Postcards From the Farm

Postcards helped keep folks in touch just as email does today.

| March 2002

A hundred years ago, postcards helped keep folks in touch just as email does today. The idea is the same  but the postcards are more enduring. Sometimes, they're quite beautiful too.

Farm folks in particular, perhaps because of their often-isolated farmsteads, came to rely on postcards for a quick 'hello.' As a consequence, manufacturers of all things rural soon discovered that postcards were an effective way to advertise.

Today, antique picture postcards and trade cards that feature farming and farm equipment remain an important link to our collective rural past.

Trade or advertising cards were printed by the thousands from the 1870s through the early 1900s, and given away over the counter by storekeepers and at such public events as fairs. Their most important attribute is their outstanding colors, which resulted from a recently perfected printing process of that time.

Picture postcards debuted at the 1893-94 Columbian World's Fair in Chicago, paving the way for the 'Golden Age' of postcards, which ran roughly from 1905 to 1915. During this same period, tremendous improvements began to be made to farm equipment. The changes can be documented on postcards from that time right through the present day. The heyday of farm trade or advertising cards peaked in the 1940s.

Today, the neat thing for many collectors is that cards popular during their fathers' and grandfathers' days on the farm show equipment and scenes of that era.