Becoming a Deltiology Detective

In my last post I promised to explain how I’d become sidetracked by a hundred year old postcard that showed a picture of the house I live in (105 years actually), but first I should explain how I became obsessed with old postcards in general.

It all started three or four years ago when I began my access course at the University of Liverpool. We were invited to a lecture given by Professor Andrew Popp from the Management School whose specialism is family businesses and their history.  Not something you would usually associated with postcards, but he had discovered an old postcard that had been posted in the early twentieth century from Liverpool to London and it fascinated him enough that he wrote a paper on it.

He had no idea who had sent the postcard, but the recipient was a young lady by the name of Miss L Warden. The image on the card was of the Liverpool Exchange building with the memorial to Nelson on the lower right hand side and various employees, clerks and brokers, milling around in the foreground.

the postcard Andrew Popp gave a lecture on

On the reverse of the card was a map of the UK showing the route of the rail line between Liverpool and London and Hastings was also highlighted.

reverse of the card showing map and angle of stamp

You can see the original post on the Postcardese blog and here.

An enormous amount of information was gleaned from the scant details on the card, even the angle that the stamp was placed at on the card gave a clue to the relationship of the sender and recipient. In this case it tells us they are romantically linked. The red line showing the route that the train took to deliver the card also emphasises how far apart this couple are. Does Hastings have some significance for them, a romantic weekend away perhaps?

Professor Popp had used genealogical records to piece together the mystery of who the couple were and what happened to them after sending the postcard. I’d been doing genealogy on my family tree for several years and was fascinated to see it used in this way. The lecture inspired me to go out and buy my first postcard and become a deltiologist (postcard collector) – it was a picture of the old chemistry building at the University of Liverpool (I’ll tell you all about that another time) and my collection quickly built into one of over a thousand cards.

Postcards were the social media of their day. They were delivered several times a day and you could post one in the morning and have a reply within a few hours – almost as quick as a text. Not all of the ones available to purchase today have been posted, their value lies in the images on the front of the card, but the most interesting ones have been sent far and wide and all have a story to tell.

Professor Popp’s card was a glimpse into the lives of two people, a moment in time that is now long gone, but those moments live on in a few scrawled words on the backs of old postcards for anyone who cares to decipher their mysteries.

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