Picture postcards, the postman’s favourite mail

Some people collect stickers of star footballers, others prefer the foil tops on cream pots. Liny Picard hoarded picture postcards. How fortunate for posterity, as these cards allow us to take a look at Switzerland at the turn of the 20th century.

Andrej Abplanalp

Andrej Abplanalp

Historian and communications chief of the Swiss National Museum.

Liny Picard (1885–1974) began collecting Swiss picture postcards at the tender age of eleven. She amassed some 700 cards from the period between 1896 and 1909. After her schooling in Zurich, Liny attended a girls’ boarding school in Neuchâtel and then a domestic science school in Herisau. The friendships she made in both places are reflected in mutual postcard greetings. Many cards in the collection demonstrate the picture postcard boom around the start of the century in an exemplary fashion.

In 1902, there were 22 million picture postcards sent in Switzerland. Eight million of these had been produced in our own country. This made Switzerland the European record holder for picture postcard deliveries. The picture postcard fever which broke out at the end of the 19th century gripped all sections of the population and was directly associated with the blossoming tourist industry. Thanks to the expansion of the rail network, lower fares and rising incomes, more and more people were able to travel. In doing so, they came across magnificent station buildings, post offices and grand hotels, which dominated the cityscapes and were popular subjects for the picture postcards. It became almost mandatory to send greetings home, and this also pleased the postman, who was able to enjoy the lovely views as well.

Prior to the introduction of the telephone, post was delivered several times a day. So, it is not surprising that even appointments at short notice were arranged by picture postcard. These days, meetings are certainly no longer organised by postcard, but as a colourful holiday greeting the postcard remains far from redundant. Especially since people can now send postcards they have created themselves using various apps.

So, enjoy the summer holidays and write a postcard (again). The postman will thank you for it.

A few examples from Liny Picard’s huge haul of postcards. Photos: Swiss National Museum

Further posts

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Swiss National Museum
Landesmuseum Zürich
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Swiss National Museum

Three museums – the National Museum Zurich, the Castle of Prangins and the Forum of Swiss History Schwyz – as well as the collections centre in Affoltern am Albis – are united under the umbrella of the Swiss National Museum (SNM).