A rack card refers to continental sized cards issued since the mid 1990’s that are generally given away for free as advertising. They are usually found in card rack displays, but they can be distributed in a variety of ways. Rack cards are a variant of the older give away postcards once popular with hotels and restaurants. While most of these cards can be mailed, some have advertising on both sides.
Radiol is the trade name for the form of bronzing specifically used by the Berlin publisher Paul Finkenrath to apply metallic colors to his cards. (See bronzing)
Rag paper is a type of paper made from plant fiber that is easily broken down into pulp though mechanical means without the use of chemicals. The fibers from cotton and flax are most often used to create high quality papers, though cotton rags and mill sweepings have long been used as a cheaper source for high quality cellulose. Esparto grass now provides quality fiber for rag paper but it is not commonly used outside of Europe. Rag papers generally have archival properties and are very strong due to their long interlocking fibers. While many rag papers are acid free, the rag content in itself is no guarantee of its ph level. The high cost of this type of paper has generally precluded its use in postcard production unless used in very limited amounts in blends with chemical pulp. The quality of paper used for postcards varied widely between publishers.
A railway hotel is one that is owned by a railroad company located near one of their train stations. As railroads grew larger they began purchasing and building large hotels in order to offer more complete travel packages that would encourage tourism over their line. While some hotels provided rooms at important transfer points, many others became tourist destinations in themselves and an excuse for rail travel. Railway hotels also became major distribution points for postcards, which turned railroads into large publishers of cards that publicized the destinations they offered.
Railway Mail Service
Railway Mail is an exclusive service use by the U.S. Post Office Department on privately owned rail lines to sort and deliver mail. The government first experimented moving mail by train in 1832, and six years later all rail lines were officially declared postal routes. In a nation of poor roads, railroads became an essential method of transport; and as the country grew, so did the Railway Mail Service. By 1862 Railway Post Offices were established on rail cars for the sorting of mail en-route to their destinations. By 1930 there were over 10,000 such cars serving every American city and town that had a rail line running through it. These postal routes often extended beyond train station terminals as trolley and cable car lines were eventually added to the service to carry mail even further. By 1971 all but the New York to Washington line had been closed and replaced by trucks and planes. On June 30th, 1977 the last Railway Post Office closed. Railway mail that was processed in transit received special postmarks that are now collected.
Two distinct colors could be added to an image printed from a single plate by gently blending only the edges of each together on an inking slab with continuous passes of a roller before transferring it to the plate. A darker key plate would then print the image over this rainbow tint. The colors chosen were often blue representing sky and a reddish brown for the earth but both of the same tonal value. These choices were more symbolic than representational as they sometimes had a standard division at the midpoint of an image making no real reference to its subject matter. Some printers used bright colors to attract attention to their cards, but these hues often had no relation to the image. Rainbow rolls were largely used in conjunction with collotype, lithography, or line block printing in the early 1900’s.
Real Photo Postcard
While photographs were sent through the mail since the 19th century, a real photo postcard is an actual photograph exposed onto card stock that was designed to be mailed. Real photo cards first began to appear in number when Eastman Kodak introduced Velox photo paper with a pre-printed postcard back in 1902. Since these cards could be easily contact printed with the postcard size negatives available from Kodak cameras, it is sometimes impossible to tell if an image was handmade in limited quantities or commercially mass-produced. Many other gaslight papers for card production soon followed with AZO being one of the most popular. These types of cards became very common and eventually most photographs were produced in the postcard format regardless of intentions to mail them. Real photo cards became instrumental in disseminating news in an era when newspapers rarely carried pictures, and they also captured many intimate moments of private life that would never have been commercially published. The specific characteristics of these cards varied as photo technology continued to evolve. The ability of photochromes to reproduce photo-like images in printed natural color at a low price put most real photo postcard publishers out of business and these cards are rarely seen beyond the 1950’s.
Rebus (Hieroglyphic Puzzle)
A rebus is an image where the placement of a picture within a line of text acts as a substitute for a phonetic sound or an entire word. The term is derived from the Latin, by things. The use of rebus first became popular in 18th century England, and had been employed in early illustrated books. Rebus cards were already being printed as novelties in the 1860’s to satisfy the growing public taste for word games. It was later used on postcard greetings, especially valentines. There was a revival of the use of rebus in advertising during the 1930’s.
