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Postcards used to be a common form of communication. Particularly with those of a certain era. I remember getting lots of postcards from my grandparents as a tad. They were the original, literal text message: quicker to dash off than a letter, and cheaper to send too. (My grandparents, having gone through the Depression, were thrifty.) The only downside is that the mail carrier and anyone else who came across it would see the message written on the card. But the message coming from my grandparents was always "Love you and miss you." Who wouldn't want that to be seen?
An informal poll taken of the people in my immediate vicinity revealed the following. The older folks among us confirmed the grandparental use of postcards. But obviously said grandparents had no Internet access back in the day, as the Internet did not exist then. (I was excited when I got an actual enveloped letter from my GPs, as I knew it would often contain a stick of Juicy Fruit gum as a treat.) The younger crowd, eh, not so much. Postcards were most often sent while traveling. "I was here" the postcards say, in effect. (And you're not, they imply.) Here's proof. Check the postmark. (The poll also confirmed that grandparents are still the primary senders of postcards.)
I have also sent postcards from places I've visited, until I realized that I got back home before the postcards did, so it seemed a little less exotic. (Hey, here's a postcard of Brandenburg Gate! I was just here! Kind of deflating when the card arrives after you do.)
In Picturing Illinois: Twentieth-Century Postcard Art From Chicago to Cairo (University of Illinois Press), editors John Jakle and Keith Schule explore the history of postcard art as a form of popular culture. The images are fascinating: for Illinois, the most popular images are of Chicago, to be sure, however there's some loving attention also given to the more neglected areas of the state.
Here's a passage from the introduction:
So, young'uns, if you love your GPs, forego the SMS via your phone and send them a real text message: on a postcard, with handwritten I love you and miss you. Wish you were here!
On to some images from the book:
The State Street subway in the 40s was much more colorful. And cleaner.
Nothing quite says "Wish you were here" like images of the city on fire . . .
. . . unless it's dangling cow carcasses.
Lincoln Park, steampunk era.
Apparently in the 1930s, Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois in downstate Champaign was surrounded by lakes and mountains.
And lookee here, there's even one of my little downstate hometown of Pana, Illinois. I think that truck on the right is still parked there.
And if you've read this far, maybe you'd be interested in checking out Neil Gale's digital Chicago postcard museum.