By Chuck Woodbury
Go back 100 years. Just imagine: there were no RVs and only a few primitive cars with few roads to travel. There was no television and only the very beginnings of movies. Hardly anybody owned a camera, and the handful who did shot in black and white. There was no Travel Channel, fancy travel magazines or countless travel websites.
So wherever you lived, the rest of your country — as well as the world — was an unknown, mysterious place.
Then, right around the turn of the 20th century, postcards appeared. They became popular after they were distributed at Chicago’s Columbia Exposition in 1893. In 1908, 677 million were mailed.
The first postcards were in black and white. Then hand-coloring was added. Imagine what it was like to receive a postcard 100 years ago, when there were very few ways to see faraway places. I bet those cards were treated as treasures.
I bring this up because I found a box of old postcards the other day. I especially like the colorized ones from the ’40s and ’50s.
Now fast forward to today. Nobody needs postcards anymore. We email digital photos from our phones or post them on Facebook. We’ve seen every corner of the world in living color on TV and websites, in movies, on YouTube and in newspapers and magazines. Our neighbors return home with blow-by-blow videos of where they traveled.
I quit sending postcards years ago. I made an exception on a recent trip to Germany when I mailed one to my daughter. By the time she received it a week later I had emailed her dozens of digital photos and video chatted with her live on Skype. I felt no need to send her a card saying “Having a good time. Wish you were here.”
For decades, postcards introduced the world to many people. Today, they are curiosities. I bet tourist shops sell a fraction of what they did in the olden days.
Here’s another commentary about postcards, written by RV Travel reader Skip Kazmarek. Coincidentally, he wrote it about the same time he read this post, so he references it in his thoughtful essay.