Conxider Both Sides

     I don’t much care for guest writers in my spot, but I have allowed a few of them today.  So maybe you’ll find something unexpectedly worth reading  Don’t fret: we’ll get back to normal next time, I promise.

     I have been neglecting half the story of what makes postcards so interesting because it’s generally on the wrong side of the card.    But today I thought we could take a field trip into the world of that unique feature of postcards: the message from the sender.

     Postcard collectors are of two minds about this message.  I wish I had a dollar—or a bullet—for every donor[DC1]  who said “Oh, and here’s a bunch of old postcards.  I threw away the ones with messages on them because I knew you didn’t want those.”  Some collectors DO want the most pristine example available, something that looks as if it just came off the rack five minutes ago.  But others relish the little bits of history which come with a card from Strawberry Point in 1911.

    A lot of these messages will impress you not by the message (Let’s admit it up front: the majority of these messages are “How are you?  I am fine.”) but by the handwriting.  Your expert veteran postcard sender developed a style of lettering which allowed for the maximum message in a small space.

     The beginner can generally be distinguished by their belief that they have way too much room for what little they have to tell.  They start out low on the card, in big letters, and then make their words smaller and smaller as they think of more to tell, with postscripts crammed in wherever they’ll fit,

     Well over a third of the messaged postcards I’ve dealt with have the messages written sideways.  Either this was believed to provide more space, or people knew that if they addressed the card first, and then wrote right to left, they’d wind up smearing the ink of the address (this warning is for right-handed writers only)

     Of course, in the beginning, when postcard messages were considered the least important part (before 1906, only a small white space on the picture side could be used for messages).  So companies gave a larger portion of the back to the address, leaving very little space for communication.

            Diagonal writing appealed to some people: it allowed for longer lines of writing than straight sideways, and gave the illusion of more space

            Besides allowing scope for people who honestly had very little to write.

            Special recognition must be made, of course, for the wise guys like Nick the Bum, as seen above..  And how many postcards were mailed with no sentiment on them but “Guess Who?”  A nice little joke, really, for a penny.

    The best solution really belonged to the era when messages were not allowed on the back of the card at all (though some publishers went on using this into the Divided Back Era.)  If you felt you could trust the US mails to get it through, you could buy romantic little postcards with small envelopes pasted on the front.  In these envelopes would be a small piece of paper which could fold out to respectable size, and which allowed you to write on BOTH sides.

     Some call it American Ingenuity; some call it cheating the system.  Potato, potahto.


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