Friday, December 31, 2010

Buon Anno – 1937

This gorgeous hand-tinted real photograph vintage postcard is an Italian New Year greetings card written, dated and presumably posted, on 31st December, 1936 and postmarked with a cancellation for the following day - 1st January, 1937.

As with any postcards published in Italy during those years, however, there is always a darker side to the story in spite of what, at first glance, looks like a simple romantic card. Issued by Turin-based publisher Fotocelere di A. Campassi during Italy's infamous Fascist decades when there was a bizarre, yet entirely serious attempt to displace the Anno Domini system with Roman numerals to denote the number of years since the establishment of the Fascist government in 1922, the postal cancellation indicates the year as "37 – XV". The sender of the postcard, however, seems to have been rather confused by this system and even gets the year wrong, mistakenly writing "31-12-936 XV" instead of "XIV"! The publisher has also dated this card – if you look very carefully you'll spot "1936 XIV" printed immediately after Via Marochetti 41 (the company address). Even the words Poste Italiane on the 10 cent postage stamp featuring the effigy of Emperor Augustus are flanked either side by a symbolic bundle of sticks featuring an axe known as “fasces” (hence “fascism”). Dark days indeed, but then again, things have been grim of late in Il Bel Paese more recently too, with a modern day wannabe dictator running the country! But I digress...

Click to enlarge thumbnail
I still love this somewhat kitsch postcard with its painted backdrop and obviously artificial studio-staged snow scene and was thrilled to find such a perfect example of a year change postcard, which always seem harder to find than one would imagine!

Happy New Year and Happy Postcard Friendship Friday...the last of 2010!
Find more vintage postcards over at Beth's postcard blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Postcard Friendship Friday

Friday, December 17, 2010

Hearty Good Wishes for Xmas and the New Year – 1906

Christmas is nearly upon us so I thought this would be a good time to share this vintage Christmas postcard on Postcard Friendship Friday! Rather than the usual snow and Santa seasonal images, however, this postcard is a traditional seaside souvenir onto which an embossed Christmas greeting has been added!

The view is of Tenby, South Sands, on the very beautiful Pembrokeshire coast of South West Wales, seen from Saint Catherine's Rock, a place renowned in Queen Victoria's day as a health resort and still a hugely popular seaside destination today for UK holiday makers. The postcard is full of delightful details - the beach is crowded with bathing machines, mobile bathing huts that allowed bathers to change into swimwear inside and be taken directly to the water's edge and discreetly take a dip without exposing as much as an ankle! Needless to say, these were all the rage in the prudish Victorian era. Whilst the postcard may have been posted on Christmas Eve in 1906, this image is probably from the 1890s when the postcard publisher F. Frith & Co.Ltd from Reigate seem to have added numerous images of the Welsh seaside location to their photographic archives (see Photos of Tenby - Francis Frith).

The year on the postmark isn't immediately very clear, but seeing as this is a yellow-green King Edward VII half penny stamp which was in use only from 1904 – 1910, 1906 would seem to be the best match.

Curiously, the message has been written upside down:
With Best wishes
for a very merry
Xmas & a bright
& Prosperous New
Year. From Bert
I second Bert's sentiments and wish you all Happy Holidays!

Find more vintage postcards over at Beth's postcard blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Postcard Friendship Friday

Friday, December 10, 2010

Times Square, New York in 1955 – posted 1962

Times Square - Click on the image to see it enlarged
When I first set eyes on this vintage postcard of Times Square in New York it wasn't the image that grabbed my attention at first, as fabulous as it may be – who can resist a nostalgic image of 1950s New York after all? Instead, it was the sheer size of the postcard that made it stand out from the others in a bargain box – at 22 by almost 14 cm (8.7 by 5.5 inches) it really is huge! It has suffered a lot of creasing over the years – probably much of it caused when it crossed the Atlantic from NY to Rome in 1962.

