|Photos and Postcards||This Page Updated February 15, 2001|
DATING AIRLINE POSTCARDS
by Craig Morris
Note: Craig has inserted images of numerous postcards into his article, so it may take some time for all of them to load.
The predecessor airline to
Northwest Airlines was formed by Charles Dickinson and operated as CAM
9. After a disastrous first day operation on June 7, 1926, from which they
never recovered, they went out of business and Northwest Airlines was formed
and took over their routes on October 1, 1926 and is today the longest
contiguous airline of the same name. Initially, the pilots did not wear
uniforms. After all, they only carried mail and there were no passengers
to impress. But like all other airlines that started this way, they did
start carrying passengers. In 1927 the airline carried 106 passengers but
by 1929, this business had increased so that Col. Brittin, Vice President
and General Manager of Northwest Airways, not only put his pilots in uniforms,
he designed the wings for the pilots. This design was submitted to the
Post Office for approval. They were so taken by the design, they asked
permission to adopt the insignia as the official emblem to be worn by air
mail pilots and permission was granted by Col Brittin. That is the reason
you will see that the very first pilots of American Airlines, United Airlines,
Continental Airlines and several others wore this wing in the very beginning.
The design also shows up on several stamps issued by the U.S. Post Office.
Another divided back example
from Europe would be this early example of a French airline aircraft postcard.
Next is the white border
era 1915-1934. This era brought an end to the so-called Golden era of postcards.
It ended as importing of postcards from Europe slowed drastically, due
to rising import taxes and the mounting tensions of war. Publishers in
the U.S. began printing postcards, to fill the void. Unfortunately
the results were usually of poor quality. One type of card from this era
was called “Blue Sky” cards. They’re difficult to find in collectible shape.
The Europeans continued publishing cards but did not export many to the
U.S.. Airline cards of this era would include American Airways, Southern
Air Transport, PAA to list a few. For this example I chose a Pan American
The Linen era followed from
1934-1946. Improvement in American printing technology brought much improved
card quality. Publishers began using linen-like paper containing a high
rag content, but used very cheap inks in most of their processes. At first
they were thought of as being very drab and uninteresting, however, within
the last few years these type of cards have become highly collectible..
Most airlines have issued cards in this time period. The example I chose
here is a Chesapeake Airways DC-3.
I really enjoy these types of card for their graphic colors and design. Also note that in the linen process the manufacturer could add or delete objects in the making of the cards. I have in my own collection a PAA real photo card and the same card in linen with objects being added or deleted in the scene.
The Photochrome era is next
(1946 to present). Publishers such as Mike Roberts, Dexter Press, Curt-Teich
and Plastichrome (to list a few) began producing card that had very beautiful
chrome colors and were very appealing to the public. I would venture that
every Worldwide airline whether Major, Irregular, or Feeder could afford
to publish their airline using chrome era postcards for advertising. The
example I chose here is a Continental Airlines Viscount.
The popularity of these cards have surpassed the Linen.
Finally the real photo postcard
which covers 1900 to present day. I believe the earliest example might
be the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat airline showing the Benoist Type XIV
flying boat (as shown above.) It is sometimes very difficult to date a
card unless it has been postally used or dated by the photographer. The
stamp box will usually show the process by which it was printed---AZO,
EKC, KODAK, VELOX, and KRUXO are some of the major ones. The example here
is this Chicago & Southern airline card.
Notice the stamp box. This
box dates 1926-1940’s which makes the card correct with the type of aircraft.
For a focused look at stamp boxes try: http://www.dcr.net/~ussky/photo.htm.;
or for a partial list of major stamp box lettering check here.
Real photo cards are usually the easiest to reproduce, so careful study of the photo cards is essential. I have seen several reproduced cards in my years of collecting. For example, I have received by mail a postcard with a stamp box (AZO) that was obsolete in 1922 with B-314 flying boats which first flew in 1938/39. Odds are it was a fake, so I simply returned it to the seller. In my first article I mentioned the best way to learn about postcards is by joining a local postcard club. This was my best decision because I met individuals who taught me what to look for as well as where to obtain information for further study. There are several books to purchase which give invaluable information. Also when looking a real photo cards be sure you have good light and tilt the cards at a angle to see if the photo is super smooth as well as the paper on the back. If both sides are very smooth with No wear be Careful. Always ask the dealer if they can give you any information on the postcard. If you suspect the card has been reproduced put the card back; after all most rare real photo postcards are over $30.00. Happy collecting.
This category will cover postcards (both airline and non-airline issued), photographs, 35mm slides, videotapes, and any digital images of aircraft.