Divided Back Postcard

In 1902, British postal legislation allowed for the divided back postcard, which meant it was possible to write messages on the back of the postcard. Originally, the front of a postcard would have a lithographed image or drawing (primarily lithographed and printed in Germany) and the backside would be used for addresses. With the divided back postcard, the back of the postcard would have a line down it, designating one side for messages, and the other side for the address. Postcards therefore had messages written on them, without compromising the image in front; this available space led to the increased narrative and mass purchasing/selling of postcards.

The boom of the postcard industry compounded with the alienation of German products due to World War I led to the production of “real photo” postcards. “Real photo” postcards were popularized after the invention of the Kodak “postcard camera” which would take pictures and print out a postcard-sized negative of the photograph with a divided back. These postcards had clear images and were often event/local based. Since these postcards were actual photographs, postcard collecting, or deltiology, became extremely popular; people often sent postcards of events on the mass scale as an act of commemoration, proof of attendance, and collectible commodities (Elliott 2003; Petrulis "Post Card").

Lynch postcards were a result of this deltiological obsession with commemorating events and attendance. The image of the dead African American body became mass-produced, collected, sold, bought, and glorified. Beginning the late 19th Century, lynching was already a mass public spectacle. Often times the black body was elevated and visually consumed as a communal activity and as public “entertainment” (Wood 2009, 73).
Elliott, Brent. 2003. “A Brief Guide to the Use of Picture Postcards in Garden History”. Garden History 31 (2). The Garden History Society: 218–24. doi:10.2307/1587297.
Petrulis, Alan. "Post Card (divided back) 1907 - Present." Post Card Undivided. Metro Postcard, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.
"Postcard History." Smithsonian Institution Archives. Smithsonian Institution, n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
Gable, Walter. A History of Picture Postcards. Hempstead, NY: Seneca County Government, 1974. Seneca County, NY. Seneca County. Web. 27 Nov. 2015.
Wood, Amy Louise. “THE SPECTATOR HAS A PICTURE IN HIS MIND TO REMEMBER FOR A LONG TIME: Photography”. 2009. “THE SPECTATOR HAS A PICTURE IN HIS MIND TO REMEMBER FOR A LONG TIME: Photography”. In Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940, 71–112. University of North Carolina Press. doi:10.5149/9780807878118_wood.7.