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Postcards Of The Past: Fourth of July

Penny postcards were widely used 100 years ago for holiday greetings
during the “golden age” of American postcards.

By Philip R. Devlin.
The first known picture postcards appeared around 1870 in France. The first known commercially available postcards in America were developed around 1873 in Springfield, Mass.

Until March 1, 1907, the postal system did not allow for a divided back on the reverse side of the postcard, with the address appearing on the right and a message on the left. This date marked the beginning of the golden age of postcards, as now there was ample room on the front for a picture or an artistic image.

     In 1908, more than 677 million postcards were mailed in the United States alone! Cards designed by artists such as Ellen Clapsaddle, Raphael Tuck, Frances Brundage, E. Nash, and Esther Howland today command from $10 to over $100, depending on condition and subject matter. Holiday cards were commonly mailed by all Americans during this time. The most abundant cards are for Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July. Cards for Labor Day are the rarest holiday cards of all, often commanding over $100 each. Old Halloween cards in good condition are also prized by collectors.

     The Fourth of July cards presented here are typical of the type mailed between 1907 and 1915. Iconic Fourth of July images – Uncle Sam, the flag, fireworks, George Washington, the Liberty Bell – are all present in abundance. Fireworks first appeared in China in the 7th century. July 4, 1777, marked the first anniversary of the issuance of the Declaration of Independence. Americans celebrated the occasion with fireworks then and continue to do so today. It is a deeply rooted tradition associated with the Fourth of July.
Postcards are from Philip’s collection.

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