What we have here is a series of vintage postcards called “little men/superior women” (or, less often, “little women/superior men”). Technically, these fall under the category of "fantasy cards", which is one of the largest and most popular postcard collecting category. However, because these particular cards are so seldom seen and not well known, many dealers mistakenly file these cards in their “miscellaneous” file or under “romance". All of these cards are standard sized and date from after March 1907 but before 1930 or so. This style genre has universal appeal; some of these cards are illustrated by American artists, some by European artists.
These postcards are visually attractive and functional - as well as a piece of social commentary of the period. "Little men/superior women" cards represent a snapshot in time when women didn’t have much power in the worlds of business or politics, but had plenty of power to get what they wanted by seducing the men who adored them. The tone of the cards is playful, never mean-spirited... although nothing is truly left to the imagination here. In most of these cards, the women stare out at us in knowing amusement, inviting us to share the joke on her victim.
Postcards have a relatively brief but interesting history as a collectible. Postal style cards have been around since the late 1860's in Europe, where they were produced for adverting, political, and commemorative purposes - not as souvenirs. Here in the USA, the earliest forefather of the postcard can be traced back to 1873 and showed the main building of the Inter State Industrial Exposition in Chicago. The first mail-friendly picture cards produced truly as souvenirs appeared in 1893 at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The word "Post Card" began to appear on the back of postcards in 1901.
And just how important was the postcard's debut in 1893? Many ephemera experts call the 1898 through 1918 timeframe the "golden age" of postcards. During those two decades billions of high quality, beautifully illustrated postcards were exchanged as people from all corners of the globe started collecting these low cost, easy to store, and visually interesting bits of history and culture. Today, postcard collecting, or deltiology (from the Greek, a diminutive form of the word "deltos" or "writing tablet") is said to be the third-largest hobby in the world.
The design of postcards has evolved over time. These design differences can help date these collectible treasures. Up through 1907, hand written messages had to be inscribed on the picture side of the card (on the illustration or around the boarder). At the same time, the name and address of the recipient had to be on the backside. Then, in 1907, a new standard postcard format emerged - those with "divided backs." These had a line down the center of the back of the card, so senders could put a message on the left hand side, and the address on the right hand side. Moving forward, postcards produced from 1919 through 1932 often had a white boarder around them. From 1933 through the early 1950's, many postcards were printed on cards stock with a linen finish. From the mid-1950's onward, most postcards were, and still are, chrome cards, meaning they have a glossy surface and are made from color photographs.
www.iconicpostcards.com and at the Antiques Gallery in Salem. Iconic Postcards will be appearing at the upcoming New England Antique Show at Elm Bank in Wellesley, MA on July 24th and 25th. For more information about the “little men/superior women” postcards featured here, please contact Carol directly at 978-745-3600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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