Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Vintage Postcard Time No.1

Today we'll take a look at some old postcards from my collection. These have all come from antique stalls at GB Antiques in Lancaster from a recent visit. The Edwardians were great ones for postcards. There was no email and alternatives were expensive. Postcards were a little cheaper than writing a letter and much cheaper than sending a telegram. Telephones had been invented in the 1870s but only started to become popular after World War One when prices came down and in any case telephones that you could carry in your pocket were a long way off yet.

Cameras too were expensive and few and far between as yet. Telephones in the early 1900s were totally rubbish at taking photos. To take photos of people on the not-very-sensitive film of the day, they had to sit still for anything up to two minutes. Many commercial photographers would have special clamps that they would attach to the back of your head so you couldn't move whilst the photo was taken. If you were of a mischievous bent, you could look one way for half the time and then the other way for the other half whilst your head remained steady in the clamp and the photo would look like you had two pupils in each eye! Try doing that with you iPhone! Hah! So with no telephones and very few cameras, people on holiday bought postcards. Sometimes to send to their friends saying things like "Wish you were here" - mostly a lie, but it was cheaper if you only wrote four words... Sometimes, in fact many times, postcards were bought to be kept by the buyer and stuck into an album as a souvenir of the holiday. Which explains why there are so many early postcards with no writing on them. Like this one of Bridlington.

Move up the coast from Bridlington and you come to Scarborough. This card too has not been used. People would hold postcard parties where postcard albums were passed round and used to re-live the excitement of a holiday. Later you would take your own photos and show friends and family your photos on slide film, with a projector and screen in a darkened room. Oh what fun we had... Now we don't have to do that as there are new ways through technology of boring our friends and even people we don't know, via websites and writing er... blogs... er... let's move on!

Postcard manufacturers realised that they could use more than one view on a single card in an attempt to appeal to the natural stinginess of some holiday makers. This card was sent between two sisters who it seems had each gone on holiday but to different places. The postmark is a little indistinct but it was sent on 17 August in either 1913 or 1915. I suspect 1913 really because the other sister had sailed to the Isle of Man and during wartime that might have been a bit more risky! The card was sent care of the recipient's guest house in Douglas.

The message reads: "Dear Sister," (Perhaps the sender was a bit forgetful and couldn't remember her sister's name?) "We arrived safely after a pleasant journey. Are enjoying ourselves immensely. Hope you are doing the same and I hope you had a pleasant voyage. Give my kindest regards to Janey. Your loving sis, Alice xxxxxxxxxxx" (Alice obviously was worried her sister might also be forgetful and either forget she had a sister or didn't realise that Alice was her sister?)

A postcard of Great Yarmouth with hand colouring and a painted cloudscape. Buildings and other details have been picked out in ink. These tricks of the trade are one of the joys of collecting old postcards for me. Night time shots that are just darkened and painted over photos that were taken in broad daylight, with obvious shadows from the sun, the moon in the wrong direction and cars with headlights shining the wrong way are great fun. This card has not been written on or sent through the post, so another collector's item.

A between the wars postcard showing The Pier and Sands, New Brighton. The water is the River Mersey rather than the sea and it's Liverpool that you can see across on the far bank. A collection of masts or cranes and derricks on the left side are on Liverpool Docks. The pier acts as a means of boarding steamers for a trip across the river or up and down the coast.

The card was sent by a child to her aunt in Deepdale, Preston on 12 August 1935. It reads: "Dear Aunty, We landed quite safely and the weather is lovely and we are having a glorious time. We have been in the water all the time and the lodgings are posh. Yours sincerely, Jean." It was quite common for Lancashire folks to say "landed" meaning simply "arrived". I suspect Jean didn't fly from Preston to New Brighton... Also to many people from industrial towns, guest houses did seem posh - some had a toilet on every landing for Pete's sake! At this time many people would still be using a toilet in a little out-house in the back yard.

Another unused card showing the Saxon water mill at Guy's Cliffe in Warwickshire. Postcards were produced at first by small family-owned studios by a single photographer, but then as they became more and more popular some very large firms came into being, employing photographers to take photographs of a region or even around the entire country. Francis Frith is still a very well known and recognisable brand. Tucks, Salmon, John Hinde Studios, Valentine & Sons, and many others sprang up to fulfil the demand.

A multi-view card by Valentines from Ilkley in Yorkshire sent on 10 September 1954 to a friend in Lytham St Annes in Lancashire. Somehow the card managed to get postmarked twice - once in Leeds and once, the day after, in... er... Ilford. Folks in Ilkley were obviously not quite sure where Lancashire was...? The postmark includes a post office advert that reads: "Save time. Buy 2½d stamps in books, 3'9d a book" (3 shillings and ninepence - 18.75 pence).

The message reads: "Ilkley 10/9/1954. Up north again, this time to Ilkley where my friends from Leeds have moved to. The country is wonderful round here isn't it? How are the ballet activities your way? I've been twice to Festival Ballet this summer. Bye now and best wishes from Pam."

To finish with for this article we'll go down to the far south of the country to Dover. On this card, sent in 1918, there are still masted sailing ships in Dover Harbour, though most of the vessels here sport the funnels of steam power. There is at least one paddle steamer with side paddle wheels to be found. The castle makes for a dramatic horizon towards the right of the photograph.

The card could easily be from a returning soldier, writing home to his mother in Glasgow. It was written in pencil in a very neat hand: "Dear Mother, I have arrived safe at Dover alright, so I am getting on champion. I met Mary at the station, so she was telling me that she doesn't like her new job. Well this is only a P.C. but I'll write a long letter on Sunday. I remain your affectionate J.M. Rae Dov(er)"

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