Tuesday, October 4, 2022


When people discovered the world through postcards


By Chuck Woodbury
Editor, RVtravel.com

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 or movie theaters. Hardly anybody owned a camera, and the handful who did shot in black and white. There was no Travel Channel or fancy travel magazines.

So wherever you lived, the rest of 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 100 years. Nobody needs postcards anymore. We email digital photos from our laptops, post them on Facebook, or send them via text messages. 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 last summer in 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 shop merchants don’t sell many today like the old days. Do you still send postcards when you travel?


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