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Sawyer Free Library, Gloucester, Mass.

Fishing boats in port, Gloucester, Mass. Fishing boats in port, Gloucester, Mass.

History of postcards


In 1861, John P. Charlton of Philadelphia copyrighted a private postal card. He transferred his copyright to H. L. Lipman who began producing and selling postal cards. One side was left blank for a message and the other side for the address and stamp. Businesses put illustrations or messages on them for advertising. In 1873, the United States issued governmental penny postal cards. During the 1893 Columbian Exposition - Chicago World’s Fair, picture postcards with images of the exposition became a popular travel souvenir. Over the decades, the practice of sending vacation postcards to friends and family evolved and continues to be popular. Postcards became a way of not only communicating while on the road, but a form of entertainment when home. Years ago, magazines and newspapers used few illustrations, and small town publications did not use any before about 1915. Postcards filled that void. The album of postcards was the mainstay of the parlor.

Weighing up the catch, Gloucester, Mass. Weighing up the catch, Gloucester, Mass.

Gloucester Postcard Collection


The Gloucester Postcard Collection has over two hundred postcards which show various historical and recreational sites, as well as maritime scenes of Cape Ann during the early to mid-twentieth century. The postcards can give a view of Cape Ann that might of otherwise be lost. Most of what is depicted has now disappeared or greatly changed. For example, a postcard that shows Main Street of Gloucester with carriages, sidewalk barrels, and shops that no longer exists. Cape Ann was once a mecca for resort hotels, which have since been destroyed or converted to other uses. Some of the most interesting postcards deal with the fishery industry. The selling of seafood, the drying of the fish, or the workings of the boats are all depicted. But some postcards speak to the timelessness of a place. Church buildings, City Hall and memorial statues speak to the past, present and future of Cape Ann. The many lighthouses that dot the coastline still exist. And as always, the scenic beauty of the beaches and harbor views that Cape Ann residents get to enjoy every day are represented.

Eastern Point Light, Gloucester, Mass. Eastern Point Light, Gloucester, Mass.

Access to the Postcards


The postcards are available for viewing at the library. In addition, the postcards have been transformed into digital images that can be accessed via this site.

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