The Society holds a collection of approximately 115,000 picture postcards, most of them dating from the 1890s through the 1920s. The postcard format was copyrighted in the United States in 1861 but was not widely used until the 1870s. Most of these postcards were printed in America but many were made in Europe for the United States market. The majority of the postcards in the collection depict the built environment of the North American continent featuring historic structures, tourist sites, and urban scenes. Not all of the postcards were sent through the mail, as many were collected as keepsakes.


The postcard collection is arranged geographically by state and city. There is no finding aide or cataloging available for this collection. For access to the postcard collection, please contact our Readers' Services department or the Curator of Graphic Arts, Lauren Hewes.


Greetings from the Smithsonian: Postcard History, Smithsonian Institution Archives

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