Dear Miss Harris: Edwardian Postcards in the Antipodes

Auckland New Library, c1905 (Rotary Photographic)

Dear Miss Harris: Edwardian Postcards in the Antipodes

Good Wishes, c1909 (Rotary Photographic)

Dear Miss Harris: Edwardian Postcards in the Antipodes

Birthday Greetings, c1909 (Philco)

Edwardian Postcards in the Antipodes

The golden age of the postcard was the Edwardian era (1901-1910). During this period postcards became a worldwide phenomena and millions were purchased and sent around the world annually.

Brief History

Postcards were a cheap and convenient way to exchange everyday messages, in an age when people did not travel, telephones were few, telegraph was expensive, but the postal service was quick, efficient, and cheap. Postcards began to be widely used in New Zealand from about 1903. There were two mail deliveries a day in the metropolitan areas so it was possible to send someone a postcard in the morning to arrange a meeting in the afternoon or evening.


The cost of sending a postcard within New Zealand until 1907 was one penny (1d), the same price as the letter rate. From 1907 this was reduced to a halfpenny (1/2d). Each postcard was postmaster-stamped from 1904 to 1936. The postcards themselves cost between between 1d and 3d each, sometimes up to 6d for a particularly ornate card.


Postcards, at the time, were viewed by critics as a threat to the art of letter writing and people’s ability to spell and use grammar correctly, rather like emails and texting today.


The collecting of pictorial postcards became a popular hobby. The craze had started in Europe in the 1890s. By 1905 postcards were available in such variety and profusion that they became collectibles. New releases were eagerly awaited and were sent to friends and relatives with the anticipation that one would be received in return. The postcard obsession began to wane by 1913 when there was a massive worldwide glut of mass-produced cards. The outbreak of World War I marked the end of the craze.



Postcards capture a snapshot in time; a piece of social history, a bygone world frozen in time. The picture, stamp, postmark, message and address were part of the life of two people, the sender and the recipient. Historic postcards, sold in New Zealand during the early years of the twentieth century, mostly combined colourful imagery with reflections of northern traditions, portraits, seasonal and religious greetings, scenes and botanicals. Cards were mostly printed in Great Britain for sale in the colonies.


Britain was the first country to introduce the ‘divided back’ postcard format we are familiar with today. By 1902 the size of cards had been largely standardised. The themes are often from “home”, such as Easter in Spring, Christmas in the snow, with holly and robins. These themes are still prevalent in seasonal greeting cards available for purchase in twenty-first century New Zealand. The many surviving examples of such postcards tell a vivid picture of the time.


This exhibition has been inspired by a series of Edwardian era cards collected by Sue Cooper of Remuera Heritage. The postcards displayed have been acquired from the private collection of Miss Ethel Mary Harris of Bombay, Auckland.


The images in this exhibition are particularly English in origin, representative of commercial stock available in New Zealand at the time. This curated exhibition includes the works of English printer and photographic publisher J.Beagles & Co, the Rotary Photo Company, who used rotary presses to print their cards, Raphael Tuck & Sons one the most successful publishers during the “postcard boom”, photographer E. Alexander Ltd, greeting card printer and publishers Misch & Co, The Philco Publishing Company, E.A. Schwerdtfeger & Co, and leading royal and high society portrait photographer Alexander Bassano, most famous for the “Lord Kitchener Wants You” WW1 recruitment poster. There are examples of the B.B. London series, the A & G Taylor’s “Reality series, the “Popular” Series, and celebrity shots from Angus Thomas Ltd.


To view a gallery of Remuera postcards visit:


1. Madam Clara Butt (1872-1936), recitalist and concert singer, c1907 (Angus Thomas Ltd)
2. Miss Mabel Green (1890-1970), stage beauty, c1908 (Bassano)
3. Miss Viola Tree (1884-1938), English actress, singer, playwright and author, c1905 (Raphael Tuck & Sons)

Good Luck, c1911
(J Beagle & Co, 977.V)

A Merry Christmas, c1908
(BB London Series X88)

New Year Greetings, c1911
(J Beagle & Co, 979.z)

Happy Easter, c1907
(Raphael Tuck & Sons, series 4066)

Merry Xmas, c1907
(Rotary Photographic)

With Best Xmas Wishes, c1909
(E Alexander Ltd)

Easter Joy & hope, c1907
(Raphael Tuck & Sons, E108)

A Peaceful Easter, c1912
(Misch & Co, series 1914)

Joyous Birthday, c1912
(J Beagle & Co, 818.U)

Birthday Wishes c1909
(BB London Series D20)

Disturbed Dreams, c1907
(E A Schwerdtfeger & Co, 08863:3)

Hope Faith & Charity, c1907
(Philco Publishing 2102 A)

Mamma Darling, c1908
(J Beagle & Co, 948M)

Many Happy Returns, c1911
(Rotary Photographic Series)

Memories Cling (birthday), c2011
(A&G Taylor's Reality Series)