As San Antonio celebrates its tricentennial, we look back on what has attracted visitors to the city in centuries past. This collection of postcards captures not only the sites of the city, but the interests of the tourists who visited here.
History of Postcards:
Postcards have long been popular as an inexpensive way to communicate with loved ones, commemorate travel, or see world landmarks without leaving home.
The earliest known post card was printed in England in 1870; in the early years, most post cards were issued by government postal agencies. It wasn't until the United States Congress passed the Private Mailing Card Act in 1898--allowing private publishers to print postcards, which would then have a stamp affixed for mailing--that postcards entered the mainstream as a popular means of communication. Initially, consumers were only permitted to write an address on the back of a postcard; it was not until 1907 that "divided back" postcards were authorized by the United States Post Office.
The period between 1898 and 1918 is considered the "Golden Age of Postcards." Most postcards were manufactured by high quality printers in Germany and Austria; World War I shifted the production of many cards to the United States, where quality diminished. The postcards in this collection were all produced during this time period.
Deltiology is the collecting and study of postcards, and has been a popular past-time since their inception. Margaret "Peg" Ziperman collected postcards throughout her life, both to document her travels and postcards of places she had never been. She was a longtime resident and active community member in San Antonio. Mrs. Ziperman continued to add postcards to the library's collection until her death in 2017 at the age of 102.
San Antonio in Postcards:
The sites represented in these postcards range from tourist attracts still popular today, like the Alamo and the Spanish Missions, to depictions of everyday life in the city, including images of street vendors and homes. Many postcards capture images of buildings that we would not consider tourist attractions, such as the post office, county courthouse, and train station. Others show us glimpses of attractions that no longer exist, like the Electric Amusement Park and Hot Wells Resort. Many of these postcards include representations of Mexican-American culture in San Antonio.
All postcards in this exhibit are believed to be in the public domain, and thus are free of any copyright restriction. We kindly ask that you acknowledge Trinity University Coates Library if any of the materials are used or reproduced.