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Dummie’s Guide Timeline of Postcard History

Postcard History Timeline Infographic

A couple of months ago I had some extra postcards that I had collected.  I took them to church and put a sign on them saying  “free if you would like any please help yourself”.  I watched over the next couple of weeks many people very young to the golden in years, were looking thru the pile admiring the pictures of the past.  Looking intently at the pictures than reading carefully through the descriptions on the back.  It just amazed me that there seems to be that enchantment in looking back into the past.

History of Postcards


  • PRE-POSTCARD PERIOD: 1848-1870

  • PIONEER PERIOD: 1870-1898


  • POSTCARD PERIOD: 1901-1907

  • DIVIDED BACK PERIOD: 1907-1915

  • WHITE BORDER PERIOD: 1915-1930

  • LINEN PERIOD: 1930-1945


Postcard History Timeline

These are the general Categories of Postcards you will see as you Pursue your Hobby.  But I wanted to try to look at the history of postcards from a more common sense direction.  I wanted to look at the major events that were taking place during those different periods of time.  To see the important events that many people wanted to capture and record and sen to their families.


1775 during the Second Continental Congress, when Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general.


Once upon a time, mail was delivered by either by foot soldiers or horse-drawn carriages, and the concept of mobilizing and coordinating mail delivery was still in its infancy.

In today’s world of e-mail and overnight express mail service, the idea of a letter taking two weeks to travel from New York to Philadelphia seems almost comical. However, in the mid-1700s, a letter might take as long as fourteen days to make the 109-mile trip between the two cities

The Pony Express was a mail service delivering messages, newspapers, and mail using relays of horse-mounted riders that operated from April 3, 1860, to October 1861 between Missouri and California in the United States of America

Ad in the Sacramento Union, March 19, 1860

“Men Wanted”
The undersigned wishes to hire ten or a dozen men, familiar with the management of horses, as hostlers, or riders on the Overland Express Route via Salt Lake City. Wages $50 per month and found.

More than 1,800 miles in 10 days! From St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California the Pony Express could deliver a letter faster than ever before.
In operation for only 18 months between April 1860 and October 1861, the Pony Express nevertheless has become synonymous with the Old West.

  • PRE-POSTCARD PERIOD: 1848-1870


1840 – First Postage Stamp, Under a number of reforms proposed by Sir Rowland Hill including a standard price for sending a letter (prior to this, it was the person who received the letter who paid how much was due depending on weight and distance traveled). In 1840, the first stamp is issued which featured a black and white portrait of Queen Victoria costing one penny (more often referred to as the “Penny Black”).

1841 – Wagon Trains Start The Journey To California, Covered Wagon Trains took immigrants on a journey from Missouri River towns to what is now the state of California. The trip was about 2,000 miles and each night the Covered Wagon Train would form a circle for shelter from wind and extreme weather, they would put all the animals in the center to prevent them from running away or being stolen by Native Americans.

1843-The Oregon Trail, The first ‘wagon train’ was the wave of migration that started in 1843 and had followed John Bidwell’s 1841 train, and Elijah White’s 1842 expedition to Oregon. The 1843 wagon train was comprised of about nine hundred people. Bidwell’s immigrants had been split on going to California and Oregon. The definition of this as the first wagon train is made by its number of participants. The earlier ones had only been small expeditionary groups.

1844 –  Morse’s first electronic telegram, Samuel Morse had created an electromagnetic telegraph in 1836 and he had written the code that was to be transferred on it. Morse Code used dots, dashes and spaces to represent the letters of the alphabet. The U.S. government had requested a line be built between Baltimore and Washington, and it sent the first message on May 24th, 1844. The code also represents numbers.

1845 – Florida Becomes The 27th state of the United States of America, On March 3, 1845, Florida became the 27th state of the United States of America. At that time Florida was best known for it’s cotton plantations because the climate suited the crop well.

1845 – Texas Becomes The 28th state of the United States of America, Texas, after gaining independence from Mexico in 1836, became the largest state in the contiguous United States in 1845.

1846 – 1848 U.S. – Mexican War 1846 to 1848, After Texas became a US state the year before, the United States and Mexico go to war over the disputed area. American forces invade and conquer New Mexico, California and parts of Northern Mexico. Another American army captured Mexico City, forcing Mexico to agree to the sale of its Northern territories to the U.S for $15 million.

