Stamp Boxes, Messages & More: Family Clues in Old Real-Photo Postcards

By Maureen A. Taylor

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Old real-photo postcards among your collection of family letters and photos might contain a variety of clues worth exploring. From stamp boxes to postmarks and messages, there can be genealogical gold in the littlest things.

How to tell if it’s a real-photo postcard

I’ve written about real-photo postcards (RPPCs) in the past. These are family photos printed with a postcard back. An RPPC is an actual photo, not a chromolithograph print like the postcards you buy in souvenir shops.

Printing on a postcard back was just another option when you visited the photo studio or had your snapshots printed.

Do you have RPPCs in your family photo collection? If you’re not sure, take a close look at the image with a magnifying glass or loupe, or scan and zoom in. A chromolithograph print appears to made up of tiny dots; an RPPC does not.

Where to look for information about real-photo postcards

  • RPPCs debuted in 1900, but there were changes to the backs of these cards within a few years. Read Old Family Photos on Postcards to learn more about the history and formats for these cards.

Postcards were popular both in the United States and overseas. Do you have one to share? Email it to me here, following the instructions in our How To Submit Your Photo section.

Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor: