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The Picture Postcard

A new window into Edwardian Ireland


Ann Wilson

The Picture Postcard, a new window into Edwardian Ireland uses the material culture of the picture postcard as a lens through which to examine life on the island of Ireland during the Edwardian period (1902-10). Picture postcards became extremely popular worldwide at the start of the twentieth century, when literally hundreds of billions of them were produced and sold.

This book draws on postcard collections to access the everyday lives of people who rarely make it into conventional historical narratives, and to make connections in an Irish context between their «small histories» and broader, well-studied discourses such as identity, nationalism, empire, modernity, emigration, tourism and the roles of women.


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Chapter 2 Collections, collectors and collecting


The collecting of picture postcards during the Edwardian period emerged from a range of very diverse collecting practices, and collectors themselves and their motivations also varied considerably. Some saw picture postcards as similar to collectibles such as stamps, coins or cigarette cards, and conferred a higher monetary value on particular examples that were unusual, for instance, or completed a series. The image on the card was important for them, but the postmark could also be significant. Picture postcard collecting, like that of stamps, rocks or butterflies, could also be seen as educational. Children were encouraged to collect as a means of developing their understanding of subjects such as geography, geology and nature, as well as of scientific classification and approaches to understanding the world. Newspapers also reported approvingly on the use of postcard collections in formal education: according to the Ballinrobe Chronicle in 1905 picture postcards were playing ‘a prominent part’ in geography classes in Dutch schools. Collections of cards posted back to schools by teachers travelling abroad proved ‘far more attractive to the child’s eye than the ordinary woodcut in the book or chart on the wall’.1 The same article also noted that Surrey County Council rewarded elementary school children with ‘view’ picture postcards for good attendance and punctuality, and suggested this as a good idea also for Irish National schools. In 1908 the Cork Examiner included a report on the use of postcards as an educational aid in schools in Germany, where ‘postcards illustrative of natural and political...

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