The officially produced Post Card carried a prepaid stamp to the value of 1/2 d, a new postal rate for open correspondence. The postal rate for letters in a sealed envelope remained at one penny. At half the standard postal rate, the Post Card was immediately popular, and 675,000 were sold on the first day of issue.


2 Britain's first Official Post Card with a printed stamp.( 1870).Up until 1894 only official pre-paid postcards could be sent in the post.

Illustrated Post Cards

No pictures were allowed on the early official Post Card, but from 1872, private firms were allowed to print postcards which carried advertisements, as long as these commercial cards bore the official pre-paid stamp. Around this time, postcards were produced that featured line drawings. An early example carried line illustrations of London landmarks such as St Paul's Cathedral and London Bridge.

The production of pictorial cards was inhibited by the restrictions imposed by the Post Office rule that post cards had to carry a printed prepaid stamp. A major breakthrough occurred when the British Post Office announced that from 1st September 1894, privately printed post cards could be sent through the post with an adhesive halfpenny stamp. Publishers could now offer for sale picture postcards which could be sent through the post at the cheap postal rate. Within the month, postcards featuring pictures of local views were sent in the post. A picture postcard of Scarborough has been found which carried a postmark date of 15th September 1894. This early pictorial view card was produced by the postcard publisher E.T.W.Dennis of Scarborough. Other publishers that produced local view postcards in 1894 include George Stewart & Co of Edinburgh and F.T.Corkett, a firm based in Leicester.

These early pictorial view postcards did not carry actual photographs. The views on the earliest picture postcards were engraved from line drawings and could not cover the whole side of the card as postal regulations stipulated that the front of the postcard, which carried the stamp, was reserved for the address only. The message had to be written on the reverse side and therefore had to share space with any pictorial illustration. These early commercial produced 'local view' cards provided an illustration to go alongside the written message or provided a decorative border around the space that was reserved for the greeting or message.


3. An early coloured court-size postcard from Brighton.


4. An engraved drawing of Volk's Seashore Electric Railway in Brighton, which appeared as an illustraton on the message side of an early pictorial postcard. The Electric Sea Railway ran from Kemp Town, Brighton to nearby Rottingdean.This design was Published in 1899 by the Pictorial Stationery Company Ltd of London.

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Photographic Postcards

Although many of the early illustrations were derived from line drawings, a number of early picture postcards employed images that were taken from photographs. For example, in 1894, Walter Gardiner, a photographer with a studio in Worthing, Sussex, designed a pictorlal postcard which incorporated views of Worthing beach and a local park taken from his oriiginal photographs of the scenes.

The photographic images that were featured on postcards in the 1890s were not actual photographs, but pictures that had been reproduced using the pictorial printing processes of the day - lithography, photogravure, half tone photo-engraving and other photomechanical techniques.


5. Picture postcard of Brighton's King's Road, looking east. This postcard carries a mechanically produced photograph rather than a real photograph and was mass produced. The message has been written alongside the picture and is dated 9th August 1904. The reverse of the card carries a half penny stamp which has been post-marked " BRIGHTON : 6.30 pm .August 9 1904.The card was addressed to a Miss Chase in South East London.



6. This portrait was taken at the American Art Rapid Photography studio on Brighton's Palace Pier in 1902 and turned into a personalised postcard. Postal regulations meant that the message had to be written on the image side. The other side of the card carried the address of a Miss M. Goodwin of Kidderminster and is post-marked "BRIGHTON : September 7, 1902".



7. A postcard featuring a printed photograph dated 30 June 1903.

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Website last updated: 28 April, 2003


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