By CHRIS GODBOLD
Curator of Collections
People living in mid- to late-Victorian (1870-1901) and Edwardian (1901-1910) Texas enjoyed sending postcards. Folding greeting cards, while available, were not widely sent; early postcards were printed with artwork, an advertisement or left without a design on the front. Photos were not added to postcards until around 1900.
Soon Eastman-Kodak and others created cameras that allowed photographs to be printed directly onto the backs of postcards. Postcard sending and collecting exploded in the early 1900s, with the majority of the postcards printed in Europe -- especially Germany. Picture postcards were very popular. In 1908, more than 677 million postcards were mailed in the United States. WWI in Europe ended the supply of postcards from Germany and curtailed the quantity and quality of cards from the rest of Europe. As a result, United States publishers increased their production but manufactured inferior cards. The advent of the telephone also cut into the need to write others. Postcard popularity declined but remained strong.
One popular postcard theme was Christmas. Colorful holiday decorated postcards were plentiful. Many late Victorians did not have many fancy Christmas decorations as these were often imported from Europe and expensive. Instead, they hand made decorations out of materials they had at hand creating paper chains; popcorn strings; embroidered, quilted and lace ornaments; wreaths made from nearby branches; and displays of local flowers. Christmas trees were evergreens that grew locally and were adorned with candles rather than electric lights. Another decorative item was the postcards the family had received. Postcards were placed on tables, mantels and shelves wherever further colorful decoration was needed.
In the 1920s and after Christmas postcards declined as the telephone became more and more popular and use of folded greeting cards grew. In addition, fancier glass ornaments and decorations became widely available. The simple decorations of the past would be replaced by modern glass ornaments, manufactured ribbon, electric lights and trees from across the country.
Funding has been provided to the Fort Bend History Association from Humanities Texas and the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.
Fort Bend Museum Staff