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December 9, 2012

Postcard collection spans many years

A couple months ago, a young girl we know asked for people to mail her postcards for a school project. While on vacation in Myrtle Beach, we sent Elliana Bowlen a picture postcard. It costs more than a penny these days.

Let’s get the nomenclature out of the way. Deltiology might be a new word for you. My dictionary defines it as “the collection and study of postcards.”

George Carlin would be proud of all my “stuff.” Postcards are just one category. When I started thinking about this column, I began a mental review of our nooks and crannies. In a box somewhere are several scrapbooks containing holiday postcards from the early 20th century. Most contain the Christmas theme.

On the table next to me are 21 Easter postcards from the same time period. Stuffed in drawers and cabinets around our “Little” house on the river are numerous postcards from the past. I have framed postcard bills and receipts from my maternal great-grandfather, Glode Requa, who ran a lumber yard in Monsey, N.Y., more than a century ago.

A friend recently gifted me with a series of postcards featuring photographs of Plattsburgh back in the day. Another friend dropped some at my door as I wrote this.

Experts might argue with my time line, but I’ll throw it out as a guide. The first private postcard in this country was created in 1861 by John P. Charlton in Philadelphia. The U.S. Postal Service started to issue postcards that were pre-stamped in 1873. From that point till 1898, nobody except the Postal Service was legally allowed to print them. Some early private cards cost 2 cents to mail, same as a letter. Then, a federal law was passed permitting anyone to publish, print and sell postcards. That opened the floodgates for many varieties that could be mailed for just a penny.

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