the romance of postcards.

A handwritten note affixed with an exotic stamp traveling from some faraway destination. Snapshots of a trip packed with much more adventure than four lines of text on a 3 1/2 by 5 inch card could possibly communicate. But for the girls, short stories written on a postcard are more than enough to fill up their imaginations.

Each day, eager feet race to the mailbox looking for something with their name on it. When a real letter or postcard arrives, eyes light up, little feet jump up and down, and squeals abound.

The US mail wasn’t always this simple and fast. Looking back to the 1800s, sending and receiving mail was complicated and slow. Cross-country mail either went by stagecoach for 25 days or on a ship around the tip of South America, which took months to arrive. Around the mid-1800s, the Pony Express could deliver your mail from St. Louis to Sacramento in just ten days for five dollars per half ounce. However, the Express was short-lived, when the Pacific Telegraph Company installed their coast-to-coast communication lines and the transcontinental railroad was completed. The mail now forever connected between East and West.

American postcards were also first developed in the late 1800s. They were created as a simple way to send quick notes.

In 1893, the first official postcard to be printed was a souvenir and advertisement for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Also introduced that year at the fair were Juicy Fruit gum, Cracker Jacks, the automatic dishwasher, and the Ferris wheel.

Pre-World’s Columbian Exposition 1893 – Woman’s Building Postcard
Courtesy of the Chicago Postcard Museum

It wasn’t until 1939 that the modern-day postcard was born. This is considered the “chrome” era of postcards and they are still used today. Modern day postcards are generally photographs of people, places, and things and are easily recognizable by the glossy appearance of the paper.

So, whom do the girls get postcards from? Usually my parents send a steady supply from lands faraway. They are world travelers and always take the time to send postcards from they visit. I really appreciate the effort because in this day and age of email and texts, there is a real joy in receiving a postcard.

My parents’ last adventure was to Norway and the Arctic Circle. First to arrive in the mailbox were two postcards, somewhat worn from their long journey. There was a picture of a polar bear on one and a moose tramping through the wilderness on the other. Up in the right hand corner was a stamp with a small otter swimming. The stamp cost 15 Kroner or approximately $2.45 to send it across the globe to our front door. To the left of the stamp was a short note.

Hello Ava! I hope to take a picture of a polar bear just like the one in this picture. We had lunch at the beautiful new opera house. The building is shaped like an iceberg! Good museums here, Kon Tiki and Fram. Tell mommy to look them up on the Internet. Love Grandma and Grandpa

And so I did, searching for each landmark and teaching the girls about Norway; giving a piece of their heritage as their great-great grandfather was born there.

The last postcard was addressed to Mia and came from far up north in the Arctic. She wrote about their ship crossing over the Arctic Circle seven times in 24 hours. Amazing, we thought.

Funny thing about mail, the Arctic Circle postcards from didn’t arrive until after my parents had already returned home. Tiny rectangles stacked tightly in a canvas bag. Filed deep down inside a slow moving cargo ship. Working their way towards our shore and onto a waiting US mail truck. Finally delivered to our home, where my daughters grabbed them eagerly out of our flowered mailbox.

Postcards are a wonderful tradition and I certainly hope they don’t get lost in the I-need-it-now world of electronic communications.

For the thoughtfulness of a small handwritten postcard is priceless.

2 thoughts on “the romance of postcards.

  1. The joy of happy little girls! Such lovely images. Thank you.
    PS I would love to send the girls some postcards from Portland and my road trip to Colorado next month. Feel free to email me your street address 😉

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