Postcards Talk

Postmark 24.12.1912
before 1 after 1

A boxful of old postcards were refound from the depths of the attic. They have stored in themselves a piece of culture and history of our country from as far as the tsarist times, war and peace, many migrations and countless anniversaries. The journey of the postcards has been long from the times of the telegraph and telegrams into today's web pages.

Postmark 8.10.1911
before 2
after 2

These postcards are not for sale, so cleaning them was quite appropriate. It was a huge task, but I still wanted to leave in them also some unfixed spots as a sign of having mellowed with time. Here you'll see a few examples: on the left the ones right after scanning them and on the right the cleaned ones. Most of the cards were anyway in a pretty good condition.

Old postcards often had a glossy lamination and gold printings, which easily break in time. For example the card on the right had folded in several places and a piece of the boy's blouse was missing. On some cards there were stains of postmarks and also mold damages caused by oblivion of tens of years in the cold and damp storeroom.

On the back side of the postcards from the early 1940's there are army mail postmarks and stamps with texts like "inspected by war censorship", "iron scrap for spring-cleaning the home front", "illicit trade is cheating people", "congratulate with a war invalid adress", "with wood towards better days", "the funds as a loan for the native country", "the funds as a loan for work and battle" and "economize", but also other advices like "write a distinct address", "send Christmas mail in time" and "spare waste paper as raw material".

War time shows in the pictorial motives and also in the texts: the senders wished also for a Peaceful or Good Christmas, while earlier the expression had been only Merry. There is also mentioned on the back side of the postcards for which purpose they were sold, like the association of school kitchen, work against tuberculosis, homeless consumption convalescents or war orphans and old nurses.

The postcards have been dated by the date of postmark and by the recipient's address and marital status. These cards have been sent to my grandmother, grandfather, great-grandmother and both my parents. They have been mailed or given to hand mainly as Christmas, New Year and Easter greetings, but also as congratulation cards and as mere remembrance. On one small card the sender wishes for joy of Midsummer and bliss of summertime.

About 38 % of the cards are Christmas cards, without a text there are about 29 % of them. The postcards without text are mainly pictures of people or landscapes and flowers, which have been used as congratulation and letter cards, and puts that group number one with about 44 %. Telephone was still quite a rarity, so contact with friends and relatives was maintained by postcards.

Given to hand at Christmas in the early 1910's
before 3 after 3

Elsewhere in Europe they started sending postcards already in the beginning of the 1800's, but into Finland the custom came not until the end of the century and spread from the upper classes along with the reading and writing skills into all sections of the population in the 1920's. Often a lot of text was written in the cards too - the postage of a card was less than that of a letter. On the back side of the oldest cards the word postcard is printed in 14 languages, also in Finnish. When the idea of postcards was still young, they were printed in France, Germany and England with different greetings for different countries. The first Finnish postcards were printed not until the 1910's.

The oldest postcard according to the marking on the card is a Christmas card printed in Berlin and mailed in 1906, which makes it already more than 100 years old.

The same year women in Finland got the universal suffrage first in Europe, there was a disastrous earthquake in San Francisco, the first radio program was sent in USA, Greta Garbo was born in Sweden and as the grand duke of Finland was tsar Nikolai II.

The youngest cards on both postcard pages date back to the late 1950's according to their postmarks, which don't necessarily tell their real age. The style of many cards looks clearly older than their presumed age and have been mailed possibly even ten years after their printing. So many postcards which obviously belong to the same series have landed years away from each other. Many of the cards have also been given to hand and the exact year can only be mere guesswork.

The illustrators of the postcards are difficult to figure out because most cards have no signature or there is only an obscure monogram. Many of them do have a recognizable signature and they all have been placed on a separate page and mailed in the 1920's - late 1950's. Some unsigned cards have been identified with the help of the auction web sites.

Postmark 13.10.1928
before 4 after 4

On the web site of the Registered Postcard Association Apollo of Finland a postcard is described as "an object ment to be sent by mail without a cover, most characteristically a rectangular-shaped two-sided plane with a picture, the purpose of which is to deliver a message".

So the folded cards would not be postcard, because they are sent in an envelope, but anyway in both collections there are altogether 19 of them. A postcard - as an above-defined object - could on the other hand be even a thin wooden plate, as long as it had a picture, an address and the message.

