Here, I hold a stack of postcards written by my students in GEO 121 (Intro to Globalization), about to go into the post. As of this writing, they’re on their way all over the country.
I created this mini-assignment in equal parts as a tribute to the US Postal Service as well as a simple lesson on a lost art (or, at least a heavily niched one). So many students told me they had never composed or sent a postcard before. Well, now they have, and their friends and relatives are in for a surprise.
[One sample] postcard [in our collection] was mailed on a Saturday in 1919. The message concerns an intended ride to town the next day by electric interurban car. “I wrote you a letter telling you I would be in town Sunday on the quarter to 9 car, but that makes me hurry so much that [I] will come later… on the quarter to 11… meet me…and I will take you to church.”
Today, most Americans forget (if they ever knew) how fast and dependable the U.S. Postal Service once was. In many localities, postcards could be used to set and change appointments, even within the course of a few hours’ time. Streetcars carried mailboxes, which were emptied after every run. In many cities, mail was delivered to homes several times a day.
– from Picturing Illinois: Twentieth Century Postcard Art from Chicago to Cairo by John Jakle and Keith Sculle, p. 127. This completely clarifies, to someone going through antique postcards in 2014, the function and timing of postcards from that era. I’m fairly surprised the authors didn’t mention this much earlier in the book.