Victorian Easter Postcards
When I was a girl, my grandmother moved from a home that included “attic treasure” collected from four generations of packrats.
One of the finds I discovered was a horde of Victorian and vintage postcards, dating from 1898—when Congress set the stage for the postcard-sending craze by lowering the cost of postage to one cent—into the 1930s.
It’s difficult to see from the photos, but these postcards are three-dimensional, with raised imprints printed on sturdy card stock. The colors are vivid, though the ink from the fountain pens is faded and the surface of the cards is dusty.
My grandmother’s collection contained cards designed for holidays, birthdays, places visited—even comic themes and famous people.
In honor of Easter week, I’ve chosen to present two:
The postcard on the left, “Loving Easter Wishes,” is printed in Germany, at that time the world center of lithography.
The postcard on the left is a “Ralph Tuck & Sons “Flower Sprays” Postcard No. 678, designed in England, chromographed in Saxony.”
Both cards are printed pre-1907, which means they lack the divided back common in today’s postcards. That’s why the sender wrote on the front, over the picture—because legally, until March 1, 1907, only the recipient’s address could be written on the reverse side. Any personal message had to appear on the front of the card.
When I found the postcards, I had no idea who these people recorded were—either sender or recipient. I was the stamp collector in the family, so I chose to keep the cards for the stamps.
Years later, after I’d discovered the joy of family history research, I realized that these were postcards sent from far-flung family members—uncles, aunts, and cousins—and that I knew who these people were! Using the cards, I was able to further flesh out their lives, their movements, their connections.
The postcard on the left was sent to my grandmother, Ruth Isabel Turner of Haverhill, Massachusetts, for her first Easter when she was just one year old.
The postcard on the right was sent to Ruth’s mother, Jessie (MacVicar) Turner, from her sister Sarah MacVicar, visiting New York at the time. Her card reads, “Easter Greetings and this little flower will tell you the rest.” —Sarah. (The ‘little flower’ is a bunch of forget-me-nots.)
The sisters were both born in Mira Ferry, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia in the 1860s, but chose to leave for economic opportunities, first in Boston during the 1890s, and in Sarah’s case, farther away to Providence, Rhode Island.
Sarah’s obituary in the Cape Breton Post, 1960, February 13, page 7, reads, in part, “Miss Sarah MacVicar, who was secretary to governors of Rhode Island for 35 years, died at the Community Lodge Friday after a lengthy illness. She was 90.”