Lancaster University

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Edwardian postcards were the Twitter of their day say researchers

10/29/2010 00:00:00


One of the six billion postcards sent during the Edwardian era
One of the six billion postcards sent during the Edwardian era

The Edwardian postcard was the Twitter of its day according to researchers from Lancaster University. Six billion were sent during the early years of the twentieth century, with up to six deliveries a day.

Some of these postcards will be for sale at a Postcard Fair open to the public which is being jointly organised by Lancaster University and the Red Rose Postcard Club of Preston.

The event also includes a comparison of postcards a hundred years ago and today’s digital revolution where people use instant messaging like Twitter.

Dr Julia Gillen of Lancaster University’s Literacy Research Centre said: “The Edwardian postcard was equivalent in some ways to the text message of its day. People sometimes used them to write very short messages, knowing that cards would be delivered very promptly. Since there were several deliveries a day in towns, some cards were delivered on the same day.”

This is shown in a postcard from 1911 written by James Haigh of Blackpool who used it to send a message to his mother in Manchester saying, "Dear Mother, I am very glad to say I shall be coming home in the morning (Sunday) before dinner."

He must have known his postcard would arrive before he did.

And in 1907, a postcard bearing the words “Don’t look so serious keep your heart up” was sent to Polly Bibby, a 27 year old cotton cloth weaver who lived with her parents, two sisters and a brother in Bolton. The 1891 census shows that Polly was working as a cotton operative from the age of 12 and in 1910, she married a fellow worker, Joseph Brierly.

The 8 word message was similar to today’s use of Twitter where people post short messages.

Dr Gillen said: “Even today, most of our text messages do not have images attached, whereas in Edwardian times there was a tremendous choice of pictures available, very cheaply. “