Back in 1903, Kodak introduced a camera that was designed with postcard-making in mind. The No. 3A Folding Pocket Kodak took postcard-sized film. The photos were taken in the same size as a standard postcard and could be printed directly onto postcard backs. This was the beginning of a genuine photography phenomenon, with amateur photographers being able to print their images onto genuine postcards to share with others.
It wasn’t until March of 1907 that senders could start writing messages on the backs of their postcards. From that point, the fronts of those cards could hold a full-sized photograph and that contributed to the massive popularity of the format. The real photo postcard allowed the average person to document everything from their tiny home town to their family lives and turn those images into something to be shared with the world.
And that’s exactly what they did.
I love real photo postcards precisely because they were often made by amateurs. In some, you can see just how much experimentation went into processing and printing each image. Others give you a little glimpse into the lives of the people that took them—a view you may not otherwise see. As with every photograph, quality varies, and so does subject matter.
This week, though, we’re looking at some family portraits. Three images, each over 100 years old, depicting a family sitting for their photograph. Each one was made into a real photo postcard.
If someone happened to move, even a little, while a photograph was being taken, it would blur the image. You’ll sometimes find pictures where someone was trying to photograph a baby, for example, and the image is blurred where the baby moved after deciding they had enough of those photography shenanigans. In this picture, every last child looks like they do not want to be there—except for that young boy. He’s up to something. Cheeky bugger.
The most serious family photo ever. It kind of feels like a gathering before a funeral. What I like about this one is the edging of the postcard, that wavy, uneven cut. There is a slight pattern to it, though!
Even though this postcard has had the corner cut away—to preserve the stamp that was likely there on the other side—I wanted to share it because of the composition. Proud patriarch, stoic wife, young man staring off into the void and about ready to fall asleep…
Out of every type of postcard available over the past hundred years, it’s the real photo postcards that allow us the best glimpse into the past and what our ancestors were doing. Check them out next time you’re at an antique shop, or browse through them on the web and on the blog. You never know what you’ll find or what you’ll learn.
Now over to you, readers: do you have any interesting RPPCs in your collections? Did your families ever have postcards printed from their photographs? Show us what you have!
As always, if you enjoy what you’ve been reading, subscribe using the form in the sidebar. You’ll never miss out on a post again.