Monday, March 21, 2011

Civitavecchia - Postal steamer leaving for Sardinia – 1920

Civitavecchia - Piroscafo postale in partenza per Sardegna
This Italian postal steamer setting out from the port of Civitavecchia just north of Rome was most probably heading for Golfo Aranci on the northeastern coast of Sardinia, which was the main port for arrivals from the mainland. These postal steamers, or piroscafi, seem to have been popular postcard images at the beginning of the last century and one finds them not only sent by passengers from the ships themselves, cancelled with postmarks with the name of the ship and the words “PIROSCAFO POSTALE ITALIANO”, but also posted from other destinations.

This particular postcard may not have been posted from a postal steamer, but it was certainly still processed by a Travelling Post Office (or TPO) on board a train. The Italian name for a TPO is ufficio ambulante (travelling office), hence the abbreviation of the word ambulante “AMB.” followed by the train route "ROMA PISA" and the route number 151, that appears on this postmark, as well as the date 27 September, 1920. Curiously, the stamp has been placed on the front of the card and the postmark appears on both sides, with the reverse carrying a third, mysterious date – 6 October, 1920 – presumably the date it eventually reached its French destination. I'd like to be able to say that the post is far speedier these days...but sadly, it may actually be even slower in 2011!

Reverse of postcard - click to enlarge
Whilst the detail is pretty good on this postcard, the matte surface would seem to indicated that this isn't a real photograph postcard, but was instead printed from a monochrome image and tinted a gorgeous deep blue-green, which looks particularly stunning against the deep red of the 10 cent stamp featuring Italy's last King Vittorio Emanuele III. Issued in October 1906 as one of the Leoni definitive issues, this stamp would be in circulation until the end of 1930.

There is no mention of the Italian publisher, other than the information in the stamp box that says that the card was printed in Italy and the small SIA logo in the lower left hand corner on the reverse of the card. The SIA or Società Italiana degli Autori – the Italian Society of Authors – was created in Milan in 1882 in order to protect the copyright of writers, musicians, playwrights and editors and to ensure that royalties were paid. It exists to this day as the SIAE (Società Italiana degli Autori ed Editori).

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Oh! This cigar won't light! - 1907

It's hard to imagine a time when the incandescent light bulb was still new enough an invention for this comic Belgian vintage postcard to have made people chuckle. It depicts a classic vagabond figure complete with walking stick and his possessions tied in a handkerchief as he tries, in vain, to light his cigar, clearly still expecting there to be a naked flame! Oh! Ce cigare ne prend pas feu!

Whilst Thomas Edison may have invented the light bulb in 1879, it was actually the use of ductile tungsten as the filament material by the General Electric Company and William Coolidge from 1906 onwards that saw the birth of the light bulb we know it today, so once again, this is a vintage postcard that beautifully illustrates a little bit of history. Those incandescent bulbs, of course, have also now had their day and are currently being phased out across Europe and being replaced by energy-efficient fluorescent or halogen lamps to help tackle climate change.

This is a really lovely example of a chromolithographic print with wonderful details – look at the wood grained floor, the wallpaper, the spotted 'kerchief and the hint of stubble on the chap's chin. Sadly I have been unable to decipher the publisher’s logo – if anybody has come across this one before, please feel free to leave a comment below. The back of the card reserves a final gem – a spectacular flourish of a question mark in black ink filling the entire message side!


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