A receivers mark is an official hand stamp placed on mail at the Post Office that accepts delivery to acknowledge receipt. As it is not used for cancellation it does not appear over the stamp, and the words Received or some sort of similar abbreviation is included within its design. In the early years of rural free delivery mail could sit in a Post Office for months before ever being picked up, and the receivers mark was a way to let the addressee know how long it was sitting there. Receivers marks were only officially required prior to 1907, but many individual postal clerks continued to use them for many years afterward.
A Reflectoscope is a type of magic lantern specifically designed to project the images printed on postcards. Rather than projecting light through a traditional transparency, an opaque flat image could be captured by a mirror and then its reflection projected onto a screen. Various models existed that could be powered by alcohol, electric or gas. The term Reflectoscope was also used as a brand name for a slide projector.
Registration is the practice of perfectly aligning paper, especially over multiple printing surfaces so they will print in the proper location to create a single image. While this is done automatically on highly mechanized presses, the more time consuming method of matching cross line markings (registration marks) on the back edges of printing paper with corresponding marks on the substrate was often employed when using smaller hand presses. For every additional color used in printing there were more chances for non-alignment and waste, and so efficient registration methods were always sought. Many postcards entered into distribution with a printed color out of alignment as quality control tended not to be an overriding issue for this product.
A reissue is the second or additional printing of a postcard derived from the same photograph. Postcards were usually ordered in quantities ranging from 500 to 6000 cards. Large orders were not usually placed because about half of the cards purchased needed to be sold just for a retailer to break even. The delicate nature of many printing plates also prevented larger press runs even if they were desired. Popular images of tourist attractions or resorts had no trouble selling, and they were often reordered a number of times. Due to the complex nature of creating an image on a plate before color photo separation evolved, no two reissues could ever look the same. Sometimes these differences were intentional to make an image look new and generate more sales. Reissues are responsible for most postcard variations.
All methods of relief printing are characterized as being made from a printing substrate whose flat top surface carries the image when rolled with ink while all non-printing areas (the color of the paper) are cut away so that they fall below the picture plane (dead level). It is one of the few techniques where prints can be pulled either from the pressure supplied by a press or solely from burnishing by hand. Wooden planks were the traditional material used for making relief prints, but cast metal would eventually become the predominant substrate used in commercial printing.
The writing of letters served as an important agent in reaffirming social bonds during the 19th century, but as postcards became popular they largely took over this function. While postcards were widely advertised as a product that could ease the burden of letter writing, many did not accept this break with etiquette. The expectation of receiving mail from friends and family grew regardless of slovenly habits, and many postcards contain written messages complaining about the absence of long overdue correspondence. This was such a common occurrence that pre-printed reminder cards were published with such messages as Why Don’t You Write?
Reproducing postcards were first copyrighted as novelty items by A. Loeffler in 1895. These cards had a simple drawn linear image printed onto them in a light ink and then the same lines would be embossed into it from the back. A postcard printed back would then be glued onto the uneven surface so it could be written on more easily. The front of these cards contained printed instructions advising that a piece of paper be firmly held over it while a soft pencil or crayon is rubbed over the picture. In this manner the image could be roughly reproduced in the manner of a rubbing more times than anyone would have the patience to do.
A retoucher is an artist or craftsman who alters an image at some stage within its photomechanical reproduction. Sometimes this work was done by a specialist or art director. Retouching was not only used to remove flaws or unwanted objects, it was an absolutely necessary step in the production of early postcards whenever color was involved. Before photographic separation techniques were available the retoucher was responsible for separating the colors on printing plates by eye. Nearly all postcards prior to the 1950’s show their handiwork. They were also responsible for adding in clouds and other atmospheric effects that were not recorded in the photograph that the card was based on. While retouchers generally followed the instructions of their managers, they were often left to work with much discretion. Once photochromes were introduced, the need for retouching work greatly declined. Photo retouching is a separate craft in which actual photographs are altered after they are printed
see Plate Tone
A reverse negative is one where the image it contains has been reversed (flipped) from the original so when it is reversed while being transferred to a plate, it will reverse again when printed and read correctly. In all photographic processes, images are transferred emulsion to emulsion so there is no space for light to scatter and blur the image. Some film may be thin enough to produce a satisfactory image from the non-emulsion side, but this is impossible to achieve when a glass negative is used. Printing from one emulsion to another is not a problem when making photographs, as the single transfer from negative to photo paper was the final product, but when printing from a substrate, the final image on printing paper would mirror the plate’s image. A second negative in a reversed orientation (mirror image) was needed before the image could be exposed to the plate. This process is known as a double transfer.
