During a very brief, very dark period in history (typed with tongue planted firmly in cheek, I assure you), postcard publishers decided that the best way to stand out among their competitors was to do something so different that it became impractical: they produced postcards made of leather.
Not stiff leather, which can be mailed with few issues, but soft and floppy deerskin.
This product of the early 1900s was made by burning images onto rectangular pieces of leather and then, maybe if they were feeling a little silly, adding some colour to the piece. The decorating method was called “pyrography” and involved heating up the tip of a sharp tool, like a poker, and using it to draw the desired image.
Subject matter varied from punny jokes like the above, to raunchy bits, to scenery. There were leather postcards for every occasion, want, or need (depending on your definition of ‘need’).
Some even had holes along the edges to allow collectors to sew their findings together into a wall-hanging or pillow! Novelty shops that sold these postcards were encouraged to display such a decoration in order to draw in more sales. Can you imagine?
This fad lasted less than ten years before the United States Postal Service banned them from being mailed out—the soft, thin cards were getting stuck in mail sorting machines, making life a lot harder for the postal workers. The era of the leather postcard was over!
People still sent them in the mail in envelopes instead of by themselves, and the leather postcard faded away around 1915. Many, many years later (though I’m not certain exactly when), leather postcards started showing up in Old West souvenir shops and were once more able to be mailed. Between better, newer mail sorting equipment and stiff leather being used in postcards instead of soft leather, they simply stopped causing problems.
We aren’t completely safe from the leather postcard, I guess. If we’re lucky, maybe they’re mostly contained to the American West and will leave the rest of us alone.
Until next time!
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