Since the early 20th century, postcards have been a way for individuals and families to share information about their vacation destinations and other snippets of their lives. Delaware Public Archives celebrated the donation of the George and Irene Caley Postcard Collection with a June 5 ceremony and the official unveiling of an exhibit showcasing this unique collection. With Irene Caley in attendance, Secretary of State Jeffrey W. Bullock presented her with an official tribute from Gov. Jack Markell for her generosity.
The collection consists of more than 6,500 Delaware postcards. Some Eastern Shore Maryland and Virginia postcards are also included. The postcards date from 1900 to 2002. Subjects found in the collection include local attractions, businesses, houses, churches, public buildings, local events, street and beach scenes, recreation and transportation.
While this new collection includes numerous postcards for Wilmington, Dover, and Rehoboth Beach, it also contains cards for lesser-known Delaware locations such as Collins Beach, Kenton, Woodland Beach, Lincoln and Oak Orchard.
State Archivist and Delaware Public Archives Director Stephen M. Marz said, “This collection truly is a visual history of the First State and represents how communication was shared during much of the 20th century; many of the postcards include correspondence on the back which share a particular moment and place in time between the sender and the receiver. They represent yesteryears’ Twitter! We are so thankful to Mrs. Caley for donating this wonderful collection to the Archives and the citizens of Delaware.”
As part of the exhibit, the Archives encourage everyone to share their Delaware images so the DPA can build an album of “modern postcards.” Sending postcards has largely been replaced by advances in mobile technology. Today, people are snapping photos with their phones and sharing their images and stories in real time through social media. The public can share images with the Delaware Public Archives on Twitter (#PostcardDE), Facebook or through email.
The Caley collection is fully available to the public to view in person. Also, each of the postcards has been digitized and is available to the public at archives.delaware.gov. The postcards are searchable online by location and subject.
Postcards came to the United States in the late 19th century by way of European immigrants after being widely available in Europe for more than two decades. German-American printers were among the first to print postcards for American consumers. The first postcards were printed on the backs of government-issued postal cards. Hoping to boost stamp sales, Congress passed the Private Mailing Act in 1898, establishing the same postage rate for private and government-issued cards. Production and demand of postcards soared, and by 1905, postcards were being sent from all types of locations.
The Delaware Public Archives is at 121 Duke of York St. in Dover. The Mabel Lloyd Ridgely Research Room is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., Monday to Friday. On the second Saturday of every month the research room is open from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.