The original Insta: Vintage postcards offer quirky glimpses into the past
Once the antique version of Instagram and just about as popular, postcards are bought and infrequently mailed these days, but are simply saved as trip souvenirs.
The ones from long ago, though, serve as glimpses of the past that can be educational, uplifting and sometimes just plain weird.
The first postcards, or postal cards as they were called in the 1860s, didn't feature images. But by the 1870s, picture postcards emerged, mostly as advertising and travel souvenirs. The first "picture postcard" in the U.S. was created in 1893 to advertise the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Postcards hit their peak in the "golden age" -- about 1910 --and later experienced a resurgence with the "chrome" era, typified by glossy, brightly colored cards featuring color photos.
Postcard collecting -- called deltiology -- is inexpensive and fun. Find them at antiques fairs and flea markets for as little as 50 cents. The more unusual, the more expensive: photos of people have gotten pricier, as have Christmas postcards with vintage Santas and Halloween postcards.
And if you want to exchange postcards with people all over the world, sign up free with Postcrossing. You'll get an address and a postcard ID; mail a postcard to that address. You'll receive a postcard from another Postcrosser; register the number of the postcard you have received and go back to step one for more cards. To date, more than 45 million postcards have been sent.