1855 – Smithsonian Smithsonian Institution, is established as an educational and research institute it is administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment. The Smithsonian Institute was funded by the British scientist James Smithson, who had never visited the United States himself, as an “Establishment for the increase & diffusion of Knowledge among men.” The work on the Smithsonian Institution Building on the National Mall started in 1846 and was completed in 1855.

1847 – first Mormon  settlers arrive in salt lake city

1848 – calif gold rushThe California Gold Rush starts, It was James Marshall that found the first nugget on January 30th, 1848 at Coloma. His find was to draw half a million people to California, and his initial discovery meant that other prospectors were able to uncover beds on the Trinity and Feather rivers. The Gold Rush is said to have taken place between 1848 and 1855.

1860 – Abraham Lincoln is Nominated President, Lincoln’s election for President was followed by South Carolina’s succession from the Union. Its senators had resigned from Congress and several of the Southern states were looking to leaving it as well. With Lincoln not inaugurated there was little he could do, and it was only a matter of time before the Confederate States united.

1861 – The Beginning of the Civil War, The Confederate States of America was formed by South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, and Texas, and joined by Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and North Carolina, and it was the Confederacy’s attack on Fort Sumter (on April 12th) that starts the Civil War. The Kansas Free-Staters had prevailed, and Kansas had joined the Union on January 9th. The C.S.S’s capital was in Montgomery, Alabama before being replaced by Richmond, Virginia. Its flag was the Stars and Bars. South Carolina had ceded from the Union on December 20th, 1860. A skeptic of how well the northern States would treat freed slaves was George Fitzhugh, who had negated the North’s ability to treat the slaves well ‘because the master allows the slave to retain a larger share of the results of his own labor than do the employers of free labor

1860 – pony express -The Pony Express, The ‘Pony Express’ mail service used horseback riders in 157 Pony Express relay stations across the prairies, plains, deserts, and mountains of the Western United States to deliver messages between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts in about ten days. After only 1 year, in March 1861 after suffering large losses and not gaining the mail contract The Pony Express Company ceased trading.

1863 – The Battle of Gettysburg, The Battle of Gettysburg was an important battle in the war, with Lee’s invasion of a northern state (from Maryland to Pennsylvania). Some 23,000 Union soldiers and over 20,000 Confederate soldiers were killed by the end of the third day. This was where Lincoln made his Gettysburg Address (on November 19th).

1864 – First Use Of Submarine In Warfare, A Confederate submarine, the Hunley, is the first submarine to torpedo an enemy vessel. It sank three times (which included the death of its inventor, Horace Hunley) before deployment against a Union blockade of Charleston, South Carolina. It sank (with all nine crew) shortly after its attack on the sloop Housatonic.

1865 – The End of the Civil War, The Appomattox campaign of 1865 took place in March to April, and was made up of numerous engagements in Virginia. The number of dead was never particularly high in any particular encounter but resulted in a war of attrition, and the surrounding of the Confederate forces (in which Lee said that it was ‘a mere question of time’ in resolution). Robert E. Lee’s surrender of the Confederate army at Appomattox courthouse to Ulysses S. Grant on April 9th was the end of the war.

Abraham Lincoln Assassinated, It was on April 14th that President Lincoln was shot and mortally wounded by John Wilkes Booth while attending the comedy “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. He died the next day.

1866 – Jesse James, Jesse and his brother Frank James, who were Confederate guerrillas during the Civil War, turn to crime when they create the James-Younger Gang. Their first robbery is the first daylight armed bank robbery in the United States in peacetime of the Clay County Savings Association in the town of Liberty, Missouri, on February 13, 1866.

1869 – Wyoming Gives Women The Vote, Wyoming becomes the first state to enfranchise women and goes on to put the right into its 1889 constitution.