This Times Square souvenir postcard may have been posted in 1962, but we can date the photograph quite precisely to several years earlier thanks to several clues in the image: Loew's State Theatre is showing The Phenix City Story, which was glowingly reviewed by the New York Times on September 3, 1955 as “an uncommonly good little film” the day after it opened at Loew's State (see Sin in the South; 'The Phenix City Story' Has Debut at State), whilst for movie goers looking for something more lightweight, the Criterion is offering the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis vehicle You're Never Too Young, which had been released ten days earlier on August 25, 1955.

Vintage topographical postcards are a treasure trove for information about past times and this card is a wonderful example - I love the Chevrolet and Admiral Television Appliances adverts, which for a European seem so quintessentially 1950s America – but it is the Bond Clothing Store on the right, with its distinctive Two Trouser Suits sign that seems to have had the most unusual history. As a final confirmation of the date of this photograph, in 1955 Pepsi took over the sign site and installed two 50 foot tall Pepsi bottles either side of a giant bottle cap, above their slogan 'The Light Refreshment' and a waterfall. In the 1940s, instead of Pepsi bottles there had actually been two 7-storey tall nude figures of a man and a woman causing guests at the Astor Hotel opposite to complain about their indecency! Look closely and you'll also see a branch of The Woolworth Store on the ground floor, next to Whelan Drug. (See New York Architecture Images for further information about Times Square.)

The card carries the names of two publishers with their respective numbering systems – I assume that one company was the printer and the other the distributor and would guess that as it's a Plastichrome card, it was printed by Boston company ColourPictures Publishers Inc., (note the English spelling of “colour”) and distributed by the New York publishers Manhattan Post Card Pub. Co., Inc. I'm including the back of the postcard, but for reasons of privacy have masked the name of the sender and recipient as both parties may quite feasibly still be alive.

Find more vintage postcards over at Beth's postcard blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Postcard Friendship Friday

Friday, November 26, 2010

Paysanne de la Côte d'Azur – early 1900s

It's been wet weather all the way here in Rome for the last couple of weeks and whilst today has seen some sunshine, the clear skies have brought lower temperatures and there's a distinct chill of winter in the air. Maybe that's what made me choose this gorgeous summer image of the French Riveria today, which features a Paysanne de la Côte d'Azur (translated literally a Peasant from the Côte d'Azur) in traditional Provencal costume, carrying bunches of flowers in a Provence-style basket and sitting on what is now a dwindling local breed of donkey – the Provence or Migration donkey.

I picked up this vintage Raphael Tuck postcard on my last trip back to the UK and was attracted to it instantly, because it was the first time I'd come across a Tuck card that had been issued from the company's Paris offices. As the company grew, they opened offices in both New York and Paris in 1900 and indeed, the family business is credited as Sté Ame Raphael Tuck & Fils on the reverse of the card.

The postcard is uncirculated, but I'm guessing that it was issued in the early part of the last century because this is one of Raphael Tuck & Sons' enormously popular Oilette series – if you look carefully you'll see the Oilette logo in the bottom left corner of the card (although this information is not repeated on the reverse). Oilette was a term create by Tuck to distinguish their postcard series that reproduced specially commissioned paintings of popular landmarks or scenes, as opposed to photographic views. Later issues in this series were printed on embossed paper to simulate brush strokes on the surface of a painting, but this particular postcard is completely smooth and printed on rather thick, heavy card.

No.63 in the Côte d'Azur series, it is an artist signed view by N. Beraud, clearly a stalwart of the Rapahel Tuck stable of artists as this is a name that appears on not only numerous French postcard views of the time, but everything else from kittens and flowers to soldiers at the front! Whilst I've been able to find a few original paintings by the artist on the Internet, I've been unable to track down any other information as to the identity of this extremely prolific postcard illustrator – was N. Beraud a man or a woman, I wonder? If anybody knows anything more about N. Beraud (or Béraud) please feel free to leave a message below!
Find more vintage postcards over at Beth's postcard blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Postcard Friendship Friday

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Forth Rail Bridge, Scotland – 1930s

Whenever faced with what seems like a never-ending task, an old English colloquialism that I learned as a child will still spring to my mind – it's like painting the Forth Bridge! It refers, of course, to the maintenance required to keep the Firth of Forth Rail Bridge, the second longest cantilever bridge in the world, looking new - the very second the bridge has been repainted, work commences immediately on the next repaint! Or so it has always been said. Imagine my disappointment, therefore, when I recently discovered that this expression is based on an urban myth! Whilst the 1.5 mile long bridge does have a permanent maintenance crew, according to a 2004 New Civil Engineer report on modern maintenance, the practice of continually repainting the bridge has never actually existed!

The Forth Rail Bridge was opened on 4 March 1890 at a cost of over £3 million. This uncirculated postcard was published by Scottish firm Valentine's some forty years later in the 1930s, but it is clear from the statistics proudly listed on the front of the card, that it was still considered an extraordinary feat of engineering – as it is to this very day, in fact.

This postcard was issued as part of Valentine's Carbo Colour cards, but unlike many in this series from the 1930s, it has a plain white border instead of a Tartan frame. It uses a limited halftone palette and almost looks like a hand-coloured drawing – I particularly like the detail of the steam train, with its long trail of smoke billowing behind it! Unfortunately this postcard has suffered some water damage over the years - its glossy gelatin finish has some cracking to the surface and it has yellowed over time. It was such a striking image, however, that I still wanted it for my collection!

I also stumbled upon this wonderful bit of footage from 1963 of the old ferry (visible in the postcard) at South Queensferry and the Rail Bridge. At the end of the film the uncompleted Forth Road Bridge is also shown - the ferry stopped operating in 1964 when the road bridge opened. Watch the video below or click here to watch on YouTube.

Find more vintage postcards over at Beth's postcard blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Postcard Friendship Friday

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The King at the Front - 1914-18

Lest we forget...Today, 11th November, is Remembrance Day, so I thought this image of King George V at the front during the First World War would be a timely post.

Issued as No.87 in Series XI (Nos. 81-88) of the enormously popular official war photographs published in 22 sets of 8 postcards each by the Daily Mail newspaper under Crown Copyright during 1914 – 18, this particular card is typical of the others in its set. Produced exclusively for the British market during the war these postcards obviously tended to emphasise the positive and are mildly propagandist showing battle victories and celebrating fallen soldiers as war heroes. As the back of the card shows, this military postcard had to pass the censor before publication.

This image shows the King outside a captured German dug-out, whilst the remaining images in this set were entitled: The Smile of victory; King George and King Albert enjoy an amusing anecdote; A Talk to peasants; The King meets a hospital matron; Attending church service in the field; At the grave of a fallen hero; A Greeting from the troops.

A printed colour postcard, from a hand-tinted back and white photograph, this uncirculated divided back postcard is in pristine condition. A lovely card for the collection, which I picked up on my last trip back home to the UK.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mysterious Rock Formation - 1909

This uncirculated real photograph postcard must surely rank as one of the most mysterious in my collection. The postcard has a standard divided back and a distinctive Kruxo stamp box on the reverse with clubs in the corners, which dates the card quite precisely to 1909 and tells us that it was printed on photographic paper made by the Kilborn Photo Paper Co., of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, one of the lesser known early pioneers in the photographic industry. The actual event recorded on the postcard is unknown, however. The postcard was probably never intended for mass distribution, but was meant instead, to record a local event or landmark. Which brings us to the million dollar question – where was the photograph taken?!

I've posted this image in a very large format – if you click on the image above one can view it much larger. It shows a woman posing beside a strange rock formation – either a landslide of sorts, or even the passage of lava after a volcanic eruption (this was suggested to me by the chap who sold me this card on a market stall here in Rome) - certainly, it was a noteworthy local geological phenomenon. I assume the photograph was taken somewhere in the United States as I've only ever seen Kilborn paper used on US images, but other than that I'm at a loss.

As luck would have it though, it's Postcard Friendship Friday so I though I'd throw this question out there – if anybody recognises the location or has any other thoughts I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!
Find more vintage postcards over at Beth's postcard blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Postcard Friendship Friday

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day 2010 – Water!

This is a vintage postcard blog entry with a difference! Today - 15 October 2010 - is Blog Action Day, when tens of thousands of bloggers from over 125 different countries around the world join together to write a post about one important topic. This year the focus is on water.

