Vintage Postcards: Curating Social Bonds

This exhibit brings together four different types of postcards to illustrate the evolution of epistolary communication in North America between the late nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century. They trace a progression from cards that weren't intended to house written messages to cards with dedicated space on the back specifically for that purpose. As the genre of the postcard evolved, users interacted with it differently. The stereoscopic card, likely the oldest in this exhibit, seems to have been repurposed as a notecard, even though it was probably a memento of some sort in its first incarnation. The later postcards show an adherence to the conventions of the genre--in the 1914 card, the handwriting becomes smaller and more cramped as the writer attempts to constrain her message to the space alloted by the division. (There is a note in the same hand on the address side of the division, but its angle and fragmentedness might suggest that the note was scribbled later, after the card had been sent.)

The postcards that were mailed circulated in an era preceding more formal rules about addresses, for the addresses are minimal:

Mr. Oscar Groginger
Mt Carroll
Route 5

Mrs. E. Moran.
c/o Menona Hotel.
Bay City.

These evidence the very distinct stages that the mailing process underwent during the early part of the twentieth century, for it was not until the 1960s that five-digit zip codes were developed.