According to Wikipedia, the earliest known picture postcard was posted in London to a writer called Theodore Hook in 1840. It had a hand painted design which was of a caricature of post office workers. It is believed to be a joke by Hook and that he probably sent it to himself.

In 1894 the Royal Mail gave permission to British publishers to manufacture and distribute picture postcards. These early postcards were pictures of famous landmarks, scenic views, photographs or drawings of celebrities , etc. All fairly tame and ‘proper’.

Trains were beginning to provide fast and affordable travel to the masses, and as the seaside was now in reach to many it became a popular tourist destination. This generated its own souvenir-industry and the picture postcard became an essential product of this industry.

The saucy cartoon postcards which probably everyone thinks about when discussing picture postcards started in the early 1930s, and at the peak around 16 million were sold each year. I’m sure that you can picture them; they usually featured characters such as large ladies and their put-upon husbands and vicars.

They became so saucy that the then 1950’s Conservative Government decided to crack down on them. But normal service resumed in the more liberal 1960s.

You may be wondering where I am going with this, but when did you last send a postcard? I’d not given it any thought until I read a press release from Skyscanner. They had conducted a social media poll and found that only 6% of those who took part still sent a postcard.

I can’t remember the last time I send a card with “weather is here, wish you were nice” on it and returned home three weeks before the card arrived.

Now it appears that technology has taken over.

  • 26% of travellers use Facebook to offer holiday updates
  • 24% use text messages.
  • 14% use a phone to update those back home
  • 14% couldn’t be bothered to do anything
  • Surprisingly only 2% of Twitter users explain their holiday through tweets and picture uploads
  • The study also found that 22% of social media users receive their travel inspiration through social media


So the next time that you are away, surprise those back home by sending them a postcard. They won’t be expecting it.

This blog was taken from the John Guinn Travel Show broadcast on on 21st April 2013. You can listen to a podcast of this and previous shows at