Even though we can now video call each other from around the world, the tradition of sending postcards back home when we go on holiday is still going strong.
Postcards are found in gift shops and visitor centres across the UK, but when did they become popular, and why? As the summer holidays end we’re taking a look back at the history of postcards, and highlighting some of our favourites from Stirling’s past. Many thanks to The Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum for sharing these lovely postcards from their collection with us.
In the 1890s British publishers were granted permission by the Royal Mail to manufacture and sell picture postcards which could be send through the post. The first producer of postcards in the UK was ETW Dennis of Scarborough, and as new railways made cross-country travel easier and cheaper than ever, many of the first postcards featured illustrations of people having a fun day out at the seaside. Publishers and photographers across the UK followed suit, creating their own souvenir postcards for sale, aided by advances in photography and printing making the process less expensive and time consuming.
Colourised photographic postcard of Stirling Castle and the King’s Knot, presumably taken at harvest time as we can see hay cut and drying in the foreground. Before the invention of colour film in the 1950s, hand-colouring monochrome photographs was popular as it added vibrancy and realism to photographs. This postcard dates to 1912.
Black and white photographic postcard of Barnton Street, with the Sherriff Court House on the right, built in 1875, and the United Free Church (now Viewfield Parish Church) on the left, built in 1860. This postcard was produced in the 1890s by Stengel & Co. Stengel & Co was a German printing company which became the largest postcard manufacturer in the world in the early 20th century.
Black and white photographic postcard of King Street, looking up towards the Athenaeum, which opened as a library and reading room in 1817 and is now an A Listed building. The British Linen Bank, which opened c.1888, can be seen on the left hand side. This postcard has been dated to c.1908
Black and white photographic postcard of Port Street. This postcard dates to the 1940s, but the image may have been taken earlier. It was produced by Valentine & Sons, a printing company founded in Dundee in 1851 by James Valentine. It grew to become Scotland’s leading postcard manufacturer, and was eventually sold to Hallmark Cards in 1980.
A black and white photographic postcard of Port Street. The Linen Bank at the bottom of King Street can be seen on the right-hand side, as a man walks his sheep up the cobbled road, probably on his way to the market at Wallace Street. The Church in the background was North Church, built in 1842, but demolished in 1971. This postcard dates to around 1910 and was produced by Valentine and Sons.
Stirling’s Old Bridge
A colourful and picturesque landscape painting of Stirling’s Old Bridge. The Cambuskenneth and Riverside areas have inspired artists and writers for centuries. This postcard was produced in the 20th century.
This illustrative postcard depicts the Wallace Monument surrounded by a heart of flowers, which we think might be forget-me-nots, very romantic! On the reverse of this postcard is written: “To Mrs Ivison, 80 Corporation Road, Workington, Cumberland, from “Jas”. This postcard was produced in 1900 by D. & S. K. – Davidson & Son, in Kirkcaldy, Fife, as part of their ‘Hearty Greetings Series’.
Best of Luck from Stirling
This black and white postcard features 4 photographs of Stirling with central image of a black Scottie dog carrying a basket of white heather, a symbol of good luck. It was produced by Valentine & Son and was posted in 1951 to a Mr Wood in York, from George.