Postcards: Country Confusion

Figure 1.--This French post card was mailed in Sweden to a German address during 1904. Notice the boy's wide-brimmed sailor hat, long uncurled hair, blouse, bloomer knickers and three-quater socks. The girl wears a short dress, lace collar, sash, and long dark stockings. These fashions look rather like French children's clothing.

One has to be careful here to descriminate between where the card was postally used and where it was actually made. The language incription can also be confusing. The language of the greeting, if any, reflects where the card was to be sold, not where the photograph was taken and the image printed. French cards in particular were marketed throughout Europe. Often they were printed with salutations in many different language. German cards, on the other hand, we believe were more likely to be used inside Germany, but they were also printed with different language inspriptions. English cards, however, were generally printed primarily in English. This is of importance because it means that cards with a certain language isalutation may or not be from that country or depict children's clothes from that country. In the same token, a card postally used in a specific country, may or may not depict children's clothes from that country.

French Card Sent by German Lady from Finland

The card seen here looks to be a French card (figure 1). It is a good example of the possible confusion and erronious impressions that can result from these cards. The children look to be wearing French turn-of-the century fashions such as wide-brimmed sailor hats and bloomer knickers with socks. We know, however, that the card was sent by a German lady. She writes, "Herzlichste Gratulation zum Namenstag von Abo den 14. Februar 1904," signed Erna Polle. In English this means "Kindest congratulations to your name day from Abo, February 14 1904." Erna Polle. In some Catholic regions of Germany birthdays were called "namedays". Every day of the year had the name of a saint. Children usually were named for the saint of that particular day, like Franz after St. Francis, etc. Abo was a city west of Helsinki in Finland on the Baltic coast. The Swedish name at the time the card was written was Abo. The place is now called Turku by the Finns. However, in 1904 Finland belonged to Czarist Russia. The stamps the lady had put on the card to have it mailed to Germany were Russian as Finland was part of Russia before the Russian Revolution. The writer of the card must have been on vacation there. So this means that French post cards, or at least cards showing French children's fashions were on sale in a Finnish (Russian) resort close to Sweden and bought by a German lady who mailed it home. This could also be a Swedish/Russian/Finnish postcard, but there is no symbol on the card indicating who made it.

French Card with Foreign-language Greeting

The language of the greeting on the front of early 20th century post cards is a very poor indicator as to the nationality of the card. France had an especially large postcard industry and their cards were sold throughout Europe. In fact the the term "French postcard" entered the English language--although the meaning was a post card with a racey scene. For some reason French post cards were not widely sold in America where English and German cards were more common before World War I. French companies printed large numbers of card and then had varying amounts stamped in different foreign languages. We note quite a number stamped in Dutch, suggesting that French companies developed a strong market in the Netherlands. This was, however, done in quite a number of languages. Of course companies in other countries did the same thing, but we note more French cards with foreign greetings than cards from anu other countries.


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Created: August 8, 2002
Last updated: December 27, 2003