  • PIONEER PERIOD: 1870-1898

In researching postcard history the earliest mentions I could find was dated October 4th of 1870 Frances Calvert mentions in his diary today I sent my first postcard to my mother these are capital things they are simple in a very happy invention Frances was a 30-year-old gentleman living in Wales at the time in the United States the first mention of postcard was in 1893 the world’s Columbian exhibition that took place in Chicago that’s where America’s first official picture for picture postcards were sold they were largely distributed out of vending machines at the time Chicago happens to have a rich immigrant population which were very skilled in German printing a year later Britain legalize postcards but they were not very attractive

1871-Great Chicago Fire, The Great Chicago Fire started on Sunday, October 8, and burned for three days before it finally burned itself out Tuesday, October 10, 1871. It killed hundreds and destroyed about 2,000 acres in the central business district, including hotels, department stores, Chicago’s City Hall, the opera house and theaters, churches and printing plants, in other areas thousands of homes were destroyed leaving 90,000 homeless. Supposedly it started by a cow kicking over a lantern in a barn owned by Patrick and Catherine O’Leary, or Daniel “Pegleg” Sullivan, igniting some hay in the barn while trying to steal some milk, or Louis M. Cohn may have started the fire during a craps game.

1872 – Yellowstone National Park, Partly in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, the Yellowstone National Park was appointed the United States’ first national park on March 1st, 1872. It covers more than three and a half thousand square miles of plateaus, mountains, and valleys. The park’s fossils, lava flows, volcanic remains, forests and other mountainous features such as its hot springs and geysers (like Old Faithful) have made it a national treasure.

1875 –First Kentucky Derby, On May 17, 1875, in front of an estimated crowd of 10,000 people, a field of 15 three-year-old horses contested the First Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky.

1876 – he Little Bighorn/Custer’s Last Stand, The Battle of the Little Bighorn took place a week after General Crook’s retreat from Rosebud Creek, when the Sioux, Cheyenne, Lakota, Arapaho, and others fell on George Custer’s 7th Cavalry on June 25th. The Indians, whose amalgamated tepees could show that there were about two thousand braves, attacked Custer’s squadrons at Little Bighorn. Reno and Benteen’s parts of the 7th suffered heavily but were not wiped out. The Indians fled on the arrival of Terry and Gibbons’ more numerous soldiers, but have retained their name for the Bighorn’s slopes, ” which is ‘the greasy grass’. There is some debate on where exactly the ‘last stand’ took place, with Custer’s body not actually having been found around his men. The greasy grass might have been in Wyoming and not Montana.

First Practical Telephone, Patent 174,465, was issued to Alexander Graham Bell on March 7, 1876, by the U.S. Patent Office. Bell’s patent covered “the method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically

1877-The Phonograph, Thomas Alva Edison announced his invention of the first phonograph, a device for recording and replaying sound, on November 21st, 1877.

1879 –Incandescent Light Bulb, Thomas Alva Edison filed his first patent application for “Improvement In Electric Lights” on October 14, 1878 (U.S. Patent 0,214,636). The first successful test was on October 22, 1879, and lasted 13.5 hours. Historians list 22 inventors of incandescent lamps prior to Thomas Edison but

1881 – Billy the Kid, Billy the Kid, or William Bonney or Henry McCarty, had been captured in December 1880, and was tried for murder in Mesilla, New Mexico in April 1881. He was found guilty and escaped (after killing two deputies) before being shot by Sheriff Garrett (his earlier captor) on July 14th

1885-The Statue of Liberty, The Statue of Liberty was made in France and was proposed by Edouard de Laboulaye, sculpted by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi and funded by the French people. It was shipped in 1885 to New York and placed onto Liberty Island in New York Harbor. It wasn’t dedicated by Grover Cleveland until on October 28th, 1886.

1889 – The Eiffel Tower, The Eiffel Tower, or the Tour Eiffel, was opened on March 31st, 1889, and was the work of a Gustave Eiffel, who was a bridge engineer. It was made for the centenary of the French Revolution and was chosen instead of over one hundred other plans that were given. Eiffel’s engineering skills would preface later architectural designs. The Tower stands at twice the height of both the St. Peter’s Basilica and the Great Pyramid of Giza. Its metallic construction was completed within months.

1892-Ellis Island Opens, The first Ellis Island Immigration Station was officially opened. That first day, three large ships were waiting to land, and 700 immigrants passed through Ellis Island. In the first year, nearly 450,000 immigrants passed through the Island. The first to be processed was Annie Moore, a 15-year-old girl from Cork, Ireland on January 1st, 1892.

