We are always buying postcards and photos from before 1950 - email us at circa1910@tampabay.rr.com.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

You AUTO Be With Me

Anyone who collects Victorian postcards knows that the collectors of that era were not all prudes and that sexually suggestive puns abound in antique postcard designs. There’s a great variety of automobile postcards with this underlying theme; we introduce a few in this post.

The automobile drove in a new age of sex and romance – on the roads and in early postcard images through the end of the 1920s. While courting couples’ “spooning” had previously taken place in the parlor or on the front porch, under the watchful eyes of the older generation, the growing popularity of automobiles meant that young folks could take a drive far from their traditional chaperones. Once out on the road, romance blossomed without old-fashioned constraints, and sexual exploration could take place in privacy.

Since automobiles were machines and therefore belonged to the world of men, just the idea of a woman driver was considered provocative. Women did learn to drive, however, and they were clearly also aware of the freedom and romantic potential in the automobile. See our lady seated in her beau’s lap, Learning How to Run A Car. In the early days of open automobiles, ladies wore protective motoring outfits, complete with leather gloves and hats wrapped with long scarves. At the top of the page, we see a beauty in a long dress, wearing a red hat to match her bright red automobile, with the come-hither phrase, You Auto Be With Me. This caption graced greetings and Valentines, combining pretty women with snazzy cars.

“Sparking” took the place of “spooning” as a term for cuddling and kissing, and allusions to the “sparker” or spark plug were common.  In the image of the woman leaning forward to kiss the driver from the back seat, the caption is While The Sparker Ceases to Spark. At least the mechanical one has!
We find a daring pun on the Wells postcard, copyright 1907, of a demure Gibson-girl beauty in full motoring outfit, with the caption You May Go As Far As You Like in My Auto. Of course, we still see car commercials today that try to add sex appeal to advertising. But when it comes to postcard collecting, we like the witty way our grandparents had of bringing romance and automobiles together. Two elegant images of couples out in an open auto on PFB (Paul Finkenrath Berlin publishers) embossed postcards offer poetic descriptions of just how private  and romantic motoring could be: We pass the birds on flashing wing and leave them far behind us – We rush along with merry song. ‘Twill puzzle you to find us….No time to waste! There are, these days, no horses but horse-power. Our seat we take and love we make at sixty miles an hour!

Considering that the current owners of the famed Model T seem to agree on the Model T Ford Forum that the optimum speed in one of these classic cruisers is between 25 and 40 mph, either our postcard lovebirds are fantasizing or they are driving a souped-up European car.

Our last entry, the RPPC (Real Photo Post Card) of the sexy young flapper, is a glamorous example from this collecting genre.

Automobile theme postcards are easy to find and fun to collect. Not all are romantic. There are some witty cartoon cards criticizing Ford’s reliability with hapless motorists trying to fix automobiles that have left them stranded and auto owners bemoaning that their entire income goes to keeping their automobile running.

Price estimates: Most auto cards are flat and cost between $4.00 - $8.00. The PFB cards shown here have exceptional artwork and detailed embossing, but they can still be acquired for $10.00 each or less. As always, estimates are for postcards in EXCELLENT condition, and they are estimates of current prices only. A word on condition – the Wells copyright postcard of the Gibson Girl has ‘album corners’ – discoloration where the postcard was once kept in a postcard album that had slots to hold the cards in the paper pages. It is not in excellent condition because the album corners and the partial cancellation on the front of the card reduce its value.

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