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By Le Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

Jeunes Filles du HuelgoatLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

Just like the telephone, the Internet, and social networks today, at the beginning of the 20th century, the postcard represented a fast, accessible, easy-to-use, and effective means of communication, mitigating distance and separation.

Le FestinLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

Only two or three words, most of the time. Among the most frequent messages were 'hello' or 'fond memories of…' to say hi to parents and friends during a trip, a vacation, or the like.

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Moreover, many postcards with messages were written during the summer. Cameras were still fairly rare, were sometimes complicated to use, and required long posing times. The postcard enabled people to describe their travels: on the back, just a few words, and on the front, a view of the vacation spot.

Les Quais by AucunLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

The current weather, rain or shine, was a popular topic even then!

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But by no means were all these messages light and superficial. Reading them, we are immersed once again in the day-to-day lives, sometimes intimate, of French families. Health, work, school: at times, these were truly open books.

Les Villas de la Plage by AucunLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

On most postcards, we find just a few hastily scribbled words, but many people used the small printed cards for ongoing correspondence between friends or family members. Like this person who indicates both in her correspondence and on the back of the photo the house where she will settle, the names of her future neighbors, and more.

Une porte de l'Hôtel de Ville. by AucunLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

During the Great War, thanks to the military mail system, the postcard was a free, simple, and popular means of sending news from the front. There was censorship, and the soldiers were not allowed to give information on the exact places they were posted, the number of dead, coming offensives, or troop morale.

But all the postcards that arrived to the families back home meant that their sons, husbands, and brothers were still alive.

BERGER VOSGIEN by AucunLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

Some lovers did not hesitate to declare their love for all to see, whether they were poets or not…

Le retour des champs by AucunLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

But others wrote coded messages or used shorthand to preserve the privacy of a message that would, by necessity, circulate exposed, or to bypass monitoring and inquisitive eyes.

Sur le Levier de la Loire by AucunLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

Talkative people used every last blank space. Some overlaid texts and wrote in all directions, and others wrote their messages on several cards that they would number, leaving it up to the reader to sort out!

La Vieille rue St-Malo by AucunLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

These correspondences from the past also helps us rediscover phrasing, fountain-pen handwriting, expressions and the language of the time.

PONT-L'ABBE (Finistère). Brodeur confectionnant un GiletLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

In the 1900s, the French post office's regulations and pricing policy may have seemed incongruous: some formulas such as "Amitiés" (Regards), "Amicale poignée de main" (Friendly handshake), and "Bien à vous" (Warm regards) were allowed, while others, such as '"Ça va bien" (What's up), "Revenez vite" (Hurry back), or "Charmante journée" (Pleasant day) were taxed.

En pleine route by AucunLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

Messages shorter than or equal to five words also benefited from reduced postage. One extra little phrase and the postman would affix a tax stamp that the recipient had to pay. Postal workers therefore had to show their vigilance and verify that the rules were followed.

La pointe de la Chaîne et le Rocher (1911-02-10)Le Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

There were several mail pickups and distributions per day: two at minimum, and three in certain locations. The mail used the same transport as the people: the train! So postcards were used to make or cancel meetings, which might read, "I will arrive tomorrow at 11 o'clock…"

Vieille femme de Douarnenez en coiffe nozerLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

Of the millions of postcards that circulated in Brittany, a minority were printed in the Breton or Gallo languages. As for the messages on the reverse, rare too were those written in the Bretons' mother tongue.

KOMZIT BREZONEG D’IN, MAMMIG !Le Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

To fight against and suppress regional variations, several successive laws were passed to forbid the Breton language in schools, administrative environments, and more. Even though at the start of the 20th century Breton was still the language of family, village, and religious life, more and more young Bretons were bilingual, and mail correspondence was conducted mainly in French.

Les Voitures à Chien , La Poste en campagne by AucunLe Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

In conclusion, the postcard was a very successful way to share news, regardless of how mail carriers got around at the time!

Today, in the face of competition from virtual cards and billions of telephone messages, pen-to-paper remains resilient. It still shows the caring intentions and attention of the sender for the recipient.

Credits: Story

Thanks to:
The City of Baud
Le Carton Voyageur - Musée de la carte postale

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