1897-First US Gasoline Powered Car Maker, Charles Duryea, and Frank Duryea were the first Americans to build a successful commercial automobile and the first to incorporate an American business for the expressed purpose of building automobiles for sale to the public.


1900-Work On New York Subway Begins, Work on the New York subway begins in the first section from City Hall to the Bronx in the year 1900. It was financed by the issue of rapid transit bonds by the City of New York and because no company was willing to take the risk of such a large project. The city decided to build the subways itself by subcontracting with the IRT who ran the elevated railways in the city to equip and operate the subways, sharing the profits with the City and guaranteeing a fixed five-cent fare.

Electric Cars, 25% of all cars that were sold in 1900 were electric cars. It will be interesting to see how many years it takes for 25% of all cars sold to be fully electric or Hybrid.

  • POSTCARD PERIOD: 1901-1907

1901-President William McKinley Shot, William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States is assassinated by Leon Czolgosz when he is shot at point-blank range. He died on September 14th, 1901, eight days after he was shot, from gangrene surrounding his wounds. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt becomes the 26th President of the United States on September 14th, 1901.

Queen Victoria Dies, Queen Victoria dies at the age of eighty-one. She had nine children and left Edward as her heir. Her reign has been used to designate the era and was the longest-serving of any English monarch. She presided over the change of government from monarchy to almost pure democracy. Her Prime Ministers had included Robert Peel, William Gladstone, Benjamin Disraeli, Henry Temple, and John Russell. Queen Victoria passed away in the Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. She had become queen when she was 18 and had ruled for nearly 64 years of her life.

1903-Orville and Wilbur Wright, Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first successful man-powered airplane flight near on December 17th at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The plane weighed 750 pounds and was powered by a 12 horsepower gasoline engine. The craft is referred to as an airship and Orville and Wright were looking for buyers for their machine which was capable of speeds up to 10 mph.

1906-Mount Vesuvius Erupted, Vesuvius erupted on April 4th, 1906, and its southern slope vented to about 1,200 meters. Its lava flow had stopped by the 5th, when a new effusion started on the Casa Fiorenza. This one went up to about 800 meters when a third one had occurred on the shoreline. The volcano’s eruptions had become stronger throughout April 7th and the crater rim cracked and lava flowed. The 8th of April had started a number of explosive ruptures and the cone started to effuse a large amount of fume. The eruptions lasted until April 21



  • POSTCARD PERIOD: 1901-1907

  • DIVIDED BACK PERIOD: 1907-1915

1908-Ford Model T, Henry Ford’s Ford Motor Company introduces the Ford Model T costing $850.00, this was nearly 1/3 of the price of any other car on the market but still not cheap enough for the masses. Over the next few years, he perfected assembly line production bringing the cost down to $368.00 in 1916 making it much more affordable consequently selling hundreds of thousands of of more cars than any other company.

1909-First Men to Reach The North Pole, Explorers Robert E. Peary and Matthew A. Henson claim to became the first men to reach the North Pole. On April 6, they established “Camp Jesup” allegedly within five miles of the pole. There is a large amount of controversy over this claim for a number of reasons including no independent verification and discrepancies in his journal, and even looking at those Societies who accepted or did not accept his claim makes it difficult to know for certain. The National Geographic Society certified his claim. The Royal Geographical Society of London accepted Claim. The American Geographical Society did not accept his claim. Societies of semi-Arctic Scandinavia did not accept his claim.

1910-Boy Scouts of America, Following a visit to England in 1909 and a meeting with British General Robert Baden-Powell who founded the Scouting movement in England, Chicago publisher W. D. Boyce incorporates the Boy Scouts of America.

