Sending Christmas postal cards

Published 9:45 am Saturday, December 17, 2011

Graphic by Kathy Johnson/Albert Lea Tribune

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series.


About a century ago people had the option of sending Christmas greetings to friends and relatives two ways in the mail. One way was the traditional card inside an envelope. The second one was to use a postal card with the seasonal scene on one side and divided spaces for the address of the recipient and a short message on the other side.

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Proof of this second once popular option is in the archives of the Freeborn County Historical Museum. An old shoe box contains at least 150 of these cards from the past. And a real bonus factor is based on these cards with their Christmas themes costing only a penny each to mail to addresses locally or anywhere else in the nation. To prove their real age, some of the cards have postmarks dated 1911.

The addresses for the recipients of the Christmas postal cards were certainly simpler a century ago. There were no zip codes and in situations, even in Albert Lea, there might be just a street name with no house number. After all, the mailman in those days supposedly knew everyone on his route. For smaller communities all that was needed was the name of the recipient and his or her town and state.

Another detail with Christmas postcards of the past was the postmarks. Many of the cards in the museum’s collection have postmarks and recipient’s addresses based on Albert Lea. This certainly emphasized the concept of local delivery. Also, several of the Christmas cards had postmarks for localities like Hartland, Myrtle and Clarks Grove.

One detail with postmarks from a century or so ago was based on the use of the date and sometimes even the time of the mailing. Several of the postcards in the museum’s collection have postmarks with the date of Dec. 24 and a p.m. time, clearly indicating rather late Christmas greetings for the recipients.


Next week: Christmas postal cards featuring children, plus information about a few of their favorite presents a century ago.


Cards courtesy Freeborn County Historical Museum

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