Format Highlights: Postcards
by Greta Bahnemann, Metadata Librarian, Minnesota Digital Library, Minitex
eLibrary Minnesota Resources (for Minnesota residents)
1. "History of photography." Britannica Academic, Encyclopædia Britannica, 23 Jan. 2019. Accessed 11 Jul. 2019.
2. "Postal system." Britannica Academic, Encyclopædia Britannica, 16 Feb. 2017. Accessed 11 Jul. 2019.
3. "Postcards." St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture Online, Gale, 2013. Student Resources In Context. Accessed 11 July 2019.
Additional Resources for Research
1. Clay, Christopher S. Minneapolis and St. Paul in Vintage Postcards. Chicago, IL: Arcadia, 2002. Print.
2. "Postcard History." Smithsonian Institution Archives. Smithsonian Institution Archives, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
3. "Postcard Galleries." Smithsonian Institution Archives. N.p., 19 Sept. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
4. "Real Photo Postcard." Wikipedia. n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
5. Staff, Frank. The Picture Postcard & Its Origins. London: Lutterworth, 1979. Print.
6. Willoughby, Martin. A History of Postcards: A Pictorial Record from the Turn of the Century to the Present Day. London: Bracken, 1994. Print.
7. Wisconsin Historical Society. Larger Than Life: Tall-Tale Postcards | Wisconsin Historical Society. Wisconsin Historical Society, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
Teaching Guide: Format Highlights: Postcards
Primary Source Analysis
For each source, ask students to indicate:
- the author's point of view
- the author's purpose
- historical context
For inquiry-based learning, ask students to:
- explain how a source tells its story and/or makes its argument
- explain the relationships between sources
- compare and contrast sources in terms of point of view and method
- support conclusions and interpretations with evidence
- identify questions for further investigation
This teaching guide helps instructors use a specific primary source set, Format Highlights: Postcards , in the classroom. It offers discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis tools. It is intended to spark pedagogical creativity by giving a sample approach to the material. Please feel free to share, reuse, and adapt the resources in this guide for your teaching purposes.
1. Look at the tall-tale postcards (postcards #4, 5, 6). At the time these postcards were created, many Americans lived on a farm. What do these cards tell us about American society at the time? How do these postcards use humor to talk about things like "manifest destiny" and the American dream?
2. Review the date ranges of postcards as outlined in the introduction paragraph. Based on that information, what date would you assign to postcards #8, 13, 14?
3. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, most postcards were printed in Germany. After the United States entered World War I, postcards began to be printed in America. Discuss some of the factors that contributed to this trend, such as the rationing of paper and ink, anti-German feelings, and the rise of American nationalism and patriotism, etc.
4. Look at postcard #3 which features both an image of a beach and an inset photograph of a boat posted onto the larger postcard. Think about how much more work it would be to produce an image like this one. Why would that be available for sale? Do you think that postcard would have cost more when it was new?
5. Ask students to discuss the relative permanence of a postcard vs. the more ephemeral nature of texts, tweets, instagram, etc. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each form of communication?
1. Ask students to design their own postcards. Students should think about their intended audience and how postcards can be used to document different aspects of their community. What images would be on the front of the card? Would the postcards be mailed or delivered electronically? What stories could you tell with postcards that perhaps you couldn't tell with a text message or an e-mail?
2. Ask student to design their own version of a tall-tale postcard. Look at the examples featured in Minnesota Reflections and view the the tall-tale postcard site at the Wisconsin Historical Society (see Additional Resources). What aspect of contemporary life could you exaggerate? What points could you make - either serious or humorous? How can you use humor to make a point, tell a story, or direct your audience to think about an issue?