Nearly 1 billion people across the globe lack access to clean water, which inevitably leads to horrendous hardship, preventable diseases and even death. Of course, the sad truth is that almost all of us in industrialized countries are guilty at some time or another of water over-consumption in our daily lives. Whilst people living in the developing world face a water crisis, we consume far more than our fair share. The simple truth is that we can all make small changes that collectively make a huge difference: from turning off running water whilst brushing our teeth, to spending less time in the shower. And if we take a bath, let's keep the water level low, and consider re-using the water in our gardens before we let it all go down the drain.

This vintage French postcard was printed using the offset lithographic method - in fact the colours are very slightly out of register and it has a dull surface. It was imported from Germany and published by Rokat (Robert Kathmann of Leipzig), probably during the 1930s. Its image of an oblivious reader caught up in a gripping book whilst sitting in an overflowing bath seemed to fit very well with the water wasting theme of this post!

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

Today is also Postcard Friendship Friday too of course!
Find more vintage postcards over at Beth's postcard blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Postcard Friendship Friday

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Joan Sutherland – 1979

Some very sad news appeared on the Internet yesterday when it was announced that Australian opera singer Dame Joan Sutherland – alongside, Callas and Pavarotti, one of greatest operatic voices of the twentieth century - had died at the age of 83 at her home in Switzerland.

This vintage Metropolitan Opera Guild postcard from 1979 was published for the benefit of the Metropolitan Opera in New York and depicts her as she appeared in the role of Elvira in Bellini's I Puritani in the 1976 production at the Met, in which she starred alongside Luciano Pavarotti, Sherrill Milnes and James Morris, with Richard Bonynge, the singer's husband, conducting. Remarkably, she would reprise the role again in 1986 to celebrate her 25th anniversary with the company, an incredible vocal feat considering she was by then a 60-year-old soprano. No wonder that she was known as “La Stupenda”!

Listen to her below singing Vien diletto in celo luna from the Second Act of Bellini s I Puritani at the 1976 Metropolitan staging or click here to listen to the track on YouTube.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Happy Days (Hands Across the Sea) – 1918

Vintage Hands Across the Sea postcards are easy to come by in flea markets and never cost much more than a few cents or pennies – they were presumably produced in great numbers in the early part of the last century. If the postcard was sent during war years, however, when families and loved ones were separated by conflict, they often have a story to tell – and for collectors of paper ephemera, sometimes those stories are the true intrinsic value of these cards. This particular postcard, published by UK company “National” Series, is just such an example.

This lovely example of a chromolithographic print with gold lettering features a bunch of poinsettias and the usual clasping hands motif common to all Hands Across the Sea cards, in this case, female hands, judging by the cuffs. Poinsettias are a popular Christmas decoration, but this card was posted on 16 May, 1918, six months before the armistice of the First World War on 11 November 1918, and carries a postal cancellation encouraging the British people to "Buy National War Bonds". These campaigns must have been highly effective as War Savings Certificates, or War Bonds, proved a huge success and continued throughout the inter-war years too.

The card is addressed to a woman with the amazing name of Violet Light. The message on the reverse of the card was written in ink with a very fine nib and is quite faint:
Dear Violet
Just @ [PC?] to
let you know I reach
Taunton quite safe
& I was sorry I
did not see you
before I left but
I think I will see you again. I am
leaving for the ship tonight
Wednesday so cheer up.
I will send you my address on the next letter
remember me to all at home. Good Bye from
There is a note on the left hand side that adds:
forgot to
send it
from Taunton
so sent
it from the
Indeed, the postmark is stamped as Plymouth, which was an important port during World War I. Curiously, Taunton - the place in which Harry was stationed over night – is my home town!

