Every year tens of thousands of postcards are sent to and around Australia. Thought to have originated in Austria in 1869, postcards first gained popularity in Australia as a simpler, less formal way of sending short messages to friends and family. The picture postcards we are most familiar with today came around in the 1890s, and quickly became the favourite means for travelers to share their journeys with others and keep a souvenir for themselves.

Many of these postcards, both written on or kept blank, have made their way to the Library over the years. Let’s look at some of the postcards we hold from the first half of the twentieth century and the messages they were sent with.

New year greetings from Barcaldine 

A card to acknowledge the beginning of a new year seems like a good place to start. This card, addressed to Mr. L. D. R. Graham came from the rural town of Barcaldine in central Queensland and features numerous images of the town’s buildings and streets. On the reverse, the sender returns Graham’s ‘greetings in re to a prosperous New Year’ and shares that the area has ‘had splendid rains’. 

Front and back of an old postcard. On the front is the text 'Greetings from Barcaldine' with illustrations from around the town. On the back is a message wishing the recipient a prosperous new year.
Barcaldine, Qld, c. 1900, nla.obj-140673077

Dear Florence 

A common way for postcards to come to the Library is through family postcard collections, which contain those received by the members of the family from others, and those they bought themselves but never sent.

One example is the Noad family postcard collection, 1884-1910, which includes these two postcards sent to Miss Florence A. Noad. The first is a beautiful Christmas card sending ‘Xmas wishes from Coraki’, a small town in New South Wales. While a bit tricky to tell in the photo, the letters and outlines of the floral design are three-dimensional and glitter, and definitely convey the Christmas spirit.

Front and back of an old postcard. On the front is a design with glitter of flowers and a ribbon with glitter text reading 'Xmas wishes from Coraki'. On the back is a message wishing the recipient a merry Christmas
Best wishes from Goraki, greeting card, Australia, c. 1905, nla.cat-vn6376843 

This second postcard has a much longer message, thanking Florence for her postcard and returning her ‘kind congratulations’. The picture shows the crowds gathered for the Governors visit to Morpeth in approximately 1907 and is particularly significant as the sender writes that one of the people on the balcony is Bess, likely a family member or acquaintance.

Front and back of an old postcard. On the front is a black and white photo of crowds gathered around a building. On the back is a long message updating the recipient about the health of the sender's young family members.
Crowds gathered for the Governors visit, Morpeth[?] New South Wales, c. 1907, nla.cat-vn6376843

Happy birthday with love 

Another collection of Australian postcards at the Library came from the Wood family, containing more than a hundred cards gathered and received between 1900 and 1915. Just one of these is this birthday card for ‘Grandma’ from ‘Noreen & Mother’. The image on this card of Macquarie Pier in Newcastle is not only lovely, but it also holds sentimental meaning as Noreen’s message asks, ‘Do you remember the day we went along here Grandma?’ 

Front and back of an old postcard. On the front is an image of a couple walking along a pier extending into the sea. On the back is a birthday message for 'Grandma'
Breakwater and Nobbys, Newcastle, New South Wales, c. 1906, nla.cat-vn6381037 

Many happy returns 

Another recipient of birthday wishes is ‘Ethel’, who was sent this beautiful card from ‘V. & B. Thomas’. The design on this card features two different species of flower, including what looks like lily of the valley, growing around a cannon and is the second card in this blog to have glitter. The message on the reverse reads ‘just a card to wish you very many happy returns of your birthday’.  

Front and back of an old postcard. On the front is the text 'is an illustration of a cannon surrounded by purple and green flowers and the text 'Birthday Greetings'. On the back is a message wishing the recipient many happy returns.
J. Beagles & Co., Birthday greetings card, c. 1915, nla.obj-153093067

From Manly, NSW 

As previously mentioned, postcards initially gained popularity as a means of sharing short messages. Sometimes, however, you can’t help it if you have more to say, as was the case for ‘Aunt Agnes’ in the late 1940s. To her niece, Agnes wrote ‘I am so pleased you did so well at your music, hope when the results come out you have a great big pass.’ Additionally, as Agnes won’t be able to see her niece perform as ‘Snow White’, she asks to hear all about it and maybe see a dress rehearsal someday.

Front and back of an old postcard. On the front is a black and white photo of crowds at Ocean Beach in Manly. On the back is a long message from an aunt to her neice.
Ocean Beach, Manly, c. 1940, nla.cat-vn6329878

Best wishes 

This is just a sample of the Library’s many postcards, so if you’re keen to explore further, you can find more postcard collections in the catalogue or learn more about our Pictures collection.