The cards have been saved in size about 1 : 1, but the biggest folded cards have been reduced so that all the vertical cards are of the same height. There are also 11 small postcards 7 x 11 cm and in addition from early 1910's and year 1921 two black-and-white photographs, which also have been used as postcards and on the back side of which there are lines for the address but neither the text Carte Postale nor the place mark for a stamp.

Oops! My childhood stamp collecting play seems to have caused total disaster. This is the only postcard where I have had to build a whole corner. The shadow has changed, there is no certainty of the shape of the hair and the card is no more identical with the original.

"As many little birds ..."

The pictures on the scraps page come from four scrap books from the 1950's in size 1 : 1. They are grouped by their themes and they contain mainly those selected ones which have best preserved their colours. In the 1950's they were called glossy pictures [= scraps] but now they have several more bynames. For example the file name of my scrap page is glossies. Today the collectors collect their pictures in sheets and try to find out the printing places and the illustrators. In the 1950's we didn't think that far but pasted the scraps into scrap books and booklets. It seems to be so that the scraps have indeed been pasted so tightly that they would never get loose unbroken. For web use they too have been cleaned a bit and fixed some small cracks. They too are not for sale but only an addition of my own archive as a historical keepsake too.

The first scraps have been printed some time in the middle of the 19th century when the development of printing techniques made it possible. The Bavarian actor and playwright Alois Senefelder had invented lithographic printing i.e. lithography quite in the end of the 18th century to print his own manuscripts, and the suitable multicolour technique, chromolithography, was created in the beginning of the 19th century. Before that the printed matter had always been coloured by hand. The postcards were anyway coloured partially also by hand till the first few decades of the 20th century even after inventing the offset printing.

scrap flowers

The gloss [scrap literally in Finnish = glossy picture] doesn't mean that there were shiny tiny silvery pieces pasted on them, which have been added to the scraps not until late 1950's. It means the gloss, imprint and finishing of the paper. Originally the pictures were punched in kind of a 3D relief-like way, their shape followed the picture area and small strips kept the pictures together as a sheet as they still do. Some rectangular scraps have been in sheets where they have been torn off like stamps.

Originally the scraps were something for adults and were used as bookmarks and decoration in letters, then children started collecting them and then again adults. The scraps belong to the group of graphics for daily use like, among other things, postcards and stamps, logos, posters, ex libra and visiting cards. A collectors' item they became especially in the 1950's when schoolchildren started exchanging them, pasting them into their scrap books and asking their friends to write there remembrance poems in style

"As many little birds
as fly above your head,
so many you've got friends,
but remember me ahead."

like it is written in one scrap book on Friday 3.2.1956. The same year, among other things, Elvis Presley came into publicity, Maria Callas made her debut in NewYork Metropolitan Opera, Grace Metalious published the book Peyton Place, a telephone cable connection over the Atlantic was started and the president of Finland was Urho Kekkonen.

scrap girl

"When cover falls, page remains.
On this page this memory stays."

is written in one scrap book on Sunday 19.10.1958. The same day in Brussels was closed the World Exhibition which had been visited by 42 million people.

And the same year, among other things, Alaska became the 49th state of the United States, The new Guggenheim museum building in New York was completed, cha cha cha became a fashionable dance, NASA was founded, Charles de Gaulle was elected the president of France, Boris Pasternak published the book Doctor Zhivago and Urho Kekkonen still continued as the president of Finland.

scrap angel

The subjects on the scraps have been anything from medieval fairy-tales to pets and wildlife, plants, cars and trains. There are girls, boys, babies, toys, playing home, rococo figures from the 1700's, characters of classic books etc. Especially common have been pictures of angels, of which the two Rafaello's (1483-1520) meditating little angels from the Sixtine Madonna and their variants may well be the most famous ones.

Many scraps, like old postcards and illustrations of spelling books too, echo the same wendelinian themes of eternal Sunday, in which girls are decorative and at home, boys move around and are active with professions attached to them. That's how the needs and role models were created to the children still in the 1950's. Some scraps on the other hand have been quite a good idea as means of learning, like pictures of birds, insects, animals and garden plants with their Latin names.

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