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

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hello? Hello? TELEPHONES on Postcards

Thomas J. Watson Sr. who  built the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) into the largest manufacturer of electric typewriters and data-processing equipment in the world, said he could see a worldwide market for 5 computers...so even someone deeply involved in technology could have a blind spot about the value of a new development.

We shouldn't be surprised, then, to learn that some folks at the turn of the century weren't sure what benefit those new-fangled telephones might provide.    Postcards tracked the progress of the telephone from the start of the 1900s, and this post covers just a few of the telephone's appearances on antique and vintage postcards.

These first four postcards advertise how the telephone could be of help in the home - they are from a set of 12  that describes crises averted and convenience added to the homeowner's life through the addition of a telephone to the household.  Of course, we still reach for the phone when we need a taxi, a plumber, or hear someone prowling about the door, as in the last postcard. But a different life at the turn of the century is illuminated by the 3rd postcard - When Servants Fail You - a life unfamiliar to most of us.  These are undivided back early postcards.  The ones we have that have been mailed are postmarked from 1903 to 1915.  On the back, in the top center, each one has the Bell Telephone logo.

The Bell Telephone colorful flat cards are quite dramatic and make a fun collection - the images include a Bell Telephone booth in a busy train station, "Keeps the traveler in touch with home"...a lady at home vignetted against a crowded street, "Into the heart of the shopping district by Bell Telephone"...a lady calling the grocer from her house, "The convenience of marketing"...and more.  The last one mentioned here is signed by the artist, MacLellan; we have one other signed card by a different artist, and some of the postcards have no signature.  Still, they share a common style and go well together as a group.

As telephones became more common in people's homes, other cards were produced to promote their use.  Here is a lady who may wish she had let her fingers do the walking, and an announcement card to send friends letting them know your new telephone number.  The date on the announcement card is 191_, so it was intended for use beginning after 1909.

The following postcard from the Colorado Telephone Company encourages the homeowner to add an extension to prevent hurrying down the stairs to answer a call if only one telephone has been installed.  The vivid artwork is signed at lower right.

 As the telephone made an impact on everyday life, it made an appearance in holiday, real photo and greeting postcards - in another post we will take a closer look at how the telephone entered postcard designs in whimsical, saucy and artistic ways. 

Price estimates:  We paid between $5 and $12 for the postcards shown in this post - as always, careful shopping will help you save money on your collection.  However, technology-related postcards are increasing in value, so if they interest you we encourage you to begin collecting sooner rather than later!  Remember, these are only estimates.

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