Back in the early 20th century, long before computers or telephones were standard, postcards were like e-mail. The letter carrier stopped by three or four times each day and postcards were cheap, costing a mere penny to mail. You could send a card in the morning to a friend across the city to set up a date that night. It would arrive around noon, and your friend still had time to confirm before dinner.
Businesses learned that postcards were an easy way to advertise, and might print up thousands, says Jerry McCoy, a D.C. deltiologist (postcard enthusiast). Last week at the Smithsonian’s Postal Museum, McCoy, who works at the Washington, D.C. library’s Washingtoniana division, gave a presentation on what he calls "hometown Washington" postcards.
These old cards go beyond Washington’s iconic monuments, and leave a legacy of businesses, shops and restaurants of a bygone era. They "illustrate how much of our city has grown, changed and disappeared over the last century," he says.