Weather is here, wish you were beautiful.
They don’t make postcard jokes like that anymore.
Then again, who sends postcards anymore?
Instant communication devices have rendered the picture postcard obsolete, a remnant of the days when folks left town and you didn’t hear from them until the mailman delivered a brief but gloating message about the fabulous weather, food, lodging, and scenery.
Now, a cell phone ad on TV shows a kid texting Grandma about the family vacation, seemingly more absorbed in the messaging than the museum. The oblivious kid walks past a dinosaur skeleton, which obviously symbolizes the postcard—a relic, a thing of the past. At least that’s the way I, a confirmed postcard sender who has yet to text or tweet anyone, see it.
The first week of May is National Postcard Week, when hobbyists, buyers and collectors celebrate this simple communication tool. “Souvenir cards,” as they were called until 1901, became popular during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago when fairgoers mailed 677 million postcards bearing images of the elaborate buildings. According to Postcardy.com, the Golden Age of postcards was from 1900 until 1918, when the printing quality was high, art was often elaborate, and they were treasured collectibles.
Postcard enthusiasts classify postcards into 5 eras, and often specialize their collections according to themes or topics. As a casual collector I have developed my own 5 postcard categories:
Pity me: went there, did that, and you didn’t
Voyeuristic: strangers’ cards I buy at antique shops because I’m intrigued by their hand-scrawled messages
What were they thinking: truly boring and/or technically bad images
What was I thinking: why did I buy these—and so many of them?
Wildcards: kooky, historical, or intriguing in some other way
Whatever the next step in the march from letters to postcards to e-mails to tweets, I encourage everyone to keep alive the quaint custom of correspondence via the occasional postcard. Even after the May 11 postal rate increase a handwritten postcard will cost just 28 cents to mail.
And Grandma can’t put a tweet on a refrigerator.