1911- First Indianapolis 500, The first-ever running of the Indianapolis 500 is won by Ray Harrounat at an average speed of 74.59 miles an hour

1912-Sinking of the Titanic, The Titanic sets sail on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. The Titanic had been described as the worlds most luxurious floating hotel which is unsinkable, and was only 5 days out when she hit an iceberg and sank in the Atlantic with the loss of many lives. The Titanic was built in Belfast (between 1909 and 1911) and registered in Liverpool in 1912. Liverpool was the home port, although she never entered it. The White Star Liner left Belfast on April 2nd, 1912 and arrived in Southampton on April 4th. The crew had boarded before dawn on April 10th, and the passengers between 9.30 and 11.30 a.m. She left port at around 2 p.m. and arrived in Queenstown, Ireland before crossing the Atlantic. She struck an iceberg on Sunday, April 14th, and the ship’s distress signal gave her position as Latitude 41º 46′ N and Longitude 50º 14 W.

1914 – The Panama Canal Opens, The Panama Canal which took 34 years to build from 1880 – 1914 (and cost over 27,000 workers their lives) provided a connection for shipping from The Atlantic to The Pacific and opened in 1914.

  • WHITE BORDER PERIOD: 1915-1930

1918-World War I – Allies Sign Armistice Ending War The Allies sign an armistice with Germany on November 11, 1918, putting an end to the fighting of World War I. It was written by the Allied Supreme Commander Marshal Ferdinand Foch and signed inside of a railroad car near Compiégne, France. The terms of the armistice mandated the withdrawal of German forces behind the Rhine, the release of Allied prisoners of war, the future negotiation of reparations, and the continued Allied occupation of the Rhineland, and more. The official end to the war did not come until the next year with the Treaty of Versailles in June of 1919.


  • With the ending of World War I a housing boom in Britain and the United States leads to an increase in home ownership.

  • The League of Nations is founded but the United States votes against joining.

  • Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified on August 18, giving women the right to vote.

  • The Russian Civil war ends but the country struggles as a famine begins in 1920 and worsens the following year.

  • The Summer Olympics take place in Antwerp, Belgium and they emphasize reconciliation after World War I.

  • The 18th Amendment ( Volstead Act / National Prohibition Act ) goes into force at the beginning of the decade which in turn leads to increased black market alcohol that is sold in speakeasies and run by mobsters who pay off local politicians

  • The Palmer Raids lead to the arrest and deportation of 6,000 foreign aliens suspected radical leftists.

1924-The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is held on November 27th, 1924.

1927 – n 1927, Charles Lindbergh flies The Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic nonstop and solo, direct from New York City to Paris, as the first solo transatlantic flight.

1928-Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin in 1928 which changed the world of modern medicines by introducing the age of antibiotics.

1929-The Wall Street Crash of 1929 started the period of The Great Depression in the United States

  • LINEN PERIOD: 1930-1945

1931-US suffers worst-ever drought in its history, leading to the Dust Bowl years.

1932-The Great Depression influences economies worldwide. More than 24.5% of the population are unemployed in the United States. Over 20% of the workforce are unemployed in the United Kingdom. Canadian unemployment reached 27%. The German unemployment rate reached nearly 30%.

1933 – Adolf Hitler announces the state-sponsored “People’s Car” – “Volkswagen”

1934-Disney introduces the character of “Donald Duck” in the animated short “The Little Wise Hen

1939 – Germany attacks Poland starting World War II.

1941 – Japan launches a surprise attack on the U.S. base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, bringing the United States into the War. Italy and Germany also declare war on the United States

1944-President Roosevelt is elected to a fourth term in the United States, becoming the only person to ever do so. His fourth term does not last long however, as he died during the next year in April of 1945.

1945 – The United States drops two atomic bombs on Japan, bringing an end to the Pacific side of the war.


1947-The Polaroid instant camera is demonstrated.

1952-The first hydrogen bomb is successfully detonated by the United States.

1955-The popular children’s television show “The Mickey Mouse Club” premieres. The Disneyland theme park in California also opened during this year..

1958-NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is created.

1960-Democrat John F. Kennedy wins the U.S. Presidential Election after defeating Republican Richard Nixon. Kennedy became the first president and was the youngest person to have been elected into the highest office at the time.

1963-United States President John F. Kennedy is assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald.

1971-The Walt Disney World Resort is opened in Orlando, Florida.

1980-Ronald Reagan is elected as the President of the United States.

1983-Motorola introduces the first mobile phones to the United States in 1983.

1987-Margaret Thatcher is elected as the British Prime Minister for the third time