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Postcards Send Glimpse of Past

Mishawaka postcard
This scene of men herding sheep near Mishawaka is an example of a halftone photo postcard that was colored before printing. The card is postmarked 1916.

A collection of 41 postcards from 1909 to 1953 joins the approximately 15,000 postcards in the IHS collection. Depicting various cities and towns around the state – Elkhart, Fort Wayne, French Lick, Greensburg, Hamilton, Indianapolis, Jeffersonville, LaPorte, Mishawaka, Mitchell, Monticello, Pleasant Lake, Richmond, Rushville, South Bend, Terre Haute, Vincennes and West Baden Springs – the postcards offer a charming look at the past.

The postcard has its origins in the 1860s, but it wasn’t until 1873 that the U.S. Postal Service began issuing pre-stamped postal cards. In 1898, Congress passed the Private Mailing Card Act, allowing private publishers to produce postcards and reducing their postage rate from 2 cents to 1. The popularity of the postcard soared.

 In 1902, the Eastman Kodak Co. started manufacturing postcard-sized photographic paper on which images could be printed from negatives. This allowed people to have portrait postcards made to send and photographers in smaller towns to make postcards of local scenes and events to sell.

Pleasant Lake postcard
Main Street in Pleasant Lake is pictured here on a printed postcard circa 1900 to 1910, a decade which marked a sharp rise in the postcard's popularity.

By 1908, nearly 678 million postcards were mailed in one year – while the U.S. population was just 88.7 million