One cannot be certain, of course, but looking at the effusiveness of the kisses at the end, this would seem to be a romantic farewell, whilst mention of catching a ship in 1918 points to an overseas posting for Harry in the Great War. “I think I will see you again” in this context becomes incredibly moving and one cannot help but wonder as to whether Harry ever saw his Violet again.
Find more vintage postcards over at Beth's postcard blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Postcard Friendship Friday

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thailand – 1961

No. 212 CHOLBURI THAILAND: Working in the Salt-fields
 I don't usually post multiple postcards in one story, but when I happened across this vintage set of cards from Thailand the other day, I knew they belonged together and would be sharing the same page! All three postcards were posted by the same person from Bangkok on 25 October, 1961, to different addresses different people at the same address in Rome, Italy and seem to have been torn from what was probably the same book of postcards, with the left hand edge of each card having a torn off edge.

No. 161 THAILAND: Nakorn Chaisri, Thailand. Ploughing paddy fields.
Each of the cards carries identical postage – one 25 satang stamp (green in colour, with a pen and world map floating over an envelope) and another 1 baht stamp (crimson in colour with a pen, letters and a globe). It seems incredibly appropriate that these stamps were part of a set issued to celebrate International Correspondence Week!

No. 115 THAILAND: The Thai Fishing
I'm including the back of one of the postcards, but for reasons of privacy have masked the name of the sender and recipient as both parties may quite feasibly still be alive.

Published by Soma Nimit, a Bangkok based company at 1154 New Road, these ethnic vintage postcards cards are a wonderful record of traditional farming and fishing methods, although the collection of salt seems to be as labour intensive now as it was decades ago.
Find more vintage postcards over at Beth's postcard blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Postcard Friendship Friday

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cheers! - 1905

This absolutely gorgeous undivided back postcard, printed using the chromolithographic method was published by Meissner & Buch and posted in 1905. When I spotted this vintage postcard I was obviously disappointed to see that two of the corners had been cut (presumably as a result of having been hastily removed from hinges in an album), but the image was such a fine example that I bought it anyway!

Based in Leipzig, Germany, Meissner & Buch (1876 through to 1914) were known for their fine quality postcards featuring pretty women and children, with and without greetings, and this design is typical of their output, although the image of the girl in a bonnet raising a glass reminds me somewhat of a vintage soft drinks advertising campaign.

The reverse of the card carries no copyright information – instead, it's printed along the front left hand edge of the card. The inscription reads:

Meissner & Buch, Leipzig. Künstler-Postkarten Serie 1232 “Auf Dein Wohl” Gesetzl, geschützt
which roughly translated means:
Meissner & Leipzig. Artists Postcards Series 1232 "To your Health". Copyrighted design

Find more vintage postcards over at Beth's postcard blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Postcard Friendship Friday

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Southport Pier and Donkeys on Southport Beach – early 1910s

This gorgeous embossed postcard is a classic British seaside souvenir. Whilst embossed postcards from the early years of the last century are reasonably easy to come by, this was such a fine example that I couldn't resist it! The gelatin finish is highly glossy and has remained very well preserved over the years, with only a little cracking in small parts of the embossed frame. The card was issued by Valentine’s Co. Ltd, a family run business founded in Dundee, Scotland by James Valentine in 1825. The company expanded to London, England and was at one time hugely successful until business eventually dwindled after several generations and they closed their doors in 1963. Often recognisable by a large "V" symbol on the reverse, this postcard was part of their Valentine's Series and carries no logo.

Being an uncirculated divided back postcard, I found myself with very little to go on as regards dating the card precisely, until I stumbled upon a wonderful online resource currently being compiled by the University of St. Andrews Library - the monochrome James Valentine & Co. image archive. Through this archive I've been able to track down the dates of the photographs used in this card!

The upper oval featuring Southport Pier was originally entitled "Southport - On the Pier" and was registered by the company in around 1908-12, whereas the lower panel with the donkeys on Southport Beach (originally "Southport - Donkeys on the Sands") was registered in 1906. With this in mind this card probably dates from the early 1910s.

