Monday, October 19, 2020

Have you sent a postcard lately? With so many of us isolated, maybe it’s time to revive this old-fashioned means of communication. I remember how excited my mother used to be to get a postcard in the mail. Every week Grandma would fill every inch of that card in her little spidery handwriting and when it came in the mail, Mother would drop everything and go inside and read it to all of us. Long-distance phone calls were rare and short, but postcards brought us the news. Up until 1952 you could buy prepaid postcards for a penny and Grandma made sure she got her money’s worth.

Penny post card sent from Huntington Park CA to Banning in 1927

Postcards were cheap and easy–with the stamp right on the card. The United States Post Office began selling penny postcards in 1873, soon after the Transcontinental Railroad went through. At first you wrote on one side and put the address on the other, but soon cards were allowed to have both message and address on the same side, leaving the back free for a photograph or a hand-painted picture. You may have sent a souvenir postcard with a scenic photograph, but did you know that painting postcards was one way for women out west to make a little money in the early 1900’s?

Grandmother Lottie was enterprising as well as artistic. She painted flowers on china and pictures to decorate her home. Raising her family in rural Nebraska, she had cards typed up to advertise her skills at decorating hats and painting postcards to send for birthday greetings or Valentine’s Day.

Vintage Thanksgiving cards on Zazzle

Like now, people felt isolated, far from friends and family. A postcard greeting was short and casual, comparable to sending a text or saying Happy birthday on Facebook. It just made you feel good to be remembered. I loved the vintage Thanksgiving card designs at Zazzle, so I ordered a few to send to some of the family this year.

But you don’t need a special occasion to send a postcard. You can send one just to say hello. If you’d like to receive postcards from other countries, try Postcrossing at https://www.postcrossing.com/ . This exchange was founded in 2005 by a Portuguse software engineer. We’re all coping with the same pandemic, so what better time to send a short note of greetings and good wishes and see which countries you hear from?

The Postal Service still sells postage stamped cards, but the price is now $3.90 for 10. (Actually not much of a rise since 1873.) Or you can buy colorful postcards on line and order post card stamps for 35 cents each at https://store.usps.com/store/home. These postcard Forever stamps depict life in a coral reef.

The international route will cost more. International postcards require a $1.20 global Forever stamp, the same as an international letter. I think they are supposed to be chrysanthemums, but they have a creepy resemblance to a coronavirus. Anyway, you can buy them on line or at the Post Office. Finding postcards to send is easy. You may find some of your area in your local drugstore, especially if you live in a place where tourists (used to) frequent. Or send someone a classic work of art, a holiday greeting, or an old-fashioned vintage postcard from one of these sites:

  1. Zazzle: Wide variety of cards. Retro, vintage, travel, funny, Halloween, Thanksgiving. COVID has inspired a wide selection of “change the date cards” for any event that needs to be postponed. You can even search under “coronavirus postcards” for a timely selection. https://www.zazzle.com/s/postcards
  2. Etsy: postcards reminding you to vote, more COVID postcards, traditional, modern, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and more. https://www.etsy.com/search?q=postcards
  3. Metropolitan Museum of Art: Beautiful artistic cards. https://store.metmuseum.org/catalogsearch/result/?q=postcards
  4. Touch Note: Makes your own photos into postcards and sends them directly from your phone, so you don’t need to cope with stamps and mailboxes. https://touchnote.com/us/ –

And there are many more, limited only by your searching patience. Try it out–next time you want to make someone smile, send a postcard.

Today’s Notable Headlines

“Marin Voice: Focusing on power of human connection during pandemic,” Marin Independent Journal, Oct. 18, 2020. https://www.marinij.com/2020/10/18/marin-voice-focusing-on-power-of-human-connection-during-pandemic/

“Stay in touch with your emotions to reduce pandemic-induced stress,” Science Daily, Oct. 14, 2020. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201014140942.htm

“A senior’s lifetime experiences help generate resilience to pandemic trauma,” CNN Health, Oct. 6, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/06/health/seniors-resilience-pandemic-trauma-wellness-partner/index.html

“A plethora of pandemic gifts available this holiday season,” ABC News, Oct. 19, 2020. https://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/wireStory/plethora-pandemic-gifts-holiday-season-73700098

Additional Sources:

Postcrossing: https://www.postcrossing.com/

History of postcards: https://150yearsofpostcards.com/history 

Why am I doing this?

The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. It is my intention to journal the pandemic experience from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary crisis.

You are on History’s Edge.

4 thoughts on “Pandemic Day 222: Say It With Postcards

  1. Our cousin Erin Fussell (Tim’s daughter) is carrying on the post card family tradition, with an art project. I think she will be thrilled to hear this history. I can see you catching up with her she works in research in a Getty Museum.

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