Granite Shore Beach, Rockport, Mass., circa 1900

Until 1898 in the U.S., only the U.S. government could produce what we think of today as postcards. Private companies could buy these government-issued “Postal Cards” with one side blank, print their own advertising on them, and mail them for one cent postage. In the 1890s, private publishers began to produce their own exposition cards and souvenir cards. These could be sent through the mail, but required two cents postage.

Under pressure from publishers to change the postal rules, Congress in 1898 authorized the use of private mailing cards. The law required that these cards be printed with the words, “Private Mailing Card, Authorized by Act of Congress of May 19, 1898,” on the back and be sized at 3.25 x 5.5 inches. In 1901, Congress changed the law again, allowing private publishers to use the name “Post Card” instead of “Private Mailing Card.”

Here you see a private mailing card from that 1898-1901 period. It is unused and undated, so I do not know the exact year. You can see that the image takes up only a portion of the card’s front, because postal regulations required that any message also be written on the front.

Astute readers of this blog may recognize the view of Front Beach on this postcard. It is the same picture as on another card I posted from 1906. The other card bore a 1906 copyright by Charles H. Cleaves. The card you see here was published by the Rockport Stationery Co., which operated a book and office supply store in town until 1913.

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