I just love the incidental details in these scenes – the donkey riding girls are actually riding side-saddle! The pier quite clearly has a wooden walkway and a railtrack, presumably used to carry the tram which still runs to this day from Southport to the pier head. Southport Pier (now situated in Merseyside) was designed by James Brunlees and first opened in 1860. A Grade II listed building and Britain's second longest pier at 1,112 metres (3,650 feet), amazingly this relic of Victorian times risked being demolished by the local council in the 1990s! Thankfully, this decision was overruled by one vote, funds were found and the pier was restored to its former glory.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Characters from Charles Dickens: Mr Stiggins by Kyd – 1903

I'm back from my summer vacation in England and Wales and as on previous trips back to the UK I've returned home with my suitcase full of postcards having spent many happy hours perusing flea markets! I'll be sharing some of my finds here on the blog, of course, and today's postcard is one I was particularly thrilled to come across – an artist signed postcard featuring one of Kyd's Characters from Charles Dickens.

Some months ago I wrote a post about The Dickens House Museum and one of Britain's most famous postcard publishers Raphael Tuck & Sons who published many, many sets of Dickens-themed cards over their long publishing life. This undivided back postcard, printed using the chromolithographic method, is from a much earlier series by Tuck featuring watercolors of beloved characters from Dickens, such as this one of Mr. Stiggins, who appeared in The Pickwick Papers. The red-nosed Reverend Mr. Stiggins, is the hypocritical and drunken parson who meets his downfall in Chapter 52.

Kyd” was the pseudonym of English illustrator Joseph Clayton Clarke (1856-1937), who after only a single day's employment for Punch magazine became a freelance artist specialising in Dickens for most of his career. His illustrations from Dickens were also published by Raphael Tuck in book form – this particular image appears to have first been published in 1889 in The Characters of Charles Dickens: Portrayed in a Series of Original Water Colour Sketches by “Kyd”, a collection of lithographs after original water colors by the artist.

The reverse of the postcard is proudly emblazoned with the Royal Warrant whilst a very early version of their palette and easel insignia is visible, albeit rather faintly, on the front left hand edge of the card. The inscription reads:
Raphael Tuck & Sons' “Dickens” Postcard Series 541 II.
Designed in England Chromographed in Bavaria
The postmark is a little blurred, but looks very much like 1903 or possibly 1908 – given that Great Britain was the first to adopt the "divided back" postcard in 1902, this makes the earlier date more likely.

Happy Postcard Friendship Friday!

Find more vintage postcards over at Beth's postcard blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Postcard Friendship Friday

Monday, August 2, 2010

Palazzo Venezia, Rome - 1953

As regular readers of this blog will know, I live in Rome, Italy and therefore often feature vintage Italian postcards. Whilst I love my adopted city, there is one thing about the place that I hate – its crazy traffic and the sheer number of cars that are allowed to drive through the centre of a city that is one of the most historically important on the planet! Thankfully, there is one month a year when things get a little quieter and almost half of the population either take their cars elsewhere or leave them parked at home when they fly off on their annual vacation, which traditionally falls during August to coincide with the Public Holiday of Ferragosto on 15th August. The Roman Catholic Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the occasion nowadays, although Romans have celebrated the day, albeit as a pagan festival, as far back as the days of the ancient Empire.

With Ferragosto in mind this 1953 postcard of Palazzo Venezia rather made me smile – this photograph was probably taken on a typical day, but Piazza Venezia looks impossibly quiet, with several cyclists, a horse and cart and one solitary motor car! Anybody who has attempted to cross the square from the Victor Emmanuel II monument (off camera, but found to the left of this shot) to the other side and Palazzo Venezia, knows how perilous this can be, with drivers gleefully ignoring even zebra crossings!

I also love this postcard because it features one of my favourite buildings. Palazzo Venezia (originally called Palazzo San Marco) is a perfect combination of Renaissance architectural elegance thanks to Leon Battista Alberti's 15th century designs, mixed with medieval fortification, built as it is around a medieval tower and incorporating the 4th century Church of San Marco. The very stuff of the building is even older however - much of the stone was plundered from the nearby Colosseum! Used for most of its history as a papal residence, with part of the building also used as the embassy for the Republic of Venice (hence the name), at the time this postcard was issued the people of Rome would no doubt still have had the dark decades of Mussolini in mind – he kept an office in the Sala del Mappamondo and used a balcony in the palazzo for delivering some of his most famous speeches during the 1930s to the crowds below in Piazza Venezia.