Reward cards carrying appealing images and subject matter began to be produced in the 1880’s as a marketing strategy; they were included free with packaged goods as a reward for the purchase. Since these cards were produced as collectables and were not meant to be mailed, descriptive information as well as advertising was usually placed on their backs. They were issued in sets to encourage sales among those anxious to collect them. Reward cards were usually larger than trade cards but not quite up to that of a standard sized postcard. Cigarette cards eventually became the most popular form of all reward cards.
In Great Britain another type of reward card appeared between the 1880’s and the 1920’s. These cards were issued by schools on a quarterly basis to act as a reward for good attendance by students. They were initially produced in a standard postcard size, and without advertising on their backs so they could be mailed. A wide variety of subjects such as animals, plants, ships, scenery, and fairy tales appeared on them, which were mostly rendered through drawn illustration. In 1903 these cards were being printed in larger sizes, making them impossible to mail without trimming them down. As they became difficult to place in standard sized albums their collectability and popularity declined.
Richkrome is a brand name for an early type of photochrome postcard printed by the Steelograph Company in New York City during the 1950’s. They were produced in line block utilizing tricolor printing.
A ring-size gage is a tool used by jewelers in which twelve holes were die cut into card stock to exactly match numbered ring sizes. These were eventually adapted to trade cards where advertising for the store would be printed on one side and instructions for use on the other. While most of these cards were produced in a simple black & white, many early cards can also be found printed in chromolithography. They were in use from the 1860’s well into the 20th century.
Postcards that invite the viewer to engage in sexual fantasy inspired by the suggestive expression, attitude, or pose of the subject are considered to be risqué. These are never nudes for they are based on notions of teasing and cannot be explicit. The specifics of this definition are somewhat open to interpretation and have changed over time. Many images once considered risqué or even obscene would now be thought of as prurient. Postmasters within the U.S. Postal Service have a right to use their personal judgement in determining what is obscene; so diffing attitudes can cause a the same risqué card to be seized and destroyed or overlooked and delivered. While what is seen as risqué may have changed over time, it has always been used as a marketing ploy.
Road of a Thousand Wonders
The Road of a Thousand Wonders was a name given to the Southern Pacific Railroad’s 1300 mile Shasta Route, running from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon, in an effort to encourage tourism. A great many postcards were created of the views along this route, and references to the Road of a Thousand Wonders are often printed on them.
The Roosevelt Bears refer to a specific pair of anthropomorphic bears used in illustration. After President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a tethered bear on a hunting trip in 1902, the incident was rendered into a political cartoon whose popularity attracted national attention. This incident inspired the creation of the Teddy Bear, which quickly became a best seller. By 1906 the New York Times added to this craze by publishing a comic strip by Adolph Ochs depicting two bears traveling east to meet the President. The following year Seymour Eaton published a childrenÕs book on the travels and adventures of the Roosevelt Bears. As these bears became nationally recognized characters, their images began appearing on both postcards and in advertising.
Rosin is the sap from resinous trees that has been hardened through a purification process. Rosin is available in crystal or powdered form. It is hard and brittle, melts at low temperatures, and is soluble in alcohol. It is often used in intaglio printing as a component of acid resists, especially with the aquatint technique.
A rosette is the final flower like design that results from the printing of three halftone plates whose frequency patterns lay at a 30 degree difference to one another. The printed surface that results will create the illusion of continuous tone while avoiding the creation of moirˇ patterns. Just a one-degree difference can form noticeable interference in printed images. Rosettes can be found in both tricolor and process prints.
Between 1750 and 1850 numerous versions of a rotary press were invented. They had already been in use for some time for printing on fabric, but little is known about them. The Englishman, David Napier who had made many improvements to the cylinder press patented a design for a rotary press in 1837 but did little to put it into production. It was the rotary press patented in 1844 by Richard M. Hoe of New York City that would revolutionize the printing industry. It consisted of one large roller into which columns of type were fitted surrounded by a number of smaller impression rollers that applied pressure to the back of the paper. A separate image could be printed simultaneously for every impression roller present with only one revolution of the large roller. Unlike the roller of the cylinder press that would turn back and forth with every pass of the press bed, Hoe’s roller would continuously turn in only one direction. Printing speed was determined by how fast this roller could be made to rotate and how many impression rollers could be fitted around it. While this press used hand fed sheets of paper, another design that would accept and cut web fed paper was invented by William Bullock in 1865. Hoe and Bullock would work together to make many additional improvements to rotary presses. By the 1890’s there would be a variety of rotary presses available, and within ten years most of these steam driven machines were electrified. As presses were motorized they became ever faster, and with electric power a whole range of new features could be added to them.
