Friday, August 21, 2009
RPPC Ships At Sea - Dating Real Photo Postcards
Real photo postcards, (RPPC), are great fun. I love to get out my loupe and see what details I can spot. Recently, some postcards of WWI era ships caught my eye. For those unfamiliar with RPPCs, a brief history: In 1903, Kodak came up with a camera that used postcard-size film, allowing pictures to be printed directly onto postcard backs. Photographers traveled and documented the people, buildings and events they ran across. Ordinary folks who owned a camera would snap all manner of photos of the family, the animals or the farm and have multiple copies printed to send to all the relatives.
Real photo postcards, also known as RPPC, became the Facebook of the day and were most popular up until the 1930s. It was a way to let your out of town relatives know what was going on in your life, see how much the kids had grown, or view the home you'd just built.
It's not uncommon to find RPPCs that were never mailed with no date stated. The good news is that it's fairly easy to verify a time frame for them, thanks to the stamp box. Many companies produced the paper that the cards were printed on. The mark on the back indicating where to place the stamp usually had the company name. The stamp box might be changed over time, and at the respected postcard site Playle.com, there's a comprehensive list showing RPPC stamp boxes with the dates they were produced.
As a fan of "the ocean", Deadliest Catch, and most anything having to do with big water, I find these RPPCs of ships in heavy seas fascinating. Waves crash over the bow and some give such a true sense of the rolling deck that it nearly makes me queasy! I'm no student of naval history, but it's fairly easy to tell that these date from the WWI era. Just to verify, I headed over to Playle's.
The stamp box is from AZO. The center reads "Place Stamp Here" with "AZO" forming the square. In each corner is a triangle. On the top the triangles both point up, and on the bottom they both point down. Using Playle's reference , I can see that this stamp box was used by AZO from 1910-1930. History tells me that these lean toward the early side of that date range.
Next time you run across an undated real photo postcard, give it a closer look. Note the details; any clothing, signs, or vehicles which will help establish the time period. If you get stuck or just want to verify your hunch, head on over to Playle's to find the stamp box. Enjoy the photos!