Guide to the MAH Postcard Collection (1900s – 1980s) – History

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The history of picture postcards in the United States started in 1873 with postcards developed by the Morgan Envelope Factory of Springfield, Massachusetts.  These first postcards depicted Interstate Industrial Exposition that took place in Chicago.  The development and use of postcards continued to grow – in 1873 Post Master John Creswell introduced the first pre-stamped “penny postcards”.  Souvenir postcards were introduced in the United States in 1893 to advertise the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Initially the Post Office was the institution allowed to print postcards, holding this monopoly until May 19, 1898.  Congress passed the Private Mailing Card Act allowing private publishers and printers to produce postcards. Until December 24, 1901 these cards were known as ‘souvenir cards’ and had to be labeled as ‘Private Mailing Cards’.

There are two distinct eras for postcards.  The first is pre-1907, during this time postcards were not allowed to have a divided back correspondents could only write on the front of the postcard. This was known as the “undivided back” era of postcards. From March 1, 1907 the Post Office allowed private citizens to write on the address side of a postcard.  It was on this date that postcards were allowed to have a “divided back”.

Before 1903 any picture postcards produced generally used glass plate negatives and cropping of the image to size.  In 1903 Kodak introduced the No 3A Folding Pocket Camera which produced negatives sized to postcards, 3 ½” x 5 ½”.  In 1907 Kodak pioneered a service for the general public, ‘Real Photo Postcards.’  This service allowed the public to create a postcard from any photo they took.

One method for dating postcards is to check the postmark.  The other method is to look at the characteristics of the card, a range of dates can be determined.  For example, if there is a stamp box, and it is visible, the table below can be used.





AGFA/ANSCO 1930-1940s
ANSCO 1940-1960 2 Stars at top & bottom
ARGO 1905-1920
ARTURA 1910-1924
AZO 1926-1940s Squares in corners
AZO 1904-1918 4 triangles pointed up
AZO 1918-1930 Triangles 2 up, 2 down
AZO 1907-1909 DIAMONDS in corners
AZO 1922-1926 Empty Corners
CYKO 1904-1920s
DEFENDER 1910-1920 Diamond above & below
DEFENDER 1920-1945 Diamond inside
Devolite Peerless 1950-
DOPS 1925-1942
Du Pont 1945-1950s
EKC 1939-1950
EKKP 1904-1950
EKO 1942-1970
KRUXO 1907-1920s
KRUXO 1910-1920s Xs in corners
NOKO 1907-1920s
PMO 1907-1915
SAILBOAT 1905-1908 Sailboat in circle
SOLIO 1903-1920s Diamonds in corners
VELOX 1907-1914 Diamonds in corners
VELOX 1901-1914 Squares in corners
VELOX 1909-1914 Triangles: 4 pointed Up
VITAVA 1925-1934


The following website provides information on the appearance and dating of postcards,

This website provides some information on the dating of postcards,