Photo Sharing Before Facebook: Studio Portrait Postcards
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Photo Sharing Before Facebook: Studio Portrait Postcards

Family research can be enhanced by using old photographs. Just as Facebook and other sites are used to share family photos, postcards were produced and sent to friends in the early 20th century.

Facebook has become a great way for people to share their photographs with others who live far away. Families can keep in touch with each other by posting their latest photos. But how did family and friends keep in touch with what others were doing before Facebook became so popular?

In the early 1900s picture postcards were all the rage. These were published and purchased at an amazing rate and sent to family, friends and collectors all around the world. Not only were you able to send commercially produced postcards, but you could also arrange to have a studio photographer take photos for you and produce personal postcards, much the same as you can produce personal Christmas cards today. I was surprised a few years ago, to discover that a treasured photo I had of my mother was actually a postcard.

Families were also able to turn their personal photographs into postcards they could send their friends. The process was reasonably simple. After developing the photos, there were simple postcard backs that could be fixed to the back of them. Many families still have some of these postcard photographs of family members and events in their possession.

The more professional ones that name a photography studio are collected because of the name of the photographer or the town from which the photography studio operated. These usually show a complete family, a mother and children, or just the children sitting posing for their photo. Often they were sitting on an elaborately carved chair or standing beside a piece of furniture. During the 1st World War soldiers had a studio portrait taken and were able to send home a picture of themselves in uniform to family and sweethearts.

These photograph postcards are quite sought after today by collectors, social historians, even film makers and writers, as they give an accurate record of fashion, furnishings and other daily life objects. Because of this, I can’t help wondering what the future holds for the digital photographic images we now tend to rake and store electronically.

In a hundred years from now, will those who are interested have access to the photos we take today? Presumably the world will have moved on from Facebook and other such sites where individuals currently place their treasured photographs for others to see. Will those who are interested in preserving information about times long gone by be able to access photos to give them information about daily life in the 21st century?

The postcards of the past have lasted for a century, giving us wonderful glimpses into the past. We need to make sure that permanent visual image records are kept of today for those living in what will no doubt be a different world in the 22nd century.

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Comments (4)

Very good share Val, thank you so much.

There are some things about technology that sadden me, and this is one of them. Up until a few years ago, I was still filling photo albums with photos taken of my family, from over a period of some 40 years, and then of course it changed because technology made it too easy to share over the internet instead. At least I will have access to my mothers albums and my children will be able to pass down these and mine to future generations, but as for theirs? A very interesting and thought provoking article. Thank you.

It does make you wonder what will happen to the minefield of information being stored all over the world wide web... interesting post!

Good work. I have some old ones from my family. The real old ones used silver and they are distinctive in their look. I enjoyed reading this article. Thanks for sharing.