Collecting and sending Lake Charles, Louisiana post cards or any post card for that matter has had a curious history. At the turn of the century it became a national mania that lasted for two decades. The enthusiasm for sending and collecting post cards began in Europe. The Germans preferred humorous post cards, while the British often printed historical themes. Initially, the United States government prohibited private companies from calling their cards “postcards”, so they were known as “souvenir cards”.
In 1906 Americans were buying post cards at the rate of more than 700 million a year and by 1913 almost 970 million cards were purchased. Over the years collectors were saving most of them. But then it fell from favor mostly due to World War I and inferior products printed with a white border.
After many years of neglect post card collecting reemerged in the 1960s and 1970s to captivate a new generation of collectors. Collectors began to perceive that old post cards of streets, building and rural scenes were more beautiful than any produced since. Post card collectors call their hobby “deltiology” from the Greek word meaning “small picture”.
The History of Post Cards Used In The United States (1873 to Present)
Postal Cards (1873-1898) – In the United States the government published its first postal card in 1873 and it sold for one penny. All privately produced cards needed a two cent stamp. As a results very few privately produced postal cards were produced. However advertisers quickly realized the commercial possiblities and printed their own message and illustrations on goverment issued postal cards.
Private Mailing Cards (1898-1901) – In 1898 producers were allowed to print and sell post cards with the following inscription – Private Mailing Card. Authorized by Act of Congress on May 19, 1898.
The rate for Private Mailing Cards were set at one cent, the same rate as a U.S. Post Office postal cards. Now American publishers began producing millions of these private post cards.
Undivided Back Post Cards (1901-1907) – New regulations in 1901 created the Undivided Back Private Post Card with the words Post Card printed on the side used for the address and stamp.
The illustration and a very short message was crowded onto the other side. No wonder it only lasted 6 years. Also the Private Mailing Card. Authorized by Act of Congress on May 19, 1898 requirement was omited.
Divided Back Post Cards (1907-1915) – On March 1, 1907 the United States Post Office allowed private citizens to write on the address side of a privately published postcard. It was on this date that post cards were allowed to have a divided back. One half for the name and address and the other side for the message. The divided back era was trying period due to the threats of war and rising tariffs from post card imports. So ended the Golden Age of post cards.
White Border Post Cards (1916-1930) – The “white border” era, named for borders around the picture area, lasted from about 1916 to 1930. During this time greeting card publishing declined but the view card market remained very strong.
This white border post card depicts the Borealis Rex, A Lake Charles steam boat. Built in 1888 this boat ruled over Lake Charles and the Lower Calcasieu River for more than 25 years.
Linen Post Cards (1930-1945) – Beginning in the 1930s, new printing processes allowed printers to produce postcards with high rag content, which gave them a look of being printed on linen, rather than paper. Curt Teich and Company printed the first linen post cards. The Curt Teich process allowed for quicker production and brighter dyes to be used to color the images.
Their linen postcards became very popular around the world in the 1930s and 1940s. Most linen postcards retained the white border at first but in the 1940s some were printed to the edge of the card like this Crystal Courts post card from Lake Charles. The back of all the linen postcards remained divided and usually contained printed information about the image.
View post cards like this St Patrick Hospital and Crystal Court were the most popular.
Photochrome Post Cards (1939-Present) – In 1939, a new type of photographic production process called “Photochrome” started to appear on post cards that were being sold in Union Oil Company filling stations. Production of the photochrome post cards slowed during World War II because of supply shortages, but after the war, they dominated the postcard market.
These post cards are today known as chromes.
Photochrome post cards are the ones most familiar to us today. In the 1990s the advent of e-cards and email started the decline in post card popularity. Today postcards are typically purchased as souvenirs, rather than a quick way to communicate. Post card types include view cards, greeting cards, historical cards and art cards. This website is about my Lake Charles post card collection which are mainly view cards.