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Postcard Collection

 Unprocessed Collection
Identifier: M36

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of postcards the bulk of which depict Mississippi, but there are a sizeable number containing images from the United States, foreign countries, theme cards and cards of individuals.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within circa 1901 - 1979

Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical / Historical

Postcards capture a moment in history both through their imagery and their accompanying correspondence. The messages on the postcards are significant in that they give a brief look into the lives of individuals from times past. Postcard collecting or deltiology is a popular hobby. Postcards are noted for their images, correspondence, and stamps.

The man credited with having invented the postcard was the postmaster general of Germany, Heinrich von Stephan ( circa 1865). Heinrich von Stephan believed that changing times necessitated shorter messages. The invention of this new format was both threatening and controversial due to the fact that the communication was open and available for anyone to read. The World's Fairs and Expositions and a lower postage rate were integral in popularizing picture postcard during the latter half of the 19th Century.

About 1900, postcards began gaining popularity as a means of mass communication and as a collectible. It is from this time until the First World War that was considered postcard's golden age. During this time the production of postcards became a major industry in Europe. The postcard's popularity increased due to the invention of the divide on the back of the card, which occurred in the early 1900's, this allowed for more room for message writing.

The Smithsonian Institute categorizes the history of the postcard into the following six periods:

1) Private Mailing Cards Period, 1898 - 1901: During the Private Mailing Card era, messages were not allowed on the back of the cards, so a small space was left on the front, for notes from the sender. The sender had to purchase a 1ยข stamp for the Private Mailing Card. The words "Private Mailing Card" were printed on the back of cards along with the statement "Authorized by Act of Congress of May 19, 1898" and "This side is exclusively for the Address" indicating that messages could only be written on the front. Also found on many of them was "Postal Card - Carte Postale" which indicated it was allowed to enter the international mail system.

2) Undivided Back Period, 1901-1907: In December 1901, the United States Post Office issued Post Office Order No. 1447 which allowed the words "Post Card" instead of the longer Postal Mailing Card. Messages were still not allowed on the back of cards.

3) Divided Back Period, 1907-1914: On March 1, 1907, a major change on the backs of postcards occurred. The left side of the back of the card was allowed for messages, while the right side was for the address. During this era, the blank space on the front of post cards, which previously was for messages, disappeared.

4) White Border Period, 1915-1930: Until this period German printers dominated the market in postcard printing. With the beginning of World War I, postcards were supplied mostly by printers in the United States. During these years printers saved ink by not printing to the edge of the card and leaving a white border around the image. Also during this time, the pictures on postcards were described in more detail on the back.

5) Linen Period, 1930-1944: With the development of new printing processes, postcards could be printed with high rag content, which gave them a look of being printed on cloth or linen. This period is also characterized by the use of bright colors. Most postcards also retained the white border, but some were printed to the edge of the card. The back remained virtually the same.

6) Modem Photochrome-style Period, 1939 - to date: Modem Photochrome-style postcards first appeared in 1939 with the Union Oil Company carrying them in their western service stations. Production of the postcards was slowed during World War II because of supply shortages, but after the war, they dominated the postcard market. The photochrome postcards are in color, are the closest to real photographs, and are the ones most familiar to most people today.


0.80 Cubic Feet (Collection housed in six "shoebox" archival boxes. Several oversize postcards are housed in a letter sized document case.)

Language of Materials



The collection is arranged in the following series:

Box 1 Mississippi Postcards- Batesville through McComb

Box 2 Mississippi Postcards- Meridian through Yazoo City

Box 3 United States Postcards- Alabama through Minnesota

Box 4 United States Postcards- Missouri through Wyoming Foreign Country Postcards

Box 5 Theme Postcards People Postcards

Box 6 Folder 1 Oversized Mississippi Postcards Folder 2 Oversized United States Postcards Folder 3 Oversized Foreign Countries Postcards Folder 4 Oversized Theme Postcards

New accruals are integrated into the existing series structure.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials in this collection were donated at various times by a number of donors. In addition, some of the materials were separated from other collections, most notably M2 Theodore G. Bilbo Papers. Recent additions to the collection have been purchased by the Curator, Historical Manuscripts and Archives.

Existence and Location of Copies

For Digitized Materials from this collection, see: External Documents link at bottom of page.

Related Materials

M2 Theodore G. Bilbo Papers

RG2 University of Southern Mississippi - University Photograph Collection

Postcard Collection
In Progress
Cindy Lawler; Lauren Seeley.
circa 2005
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 8/2/2018: Minor modifications made while creating EAD version of finding aid. Original paper copy in case file. Lorraine A. Stuart

Repository Details

Part of the Historical Manuscripts and Photographs Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001