The history of postcards

By Barry Clark Bribie Island Historical Society

History. Historical buildings. Bribie Island. Moreton Bay. Brisbane. Queensland. Australian.-1

    [top dis] => 
    [bottom dis] => 

Tags: History. Historical. Postcards. Deltiology


This was always a regular request to someone heading off on a holiday somewhere. It is what lots of people did until about the 1970’s. Today in an era of Text, Email, Facebook and Instagram with everyone having a mobile phone camera, the thought of buying a stamp and sending a picture Postcard are as old-fashioned as Black & White TV and party line telephones. However, there is still a wonderful charm in receiving a picture Postcard from a distant place with a personal hand written message.

History. Historical. Postcards. DeltiologyThe very first commercially produced Post Cards were patented in America 157 years ago in 1861. In 1861 the new Colony of Queensland had only been proclaimed just two years earlier, people were still searching for Burke & Wills lost expedition, and of course, nobody lived on Bribie Island. The first Postcards to need a stamp, rather than being put in a stamped envelope, were Souvenir picture cards post cards produced in Austria around 1869. By 1873 the US Postal Department produced a pictorial “Postal Card” which was pre-stamped and became known as a “Penny Postcard”.

History. Historical. Postcards. Deltiology

The building of the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 1889 was a major factor in worldwide picture postcard popularity, which was followed by other early French postcards of Nude women sent around the world, which became known as “French Postcards”. Britain was initially slower than Europe in adopting the Postcard but after the Boer War, they introduced a Picture Card with a divided back, for the address and stamp on the right, and the handwritten message on the left. This provided a great opportunity for cheap and reliable messages to be sent by everyone around the world and created great souvenirs of places to be collected.

History. Historical. Postcards. DeltiologyThese postcards were indeed the emails of their day in the early 1900’s when Sydney and Melbourne had four mail deliveries to every house each day. It’s hard to believe that today. In 1908 Australian postal records show that over 40 million post cards were mailed in Australia both nationally and internationally. Pictorial Post cards from Australia with outback scenes, birds and wildlife were much in demand overseas. The period from 1900 to 1920 may have been the peak of worldwide postcard sending, which led to a hobby which is still active today, of collecting Postcards.

History. Historical. Postcards. Deltiology

The study and collection of Postcards are termed DELTIOLOGY and was a term first coined in 1945. The early 1930’s saw a new cartoon style “Saucy” postcard develop in the UK with bawdy joke caricatures and smutty “Carry On” style humour. These were mass produced at the rate of over 16 million per year and can still be seen today although the sexist humour is no longer seen as acceptable.

The years of Depression in the 1930’s followed by the Second World War in the 1940’s had a significant impact on family travel and holidays. When things returned to normal after the War the spread of new technologies was felt around the world. Aeroplanes, Telephones, Radios, TV and Cameras were just a few of things that changed world behaviours. The previous attraction and charm of a personalised Postcard slowly declined, and by the 1950’s was replaced with the unforgettable “Slide Night” to project holiday images of 35mm camera photo slides on the wall of a darkened room.

History. Historical. Postcards. DeltiologyWho can forget those long evenings …….and the subsequent “Slide Burning Nights” of the 1970’s when each photo showed would be voted by the viewers to be either kept…….. or be thrown in the fire !! Many of us still have boxes of old colour slides that may never see the light of day again. This is probably being repeated with today’s generation who have thousands of photos they carry on their mobile phone, which are rarely seen. However, in today’s world, a personal and private photo of anything or anyone, anywhere, can be instantly sent to friends and family worldwide.

History. Historical. Postcards. DeltiologySo what? It is certainly not the same as receiving a hand written message on a picture post card in your letter box weeks after somebody has thought about you. The Bribie Island Historical Society has a large collection of Bribie Island Postcards spanning more than 100 years. There are two opportunities to see some of these Postcard views of Bribie, which reveal the fascinating ways in which this island has developed and changed over the years. A public presentation of “100 Years of Bribie Postcards” will be given at U3A on Friday 19th October at 1 pm.

History. Historical. Postcards. DeltiologySome other postcards will be shown in a Bribie History presentation at the Bribie Library on Tuesday 30th October at 2 pm. You need to book at U3A or the Library for both of these presentations. (See Poster) If you should have any interesting old postcards to share with the Historical Society you can contact us on [email protected] or view numerous articles and photos on our blog site

Other Articles


Previous articleQueensland travel destinations – Uluru
A highly successful sales and leadership career working in a number of different and very competitive industries. Engaging with decision makers at all levels in business and government. Three decades employed by corporations, SME businesses in senior roles and almost twelve years operating as a freelance contractor has equipped me well for all aspects of business. Whether leading and mentoring sales teams, or in a direct sales role I enjoy the challenge to meet and exceed expectations. Making a real and tangible difference in either a team environment or as an individual is an important personal goal I have consistently achieved throughout my career. In all of my business and personal dealings over the years there is one issue that stands out above all others - communication. Excellent communication skills creates trust, helps with mutually beneficial outcomes and above all cements long lasting positive relationships. I strive everyday to communicate effectively with the people I encounter.