Tuesday, August 4, 2009

View Postcard Types - Festival of Postcards - Minneapolis River and Lake Views

Since this month's Festival of Postcards is dedicated to WATER topics, I will illustrate the various types of view postcards with postcards from my Minneapolis postcard collection. Minneapolis is known as the "City of Lakes" and is located on the Mississippi River, so many Minneapolis postcards feature water scenes.

The most common type of view postcard is based on a photograph but actually is an image printed on ordinary paper on a printing press. Early printed postcards are based on black and white photos, either with or without added color. Later postcards are based on color photos.

Another type of postcard is the "real photo" postcard. Real photo postcards are printed directly on photographic paper from negatives.
Real photo postcards were popular for snapshots and studio portraits, especially before 1920. Real photo postcards can be distinguished visually by the way the image looks when magnified. Real photo postcards have continuous gradations of tone, while printed postcards have a dot or grain pattern. There are usually differences on the back of the postcard also that differentiate real photos and printed postcards.
This is an example of a real photo postcard. It shows "Y.P.S. Annual Outing July 14, '09, Swedish Salem Luth church at Lake Harriet." The stampbox on the back is bordered by the word "AZO" which was a popular type of photo paper used for postcards.
Collectors also classify postcards by the era in which they were produced. The following descriptions of postcard eras apply mainly to postcards sold in the United States. There is some overlapping of dates, especially with "linens" and "chromes," both of which were common in the mid-1950s.

Early Twentieth Century

The period from the beginning of the twentieth century until about 1913 is considered the Golden Age of postcards. Postcard collecting was a big fad during this period, and many postcards were saved. Prior to World War I, most of the quality postcards were printed in Europe. Postcard views from this era usually have good detail, deep colors, and no border. Real photo postcards were made in limited quantities on a variety of local subjects. Snapshots and portraits were also printed as postcards on photographic paper.

This example of an early twentieth-century postcard shows the "Milling District, Great Northern Railway Bridge and St. Anthony Falls."
White Border

White Border postcards were made mainly from about 1913 to 1932. Most of the postcards from this era are views with a white border around the picture and lighter colors. The printing is usually not as attractive as that on earlier postcards. Card stock usually has a smooth non-glossy surface. The white border made the cards easier to cut apart after printing. (Postcards from other eras sometimes have white borders, but would not be considered a "white border" type).

This example of a white border postcard shows "Canoeing on Lake of the Isles." According to the description on the back "Canoeing is a favorite sport in Minneapolis, and this is one of the seven lakes where canoeing is enjoyed during the summer season."


From about 1933 until the early 1950s most U.S. views and comics were printed on card stock with a linen texture on the picture side. The colors were usually bright or even gaudy. Real photos of tourist areas were also fairly common in this era. The real photo postcards from this period are almost always views and tend to be glossier and more contrasty than earlier ones.

This example of a linen postcard shows a "Barge Fleet Coming Through Locks of Mississippi at Ford Plant." This lock is between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Standard Chrome

Chrome postcards have a glossy surface and are based on color photos. This type of postcard was first made in 1939, but was not dominant until the mid-1950s. Most U.S. postcards were "standard" size, approximately 3-1/2 X 5-1/2 inches, until the mid-1970s. Most standard size chrome postcards do not have titles on the picture side of the card.

This is an example of a standard size chrome postcard. It is also an example of the Name Band style of "Greetings From" postcards that replaced the Large Letter style of "Greetings From" postcards and were popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It pictures the Third Ave. Bridge over the Mississippi River near downtown Minneapolis and Sailboating on Lake Calhoun.

Continental Modern

Continental size postcards are approximately 4 X 6 inches. This size is called "continental" because it was common in Europe earlier than in the United States. Most, but not all, of the postcards sold in the U.S. since the mid-1970s are this size.

This example of a continental postcard is circa 1987. The view is described on the back as "Minneapolis, Minnesota skyline with the IDS towering above the remainder of the buildings. The Mississippi River and the Metrodome are also shown in the view." This is the only postcard I have that shows the old 35W Bridge that collapsed on August 1, 2007. The bridge in the foreground is the Tenth Avenue Bridge. Just above that is the 35W Bridge.

The YouTube video shows local TV news coverage of the bridge collapse. Much of the first half of the video takes place on the Tenth Avenue Bridge. The large red brick building is Florence Court, an old apartment building where I used to live.

This post was written forA Canadian Family
A Festival of Postcards Blog Carnival

4th Edition, August 2009: Water


  1. Amazing post, thank you so much for very interesting information!!! Loved all of your postcards as always!

  2. Great post! I learned some things I didn't know about postcards. Great choices for the theme!


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