Rotogravure is an intaglio printing process in which an image is etched into small grid-like cells on a rotary printing cylinder by photochemical means. Photogravure had been used in commercial printing since the paper fed press was developed in 1863, but early attempts to utilize rotary presses to print gravure were hampered by the seemingly impossible problem of exposing a cylinder to a halftone screen. In 1864, J. W. Swan found a solution to this problem when he discovered a way of transferring an image onto a metal plate by using a photosensitive gelatin tissue, and in 1879, Karl Klic replaced Talbot’s first step of aquatinting a plate by infusing the gelatin tissue itself with a dot pattern. This new tissue was not only able to produce an attractive random grain along with fine detail, Klic’s method provided the most consistent results and it soon became the most widely used. Just as important, the use of gelatin tissue would allow gravure to migrate to the rotary press because it could easily be exposed anywhere and later wrapped around a copper coated cylinder. Once adhered, the cylinder could then be etched by rotating it through a tray of acid. Rather than patent and license his invention, Klic hoped his Rembrandt Intaglio Printing Company could keep a monopoly on the process; but when an apprentice left for America he took the trade secret with him. By 1904 rotogravure was in widespread use and producing countless postcards. While rotogravure was designed for use on a rotary press these plates were sometimes printed on flatbed hand presses.
In 1908 two textile printers, Eduard Mertens and Ernst Rolffs took rotogravure’s development much further. Rolffs developed a method by which a gelatin tissue is double exposed, first to create a solid crossline screen pattern across the entire surface of the cylinder to act as an acid resist. This screen will not print but remain white while allowing the square cells between them to be further exposed. The second exposure is then made with the transparency that holds the image, which causes the square cells to harden in proportion to the amount of light filtering through the transparency. The tissue is then adhered to a cylinder and the soft areas are washed out with water leaving a hard acid resist behind. The acid bath it is rolled through will incise a continuous toned image into its surface between the screened lines by creating small ink cells of substantial but varying depth. The deeper depressions will transfer more ink to the printing surface creating darker areas while the shallow inkwells that tend to only capture ink around their edges will print lighter. The screen pattern completely disappears in the non-image areas of the cylinder that do not receive an etch. In dark areas the fine lines of the screen pattern that were not etched will leave behind a faint white grid around the wells. These lines are too small to be visible to the naked eye especially in areas of dense blacks where the ink is pulled out of the wells to produce a heavy plate tone.
During printing the etched screen cylinder revolves in an ink fountain where it is coated with fluid ink. Mertens invented a wiping blade (doctor blade) that clears ink from the surface areas while leaving the ink in the depressions of the screen cylinder, protected by the grid. When paper passes between the etched screen cylinder and an impression cylinder, its soft rubber covering pushes the paper into the incised steep ink cells and the image is transferred onto the paper. For small runs such as postcards, sheet-fed presses were most often used. When printing with process color, blue, red, yellow, and black are used instead of the usual CMYK colors of offset lithography. A separate cylinder would be made for every color used in a print. After this process was patented in 1910 it soon began being used in commercial printing.
Rounded corners refer to the curved corners, usually all four, of a postcard that was originally squared, but has been worn down by excessive handling. This type of damage is very common, though it can be light to severe.
Routing is the cutting away of metal around an irregular shaped image on a printing plate that is usually used in letterpress. By removing this excess metal, type could be placed closer to the image, usually for decorative effect.
Rural Free Delivery
Rural Free Delivery is a mail delivery service provided to rural areas by the U.S. Post Office Department. Postage was traditionally paid to cover the cost of transporting mail from post office to post office. Home delivery was only available through private companies for an additional fee. It was not until 1863 that the Post Office Department started City Free Delivery to locations with over 10,000 inhabitants. This represented less than a quarter of the nation’s population for even with rising urbanization most American’s continued to live in a rural environment. In 1896 an experiment was initiated to deliver mail to regions outside of cities, which was a difficult task since most mail went out by horse and buggy until the service was motorized in 1914. By 1902 Rural Free Delivery became official postal policy. This new service greatly fed the early postcard craze as it created a new audience of millions.