Leaflets, Invitations, Postcards, and Greetings Cards

Happy Birthday Dear Postcard!

Finepaper is transforming old ways of enjoying printing into new ways of celebrating communication by organizing a party for the 150th anniversary of a great idea: the postcard.

We're always happy to learn about innovations in printing, both past and present. Turns out we're celebrating the 150th anniversary of the... postcard.

Designed to be an efficient and cost-effective response to letter writing, we now know that postcards can be worth, well, a thousand words. Just as printed books aren't disappearing, people's love for physical mail isn't disappearing either. Therefore, it is good to take a moment to praise the humble and brilliant postcard.

Illustrated postcards played an important role in our adolescent years. Our parents were in the habit of buying the best postcard - in terms of image - to record the places we visited, both abroad and in Portugal. Our father loved photography and took his own photos, but he always liked to look for another photographic point of view as well. Whenever friends went on a trip abroad, we asked them to send us a postcard from where they were traveling. Our parents worked in the hospitality industry and, therefore, had many foreign friends. So we collected postcards until we filled a suitcase. We used to travel around the world while flipping through our postcards. From time to time, at night (the options on television were not the same as today), we would take this suitcase as if we were going on a trip.

“We used to travel around the world while flipping through our postcards.”

The History of Postcards

Tracing the origins of the illustrated postcard is difficult because postcards weren't simply invented — instead, they evolved. Its history is inevitably linked to the development of the postal service, but it also presents innovations in printing and photography, audacious proposals... and even a 300-meter tower!

We tried to chronicle the history of postcards through a timeline of relevant events, going back several centuries to provide the context that culminated in the official issuance and recognition of the postcards by a postal operator on October 1, 1869.

17th to 19th Centuries

After the popularity of printing presses, business cards, invoice headers, stationery, and other types of ephemeral paper began to have illustrations, often with delicate engravings and exquisite designs.

Illustrated bill header receipt from John B. Varick Co. of Manchester, New Hampshire.

As early as 1777, the French engraver Demaison published in Paris a sheet of greeting cards, intended to be cut and sent by local mail, but people were concerned about the servants reading their messages... so the idea was not very well received.


A postal reform in the United Kingdom unified the cost of delivering domestic mail to one cent per envelope, to be prepaid by the sender. The proposals ofSir Rowland Hill they also included that prepayment would be made through sheets printed with adhesive stamps. THE Penny Black, the world's first postage stamp, premiered in May 1840.

Penny Black, Block of Six

Simultaneously, sheets of decorated prepaid cards (similar to today's airgrams) were also offered for sale by mail. These were designed by William Mulready and showed Britannia with a lion at her feet, sending couriers to all parts of the world. While this particular design was unpopular and often ridiculed, this was the first mail-issued postal stationery item that had decorations on the outside. They were replaced the following year by simple pink envelopes, with a penny stamp printed on the corner.

Already that year, Theodore Hook Esq., a British writer, sent himself a Postal workers cartoon shown writing correspondence to sell more stamps. Probably sent as a joke (and delivered against the postal regulations of the time), this could probably be the oldest record of a postcard being sent in the mail.

A few years later, in 1843, Sir Henry Cole produced the first Christmas greeting card, a drawing of himself and his family. This was the year when”A Christmas Carol“by Charles Dickens was published.


At the end of February, the United States Congress passed an act that allowed the mailing of cards printed by private individuals, weighing one ounce or less. Later that year, John P. Charlton, of Philadelphia, patented a postcard and sold the rights to Hymen Lipman (founder of the first envelope company in the USA and inventor of lead pencils and eraser). However, with the start of the Civil War a month later, these Lipman cards, as they became known, were forgotten and were not used until nearly a decade later.

Lipman Card


At the Karlsruhe postal conference, Heinrich von Stephan proposed the creation of “offenes Postblatt” (or open mail sheets)

“The goal was to simplify letter-format etiquette, but also to reduce the labor, paper, and costs involved in sending a short message..”

He suggested introducing a hard card, roughly the size of an envelope, that could be written and mailed without the need for an envelope, with the postage pre-printed.

The idea was not so well received in Germany: the post office feared the complexity and cost of implementing the scheme in all the different states, each issuing its own stamps.

Heinrich von Stephan

His recommendations impressed the Austrian post office, which implemented them on October 1, 1869, resulting in Correspondenz-Karte, a light brown rectangle measuring 8.5x12 cm, with space for the address on the front and space for a short message on the back. The postcard had a two-kreuzer stamp printed on the top right, costing half the price of a regular letter.

The postcard was born!

This excerpt from the history of the postcard brings us to its true origin. If you want to know more details on this subject, you can read the rest of this article hereto.

However, there is one more chapter to add to the story to share with you.

October 1, 2019

We produced and sent a replica of a postcard to some of our friends and partners. Printed in honor of the original Correspondenz-Karte, we were happy to share something that people can keep in their own postcard bags, just like my family did, or in their refrigerators or wherever they like to store beautiful things.

“Finepaper celebrated the 150th anniversary of the postcard and our love for everything related to printing.”

If you want one of these replica postcards, contact us at Finepaper.

*Bibliographic references.

  • Willoughby, Martin, A History of Postcards (1992), Bracken Books, ISBN 1858911621
  • Staff, Frank, The Picture Postcard & Its Origins (1979), Lutterworth Press, ISBN 0718806336
  • Hill, C.W., Picture Postcards (1991), Shire Publications Ltd, ISBN 0747803986
  • Atkins, Guy, Come Home at Once (2014), Bantam Press, ISBN 9780593074145
  • Gruß aus Berlin (1987), Kohler & Amelang, ISBN 3733800087
  • Daltozo, Jose Carlos, Postcard, Art and Magic (2006)
  • MetroPostcard History of Postcards
  • Kosmopolit — Gut Fern Gruss

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