This postcard is one of series published by Enrico Verdesi, a local Rome-based company, issued as a souvenir of the first Congress of the International Federation of Engineers which took place in the city from 8 – 11 October 1953 (the event name is written in French on the reverse of the card - Congrès de la Fédération Internationale d'Ingénieurs). I featured another card a few weeks ago in my Rome Termini Station post. This is also a stunning glossy black and white real photograph postcard with pristine scalloped edges – I only wish I had the entire set!

Happy holidays wherever in the world you are and Buon Ferragosto!

Watch the video below to get an idea of how busy Piazza Venezia is today (or click here to watch on YouTube).

Friday, July 23, 2010

Vintage humour by Donald McGill – 1925

It's hard to believe these days that the innocent kiss-me-quick seaside humour of Donald McGill, the man behind so many of the British everso slightly smutty holiday postcards issued during the first half of the last century, got its creator into quite a deal of trouble with the censors. In 1954, at the grand old age of eighty, McGill was brought to trial charged with breaking the 1857 Obscene Publications Act. Instead of it being thrown out, he actually lost the case and was made to pay a £50 fine and £25 costs.

This artist signed postcard by Donald McGill isn't one of his saucy creations, but does look at one of his classic themes – marital relations – with the stereotypical housewife portrayed as a battleaxe on the doorstep having given her beleagured husband a good battering with the traditional frying pan! McGill produced an estimated 12,000 designs, of which a staggering 200 million copies are thought to have been printed, so this postally used card is hardly a rarity, but caught my eye nevertheless when I spotted it on a market stall in Rome.

Issued as part of the "Comique" series # 5185 by the Inter-Art Co., Florence House, Barnes, London, S.W., the card was posted during the summer on 22 July, 1925, so may well have come from a holiday destination, although sadly that part of the postmark is obscured.

Fans of Donald McGill can today visit the first museum dedicated to his work - Donald McGill's Saucy Seaside Postcard Museum - or visit Tate Britain's latest exhibition - Rude Britannia: British Comic Art - which will also feature his postcards.

Watch a short video - Censored At The Seaside - below or click here to watch on YouTube.

Find more vintage postcards over at Beth's postcard blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Postcard Friendship Friday

Monday, July 19, 2010

Livorno Lighthouse – 1960s

Rome is seriously sizzling this July with temperatures hanging around the 37° Celsius mark – that's about 98.6° Fahrenheit for US readers – and with humidity levels making it feel worse. So to torture myself a little, I thought I'd post a summery image of a dazzling blue sea!

This postcard features the Lighthouse of Livorno (Il Fanale dei Pisani). Livorno is a major port located on the Northern Italian coast of Tuscany on the Mediterranean sea and this lighthouse – probably built by Giovanni di Nicola Pisano – has existed on the same spot since 1304, although the original lighthouse was completely destroyed in 1944 by the withdrawing German forces during the Second World War and was rebuilt in 1956 to match exactly the original construction and faced externally with as many of the original stones as possible. The structure is 47 metres high and has 11 floors reached via a spiral staircase, which is actually cut into the thickness of the inside wall – clearly not a climb for anybody suffering from vertigo!

An architectural construction of such beauty, it is even believed to be the source of inspiration for Dante's famous verses in the Divine Comedy, Purgatory, V, 14-15 (Source: Fanale dei Pisani)
stand like a sturdy tower that does not shake
its summit though the winds may blast.
The postcard carries the name of both the Tuscan publisher - Stefano Venturini – and the Milanese printer – Cesare Capello – and also makes reference to the Deposito di Livorno (presumably an image archive). Whilst this is not a real photograph postcard it was printed from a genuine colour photograph on Kodak Ektachrome paper and bears the Kodak logo on the reverse. Originally launched in the 1940s, by the 1950s onwards Ektachrome film had been improved sufficiently to allow small professional photography labs to process images on-site and was used right through to the 1970s. The postcard is uncirculated, but the version of the Capello logo printed on the reverse was certainly in use from the late 1950s and the classic look of the slightly gaudy colours probably dates this card to the first half of the 1960s when the newly rebuilt lighthouse was once again a local landmark.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Termini Station, Rome - 1953

After a long, wet winter and spring, summer has finally arrived in Rome and the city is sizzling hot making most of us dream of August and the vacation exodus to either the seaside or cooler climes! With travel plans in mind I thought it might be nice to share a postcards of Rome's Termini railway station published in the 1950s, when train travel still maintained an aura of glamour.

