The 'Golden Age' 1889-1914
The first British postcards were introduced in 1870 by the Post Office. These objects were produced with the sole purpose of communication, blank on the front and back, with a pre-printed stamp, ready for use. The picture postcard as we now recognise it appeared in Britain in 1894 transforming the purpose and history of the postcard, the post office allowing others to publish and print their own postcards, using images on one side of the card and the correspondence and address on the other. The 'Golden Age', a period covering 1889-1914, began with the popularity boosting Paris Exhibition and came to an abrupt end in 1914 with the outbreak of war, the leisurely and informal approach to communication was ended as essential communication resumed through the formality of letters. After such a devastating war the desire to engage in leisurely travel and write and send postcards was no longer a priority for people who were recovering from war.
The postcards featured in the Postcard Gallery are typical of the period in which they cover, scenic views and points of interest, landscapes, towns and cities, the precursor to today’s tourist postcard standard. Looking at the number of publishers featured in the RTSA collection we can explore the popularity of postcards of the period, the number of different publishers producing postcards of Settle, North Yorkshire indicate that there was high demand for the picture postcard in this area. The postcard although still popular today with tourists was of overwhelming popularity in the golden age, annually reaching millions, mass produced in the period of consumer culture.
Travel was an activity of leisure during the golden age, a period when advertising was promoting travel destinations nationwide, the railway was allowing more of the population to discover the country by an affordable means. Travelling created distance, removing the verbal communication and with limited telephone communication available to all classes, written means were still the most widely viable. Postcards over writing letters allowed a memento to be sent, a souvenir in itself, used for advertising in some examples. The picture postcard as memento is applicable to both the sender as well as the recipient, many of the postcards in the collection are unused, significant in understanding the reasoning behind the buying and collecting of postcards.