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1930s & Earlier / Penny Postcards
In 1873 American postmaster John Creswell introduced the first pre-stamped penny postcards. These first postcards depicted the Interstate Industrial Exposition that took place in Chicago that year. The postcards were made because people were looking for an easier way to send quick notes. They were an instant hit with the public. The first postcard to be printed as a souvenir in the United States was created in 1893 to advertise the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The Post Office was the only establishment allowed to print postcards, and it held its monopoly until May 19, 1898, when Congress passed the Private Mailing Card Act which allowed private publishers and printers to produce postcards. Initially, the United States government prohibited private companies from calling their cards 'postcards,' so they were instead known as 'souvenir cards.' To adhere to the law, these cards had to be labeled 'Private Mailing Cards.' This prohibition was finally rescinded in December 24, 1901 when private companies could legally use the word 'postcard' as they pleased. The golden age of American postcards lasted until 1915. In 1908 alone, more than 677 million postcards were mailed in the United States. Below is a sample from 1905.