Real Photo Postcards

Vintage contact print equipment with unopened packages of raw postcards.

In a recent post we looked at the late Jim Rowe of Chicago and how his real photo postcards really invigorated autograph collectors back in the latter 1960’s through perhaps the mid 1980’s. Today we’ll take a quick look at the basic process that was used to make real photo postcards back in the 1910 era. Most of the equipment pictured here can be reliably dated to 1918 or prior.

Real photo postcards were not difficult to make once the maker got the hang of it. The equipment needed was minimal: a photo negative, a contact print frame, blank postcards that have been chemically treated, a few readily available solutions and a couple rinse pans. It was a perfect small business and could be done at home. The 1918 package of blank postcards on the right even brag that the postcards “can be developed by gaslight”.

With the advent of blank postcards becoming available in 1903, the actual process became straightforward. A photo negative and blank postcard were sandwiched within a contact frame and locked down (there were no opportunities for enlargement; the print would always be the same size as the negative). A light source was briefly engaged, transferring the ghost image to the postcard. A little experience was needed to gauge the length of the exposure. The postcard, with the inherent ghost image, was then quickly rinsed through a series of four baths and voila! Your postcard was ready for sale. Charles.

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2 thoughts

  1. Thanks Charles, for sharing your love and knowledge of the history of baseball and the game’s collectibles. There are too few sources of information anymore in regards to pre-war baseball collectibles and far too many articles on over priced 1 of 1 autograph game jersey super refractors hot of the press and valued more than a Ty Cobb card? The insanity of our world today. God Bless Charles and his family and all who visit this site.


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