Wish you were there? Postcards from the past

A 1920s  picture postcard view of the part of Central Promenade which became the site for the subway
A 1920s picture postcard view of the part of Central Promenade which became the site for the subway

The first commercial postcards appeared on mainland Europe in 1869. These cards were the idea of Dr Emanuel Herrman – the Hungarians were the first to embrace this new, cheap way of sending messages.

But these European cards did not conform to the standard sizes the UK Post Office used, so postcards did not appear in Britain until years later.

Historical Blackpool postcard

Historical Blackpool postcard

The earliest postcards did not feature pictures.

Originally, one side for the address and the other for the message to be written.

The British were among the first to produce advertising postcards and to pioneer a card where the reverse could be divided between the address and the message.

At the turn of the 20th century, the postcard industry developed into a highly profitable business.

Old Blackpool postcard

Old Blackpool postcard

In 1903, around 600 million postcards were posted.

In those days, there were so many postal deliveries, it was possible to send a message by what we now call “snail mail” on a postcard, which would reach the recipient early the next morning.

And it was cheaper to send postcards than letters.

Images on the postcards in the early days ranged from traditional views of seasides and holiday destinations, to seaside humour and sauciness.

Lifeboat launch at Fleetwood Postcard (1912)

Lifeboat launch at Fleetwood Postcard (1912)

Resorts like Blackpool, Windermere and Morecambe had come within the reach of the masses, as the railway network grew and expanded.

A surge in manufacturing led to defined holiday periods – usually in August.

And sending postcards while on holiday became something everyone did.

In Blackpool, shop displays of postcards lined the Promenade for many years.

Postcard, undated, St Annes Square

Postcard, undated, St Annes Square

Fat ladies, small men and plenty of cheeky double entendres were emblazoned across the saucy variety of postcards.

And almost every comic postcard printed in Britain came from the firm Bamforth’s, based in Holmfirth, Yorkshire.

The tongue-in-cheek cards were always guaranteed to raise a smile or chuckle from holidaymakers, intent on sending them to relatives and friends back home.

These traditional style postcards from our newspaper archives show the typical seaside views shown on many postcards in the early to mid 20th century.

Blackpool’s iconic and famous attraction, the Winter Garden features on two of them, along with the Great Wheel – which once dominated the town centre skyline.

Fleetwood is also depicted in two of the postcards.

Postcard advertising various attractions in Fleetwood

Postcard advertising various attractions in Fleetwood

A 1912 postcard shows the launch of the Fleetwood lifeboat.

Another postcard depicts the various attractions the port had to offer – claiming a visit to Fleetwood was “recommended by the medical profession.” The postcard features The Mount, the Fleetwood ferry, and the daily boat trips to the Lake District and Isle of Man.

And St Annes is shown in a slightly more modern postcard, showing St Annes Square. Looking at the cars and the dress of the people, it could date from the 1960s.