Publisher: Illustrated Post Card Co., Montreal
Date: 1909
Royal Victoria Hospital. 

Postcards were once one of the most popular means of communication by mail. Their use and appearance have changed since they were first introduced in the mid-19th century. The earliest ones, known as “postals”, included space for the recipient’s address on the back and a message on the front. At first, they did not have images and were sent only domestically. Following a resolution at the first Congress of the General Postal Union in 1874, they began to be mailed internationally.

Publisher: Illustrated Post Card Co., Montreal-No. 150
Date: c1900
Hôtel Dieu Hospital. The space on the right of the photo is for a written message; the reverse side was for the address only.

Postcards with small images on their front began to appear in the 1880s and increased markedly in number thereafter. Eventually, the image came to occupy the entire front, with a divided space on the back for an address and a message to the recipient. This arrangement increased their appeal and led to what has been called the “Golden Age” of postcards (approximately 1890 to 1915). During this time, growth also resulted from a number of other factors, including the nature of the images used, the easing of government restrictions, and advances in photographic and printing techniques. The increased use was remarkable−it has been estimated that as many as seven billion cards were mailed worldwide in 1905!

Publisher: Unknown
Date: c1909
Royal Victoria Hospital. The image occupies the entire front of the card.

Before WWI, most postcards were manufactured in Germany because of better printing quality. During and after the war, many were printed elsewhere, often a white border surrounding the front image in order to use less ink. So-called “linen” cards were developed in the 1930s; these had a high rag content, enabling quicker production and a brighter appearance to the dyes. These cards were in turn supplanted by chromochrome-style cards, which included pictures similar to those used for camera color images. This variety became the primary type of postcard in the last half of the 20th century. Although still in production, use of traditional printed postcards has declined since the development of digital technology and the introduction of e-cards.

Publisher: Unknown
Date: c1924
Hôpital Nôtre Dame. A white border surrounds the image.

Publisher: Unknown
Date: c1959
Hôpital Sainte-Justine. Chromochrome-style picture view.

Picture “view” postcards produced during the Golden Age were intended largely as tourist souvenirs and often show nature scenes or monuments and city buildings (including hospitals). The MAMM collection of postcards includes approximately 125 examples that illustrate 34 Montreal-area hospitals, hospices and asylums. The histories of these institutions and their buildings are often complicated, and include the addition of new wings, destruction by demolition or fire, mergers, and changes in mission and affiliation. The postcards provide interesting “snapshot” views of these histories.


1840: Earliest known postal mailed in England

1870: First printed picture postcard created in France

1871: First postal issued in Canada

1874: International mailing sanctioned by the General Postal Union

1890 - 1915: Golden Age of postcards

1915 - 1930: White border postcards

1930 - 1950: Linen postcards

1939: First photochrome-style postcard appears

1994: First e-card appears

Additional Information



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