The Role of  Imagery 

                                         on the development                               

                                            Popular Landscape Tourism 

                                                                                                                                                                          by Jorge D. Goldfarb 


Part III:                                                         The Postcard 

                                                                                                  The White Horse Inn at Edinburgh


                                                                                                                                                                                            Donald Lindgren and The European Library ©



        The above is an example of an early postcard; it was done by Roger Phillmore around 1896. 

                                         For more details about Phillmore's and other early postcards  see Peter Stubb's website EdinPhoto   at this Link



     As a continuation of the series on the role of imagery on the development of popular landscape tourism we deal in this feature on perhaps the most important contrivance of all: Postcards. Since their “invention, they became an integral part of tourist trips in general and of trips for landscape sightseeing in particular.

   I’'m telling this story mostly for the benefit of my younger readers. The older set may have lived through what may be called the Golden Age of tourist postcards, which started roundabout 1910 and lasted well into the 1950’s. Tourist trips were then carried out at a much leisurely pace than the frenetic ones of the present; most of the afternoons were spent on leisurely writing on the postcard's reverse, notes for friends or family, either at the Hotel or the benches of the local Post Office.  In our days tourists still buy postcards but, in the age of video films, e-mail photos and the like, they are nowadays just one minor component of our incentives for traveling wide and far.


    Round about the first decades of the 20th century, few people owned cameras and, of the ones that did, few were good photographers. The postcard (more precisely the “Real Photo Card”; usually copies of shots of professional photographers) offered then a visual memento of places they  had visited and, as such, included in “postcard albums” that were treasured in every home. This was although of minor importance compared to their main use: as devices to tell our friends, relatives, neighbors and acquaintances where we were; a simple and cheap device to tell to some that we remembered them and, not the least, to arouse the envy of others. which, thus tempted, would start thinking about travelling.


    If I had a poetic streak (which I don'’t), I’ would write an Ode to the Postcard. For a few pennies or cents you could send a souvenir to your loved ones with the classic line:

                                                        “I wish you were here!

  And, for the benefit of countless others,  the hypocritical lines:

                                                                                           “I wish you could see this! So beautiful!!…” 

scribbled in the back, with the pleasurable feeling of imagining the recipient green with envy. 

       (However, as such, Postcards were really relatively innocent and harmless compared with other devices that later became an integral part  of second-hand tourism.  I am talking of such fiendish occasions where the recently travelled tourists inflict on their friends interminable slide shows, intermixed with personal anecdotes, {superseded later by the  screening of lengthy video tapes of the places visited by the hosts}. Compared with those modern ways of torturing relatives, friends, neighbors and acquaintances, the postcards had a sort of pristine innocence.


Some early examples (about the first decade of the last century):


         I don't see much point in dealing  here with the History of the Postcard since there are several websites with erudite accounts of it. The  interested reader is referred to; amongst others: 

     What may be of interest though is to dwell shortly on the connections between Postcards and popular landscape tourism. First of all, in common with tourism in general, the possibility of actually sending them was a powerful incentive for traveling far away (you may laugh at it but I remember many a tourism trip of my older relatives ruined, not by bad weather but by a local Post Office strike; the postcards were meant to be posted from afar, not delivered by hand). Second, more than its predecessors like landscape posters and photochromes, the postcard was instrumental in “popularizing” landscapes; here you had usually good photographic ability (since postcards were usually copies of photos from professional photographers)  combined with a diffusion unconceivable at earlier periods. 


    There are few records of number of postcards sold worldwide per year, suffice it to say that in the  USA in the 1920’s close to fifty million (excluding greeting cards) were sold .

    Hard to know how many of those were scenic views or landscapes but certainly myriads of landscape images were delivered on POB’s in the period between the two world wars. Cinema always have been more urban than countryside oriented; National Geographic and BBC “nature films” were not yet in out TV screens so that, among the imagery of landscapes it was the postcard that reigned supreme.

  and the last and prettiest: 

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