When you think of what’s on the back of a postcard one usually thinks of an address and the quick letter one writes to one another. The written messages wrote to one another in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is both interesting and intriguing, however, most people would not think publishing companies fit this criteria.
Although publishers are neither interesting nor intriguing they are very helpful. The names of publishing companies and when they were in business can be extremely beneficial. The name of the publisher is located on the back of the postcard usually vertically written on the left side. The basic identification of postcards begins with the publisher. Postcards can be dated using the time the publisher existed and was in business. If a collector comes across one postcard, which is part of a set, and he wants to find the rest, it is easy to do so if you know the name of the publisher. Most do not realize how useful knowing information about publishing companies can be.
Since postcards originated in Austria, publishing companies formed in Europe before they did in America. The major publishers in Europe were Wolff Hagelberg, Raphael Tuck and Sons, and Marcus Ward and Company. Wolff Hagelberg was from Berlin Germany and printed some of the more beautiful postcards. He is known for using poems in his cards by E.E. Griffon and M.S. Haycraft in the mid to late 1800’s. Raphael Tuck and Sons had publishing houses in Paris, London, and later in New York. They are most famous for publishing cards for the King and Queen of England. While they were in business from the mid 1800’s to the early 1900’s they published postcards but also books, die-cut cards, fringed silk cards, and scrapbooks. From the mid 1860’s to the mid 1890’s Marcus Ward and Company published postcards in London, England. They published high quality decorative Christmas cards from that time.
Soon the United States caught on and publishing companies started to spring up in the U.S. Locally, some publishers were Nathan H. Foster from Beverly, Daniel Low and Company from Salem who also owned a prominent gold and silversmith shop, Edwin C. McIntire from Gloucester, and L.L. Lester from Lowell. Some of the more famous publishers were The New England News Company, The American Art Postcard Company, The Tichnor Brothers Incorporated, The Hugh C. Leighton Company Manufacturers, and the most recognized The Detroit Publishing Company.
William A. Livingstone and Edwin H. Husher formed the Detroit Publishing Company in 1898. They were the owners to the American rights to a process for lithographically adding color to black and white negatives. The process was known as photocroms or later Aac, and it permitted the mass production of postcards. In the fall of 1897, Livingstone persuaded William Henry Jackson to become a partner in the company. Jackson was a landscape photographer and they added the thousands of negatives produced by Jackson to the Detroit Publishing Company’s inventory. By using Jackson’s file of negatives and the photocrom process to make Jackson’s black and white negatives colorized they became one of the largest American publishers of postcards. The Detroit Publishing Company issued thousands of high quality photographs showing buildings, historical sites, natural landmarks, sports activities, and more. With the declining sale of photographs and postcards during World War I and the introduction of new and cheaper printing methods, the Detroit Publishing Company went out of business in 1924; but not without first leaving an important imprint on the country. By mass-producing their postcards, The DPC allowed many Americans to view places in America that before postcards and the photocrom process existed people would not have been able to see in such color and perfect detail.
Information about publishing companies is extremely helpful to postcard collectors. Publishers can aide in many different things such as finding a particular postcard one desires, dating postcards, and/or find a particular type of cards, an example of this is Christmas cards or a publisher that specialized in the work a of a certain artist. Obviously publishers do not appear to be important although when you think of the bigger picture you discover that publishers were and still are very important.
Carol Johnson, “Detroit Publishing Company Collection”, April 1998, <http://lcweb.loc.gov/rr/print/202_detr.html#back> (Oct. 02)
“History of Chirstmas Cards”, <http://www.livaudaisnet.com/xmas/xmascard04b.htm> (Oct. 02)
Next chapter: Modern day postcards