Throwback Thursday: The Evolution of Cartes de Visite to Postcards

Jefferson County Historical Society submitted the following article on the evolution of cartes de visite to postcards.

(Pictured above: Show business entrepreneur Sam Scribner was a Jefferson County fellow, who ended up in New York City managing vaudeville acts. He sent postcard photographs like this one to his many friends.)

Submitted by Carole Briggs:


Individuals once sat for portraits – wealthy individuals that is. Then, photography came along and others could sit for a portrait. Civil War soldiers did and sent their cartes de visite to relatives and young women.

The post office was the only establishment allowed to print postcards until 1898 when Congress passed the Private Mailing Card Act. This allowed others to produce postcards, although initially, the United States government prohibited them being called “postcards.” Until 1901 they were known as “souvenir cards.” Then, instead of a carte de visite, a person could pose and send a printed postcard.

Exhibition pilot Lewis Earle Sandt had photographs taken of himself and his mechanics as he prepared to fly in 1912 and 1913. A young woman, “Miss Edna Frank of Brookville, Pa.” is featured on a postcard with her hands behind her back. Rosalia Kline is attired in a floor-length dress typical of the pre-war period and holds the reins of a horse! In 1917 she was a boarder at 9 First Street.

Sam Scribner was an important entrepreneur among New York theatrical people. When he vacationed at the beach with friends, he and his friends took many photographs and he had postcards printed of several. Were his friends famous?

Both sides of these picture postcards have stories to tell, reminding us of the people, places, and events of days gone by―and even providing little glimpses into the things they considered important. Aren’t you just a bit curious about those friends of Sam Scribner?

Many of the History Center’s collection of nearly 500 postcards have been scanned and may be viewed on the research room’s computers.

[email protected] County Historical Society, Inc.

Submitted by the Jefferson County History Center.

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