This stunning glossy black and white real photograph postcard with pristine scalloped edges is an aerial shot of Rome's main station Stazione di Roma Termini (now also named after Pope John Paul II, to whom it was dedicated in 2006). Whilst postcards of major stations are not particularly rare this is such a stunning example that I couldn't resist it, as it illustrates so well the station's architectural achievements - the extremely long, modernist facade in travertine and the gravity-defying reinforced concrete cantilever roof which forms a stunning double curve. The building was designed by two teams of architects - Leo Calini and Eugenio Montuori, and Massimo Castellazzi, Vasco Fadigati, Achille Pintonello and Annibale Vitellozzi – and was only inaugurated in 1950, meaning this postcard from 1953 was very much a celebration of a brand new building.

Published by Enrico Verdesi, a local Rome-based company, this postcard was specifically issued as a souvenir of the first Congress of the International Federation of Engineers which took place in the city from 8 – 11 October 1953 (the event name is written in French on the reverse of the card - Congrès de la Fédération Internationale d'Ingénieurs). Through the wonderful assistance of Google I've also discovered that the congress saw the participation of Pope Pius XII, who gave a speech addressing the social responsibilities of engineers. You can read it here (in French).

Terminal Station (also known as Indiscretion of an American Wife), the Vittorio De Sica movie starring Montgomery Clift and Jennifer Jones, was also made in 1953. Much of the action takes place within the station and if you know the location, the film is well worth watching for this reason alone!

Watch the beginning of the film below or click here to watch in on YouTube.

Find more vintage postcards over at Beth's postcard blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday  - am posting this a day early this week!

Postcard Friendship Friday

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dolores Del Río – early 1930s

I'm reading a fascinating biography of Orson Welles at the moment by David Thomson called Rosebud. One of those little pieces of Hollywood gossip that seems to have passed me by and I discovered through reading this book was the fact that for a period early on in Welles' film career, he had dated Mexican actress Dolores Del Río. This reminded me of this lovely Italian postcard featuring Del Río in which she looks particularly stunning – she has a timeless beauty that transcends fashion or different eras, although she is often described as the archetypal Art Deco model.

This is an uncirculated postcard printed by G.B. Falci, a Milan-based company. The image features Del Río as she appeared in the 1928 film Ramona in which she took the title role. It bears a photo credit to Associati Artisti, who were presumably the Italian distributors of the film (and not to be confused with Associated Artists Productions which existed much later in Hollywood from 1953 to 1958). Given the slight time lag between release and international distribution, I would guess that this card was probably issued in the early 1930s.

Born María de los Dolores Asúnsolo y López Negrete in 1905 and a veteran of the silent era and the Golden Age of Hollywood movies, Del Río had suffered somewhat in the crossover into talkies when she found herself suddenly relegated to playing racial stereotypes and met prejudice because of her accent. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, however, she made a triumphant return to the country of her birth and became Mexico's most important actress working with some of the finest directors in the country. A victim of McCarthyism, she was denied entry back into the States for many years. When she finally returned to Hollywood it was alongside Elvis Presley in one of the king's better movies - the 1960 western Flaming Star directed by Don Siegel. Her final film role saw her starring opposite Anthony Quinn in The Children of Sanchez in 1978, only five years before her death in 1983. In 2005, on the centenary of her birth, her ashes were transfered to the Rotunda of Illustrious Persons in Mexico City.

Whilst researching this post I stumbled upon this wonderful slide show accompanied by Dolores Del Río singing the song Ramona which was written for the film. Whilst it was never actually used in the movie, the actress performed it during promotional appearances for the film. Watch it below or click here to watch in on YouTube.

Find more vintage postcards over at Beth's postcard blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.

Postcard Friendship Friday