Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger, postcard, end of 19th century.
Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger, postcard, end of 19th century. Swiss National Museum

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.
Greetings from the Rhine Falls. The postcard was sent in 1898.
Greetings from the Rhine Falls. The postcard was sent in 1898. Swiss National Museum
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.
Postcard to Liny Picard, 1898.
Postcard to Liny Picard, 1898. Swiss National Museum
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.

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