By law, until 1898 only the U.S. Post Office could print postcards in the United States. Companies could make things which LOOKED like postcards, but these had to be called “souvenir cards” or “private mailing cards”. The first Souvenir cards in the U.S. were made for the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. We do not, so far, have one of these for sale (we have a facsimile of one). But we can offer you a view of Lake Shore drive in 1913 or the tall brick Union Depot building.
Postcards come to the Book Fair in two ways: someone gives us a collection of them, or someone gives us books in which their ancestors used postcards as bookmarks. The second way often brings more interesting cards. Dyed-in-the-wool collectorsd may prefer blank cards, but I like the ones with messages on them.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, the postcard in its heyday was a text message which cost a penny to send. Most cities had two mail deliveries a day, so you could actually send a postcard in the morning and get a reply in the afternoon. The thoughts expressed are generally as earth-shattering as those on Twitter: “Sorry I missed your party but the pig had the flu” or “Bought a new hat; Lonnie doesn’t like it” or “Got off the train in Homewood and thought of you.” And you could count on jokers to pick up a postcard of the local prison and write “My room marked with X. Wish you were here.”
Postcards, with bookmarks and other ephemera, are among the least expensive items put out for sale at our Collectibles table. Do NOT expect to buy the 1913 Lake Shore Drive card for a quarter.