On February 27, 1861, the United States Congress passed a law permitting privately printed cards, one ounce or under, to be sent though the mail. One-cent postage was required for delivery distances less than 1500 miles, and two cents postage for longer distances. It was the first official authorization for the use of postcards in the world. Much controversy surrounded this issue as privacy concerns and fears of revenue loss to the government abounded. Forty-two days later civil war erupted as Fort Sumter was fired upon, and the postcard debate was sidelined.
Sensing a business opportunity in letting the public send quick notes, John P. Charlton of Philadelphia took advantage of the new post card law and copyrighted America’s first postcard in 1861. The original card consisted of a simple design; a few lines for an address, a stamp box, and the copyright date, all printed in three colors. It was marketed as a way to stay in touch with family and a cheap means of advertising, all for half the cost of a letter. None of these cards were ever used to anyone’s knowledge.
It is uncertain when Hyman L. Lipman met John Charlton, but they were in business together when a second series of cards were introduced carrying the name Lipman’s Postal Card. The earliest known postmark on these cards is of October 25, 1870 from Richmond, Indiana. This time the front contained a pictorial advertisement of an Esterbrook Steel Pen. It was the first authorized illustrated postcard to be sent though the United States mail but it soon became obsolete when the Government released its own postal card.
Use the link below for a more compleate history of this period.