Checking the mail in 1905

Picture postcards were a new problem in 1905.

JSSP Keith Norman Column Sig
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There was trouble with the mail back in 1905.

Postal officials were dealing with an influx of “suggestive” picture postcards.

There were a lot of plans to celebrate the first Independence Day of the 20th century.

We need to say this problem wasn't particular to Jamestown or North Dakota but a national problem. Local postal officials were asked to respond to the problem just like every other post office in the country.

Picture postcards were a new problem in 1905. The concept of putting a photo on one side of a card and allowing the sender to write on the other started about 1900 in England. The British Post Office delivered and picked up mail as often as 12 times per day.

Sending a photo postcard under those circumstances would be just a bit slower than a modern-day text message. Photo postcards were the most popular through the Great Depression era in the United States. It was a way for folks to send a quick “wish you were here” message to the folks back home while traveling. Every business that catered to travelers would have racks of postcards featuring local sites by the counter.


Any photo or suggestive or risqué images were obviously prohibited but there was another type of image that was prohibited.

Postcards with images of Satan, often with captions such as “how the devil are you?” were also prohibited.

“We have (been) given strict orders to the carriers not to deliver any such cards,” a postal official told The Jamestown Alert for a July 20, 1905, article. “I have a stack here which were taken from the sorting room this morning.”

Postal officials said most of the illicit postcards came from Mexico. Government officials said the U.S. State Department was trying to work something out with the Mexican government they didn’t seem to make much progress.

Officials had to inspect every photo postcard before delivery although this process shouldn’t have taken long. After all, the photo was on one side of the card and it should have been easy to determine if it was a risqué photo or the devil.

Postcards are still legal in the U.S. mail although more commonly used for advertising rather than sending a message to the folks back home.
And you can probably ask someone how the devil they are today with a postcard.

Author Keith Norman can be reached at www.KeithNormanBooks

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