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D - Topicals
Dams - As American cities grew so did the need to supply them with clean drinking water. Many large dams were constructed to solve this problem, often far from the cities themselves. Later on dams would also be built to generate hydro-electric power. While dams have been built for ages, many of these newer structures were of the size and scope previously never seen. Many of these dams became tourist attractions and were presented on postcards as marvels of modern engineering.
Dancing - While dancing seems to have always been a popular activity its depictions on postcards are not that common. This is most likely due to the fact that the activity is only recognizable while people are in motion, which is not often well captured by a photograph taken with slow film. Most images of dances to be found on postcards are artist drawn either specifically as an illustration or as a art reproduction. These depictions can be elegant and romantic or satires on social class and current fads.
Days of the Week - These types of cards were almost always issued in sets. This topic easily fit into the distribution method of packaging cards together, which was used as a marketing ploy to increase sales. Sometimes individual cards would be released over time. This however made sales of these cards uneven and sometimes poor sales would end the printing of a series before it was complete. Because of this some cards of a series may now be plentiful while other days of the week cards may be difficult or impossible to find.
Dear Doctor - These advertising cards were published by Abbott Laboratories to promote the Barbiturate, Sodium Pentothal in the 1950’s. The salutation began Dear Doctor, and hundreds of thousands were mailed out to health professionals and institutions. Local printers were used to manufacture these cards and their expertise tapped to choose images that might prove popular. They were mailed from various locations throughout the world, and their messages can be found in Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish in addition to English. This series of 180 cards were numbered.
Death - The subject of death may not have been the most popular of postcard themes but with the great variety of subjects published it too found its way onto them. Death has long been a subject of paintings presented allegorically through the use of a skeletal figure, and usually in relation to love, greed, or war. Though many of these paintings were reproduced as art cards a good number of illustrators specifically designed postcards around the theme of death. These became most common during the First World War, usually presented as anti-war propaganda.
Department Stores - The general store had long provided rural Americans with a wide variety of goods. This same principal was taken up on a larger scale in New York City when the Marble Palace opened in 1846. Sixteen years later they had expanded to a full city block selling their goods out of departments. The success of this model spread to other cities while the same chain of events were occurring elsewhere around the world. By the 1890’s most large cities had department stores and they where using postcards as a major source of advertising. Many of the larger stores became local landmarks themselves that found their way onto view-cards.
Depots - If postcards were made of a town they usually included all the prominent public structures including railroad stations. But male collectors considered depots in particular a serious subject and cards depicting them were singled out. While the numbers of those involved in railroad related hobbies has declined, a strong interest still remains and depot postcards continue to fetch much higher prices than views of other structures. While some consider postcards depicting depots to be more rare than those showing other structures, this premise is open to much debate.
Die Cut - Cards having any shape other than a rectilinear one were made by cutting them with formed dies after printing. These novelties have been manufactured since the 19th Century and were first employed by advertising cards. Some designs are so delicate they could only be mailed in envelopes. Die cut cards are still made but they are rarely as innovative as in years past. Decorative edges such as scallops were also cut into cards with dies but they are not considered die cut cards.
Disasters - Both natural and man-made tragedies outside of war fall into this category. The damage caused by fire and floods are the most common type to be found on cards. Images depicting disasters were largely produced on postcards before they became a regular part of newspapers and magazines. They were once the public’s only access to depictions of many of these events. They were also very often found on real photo cards as their production speed kept the subject current and they could be quickly sold as news items. Cards of large disasters were sometimes produced in great quantity and marketed on a national basis. Cards of other events may have only been created for a very localized audience and are much more rare.
Divers - Scuba gear was not developed until the mid 20th century and so most old postcards depict deep sea divers in early helmeted body suits. These cards are difficult to come by and must often be sought through the activities diving was used for or through the places where divers were most often employed. Diving was often used for the repair of ships, bridges, and port facilities. It was also used to harvest natural resources and for salvage work. Postcards of divers are mostly found on themes relating to naval yards and warm water ports. Underwater photography was not available to early postcard publishers and underwater scenes with divers in them were mostly shot through the glass windows of large aquarium tanks when not rendered by artists.
Dogs - The large number of postcards depicting dogs make them stand out from the animal category as a whole. But unlike other animals or even pets, dogs are often represented engaged in some human directed activity as much as standing alone. Most of these scenarios revolve around hunting but dogs can be found on cards ranging from snow sledding to Red Cross helpers. They are almost always presented in a serious manner and are rarely found on comic cards, which the exception of a few characters like Bonzo.
Doorways - By the turn of the 20th century many historical buildings that had not found some utilitarian purpose were falling into disrepair. Most would have probably disappeared if not for revived interest in them sparked by the growth of tourism. Many historical societies formed at this time and in 1906 the Antiquities Act passed Congress making it a crime to destroy structures designated places of historic interest. Many images of these buildings and their architectural details were captured by photographers and placed on postcards. One of the most popular images of architectural elements to be collected was that of old New England doorways.
Dressed Animals - Anthropomorphic depictions of animals was already a well established tradition in illustration when postcards made their first appearance. Their use in stories seems to be as old as man. Some very large card series were created utilizing this genre as seen in those of the Roosevelt Bears, the Mainzer Cats, and the real photo dressed animal cards by Harry W. Frees. Many of these types of postcards were published and they remain popular today.
Drug Use - Drug Use - In the years leading up to the advent of postcards cocaine, opiates, and marijuana were commonly prescribed medicines and ingredients in everyday products. Even though many Civil War veterans suffered from morphine addiction (Soldiers Decease) it was still often used as a cure for alcohol abuse. Many women were also using opiates quietly at home at the turn of the century. The temperance movement that believed the use of tobacco led to drinking and drinking to drugs sought to ban the use of all stimulants. The dichotomy of views largely allowed the use of drugs to continue unabated but abusers were often presented in a dim light. Drug use was too common and private a practice for most postcards to take note of, and when shown it was usually to enhance the titillation of a risque card. While laws that closed opium dens had been around since the 1870’s, the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914, enacted out of fears of assaults on white women by Negro cocaine fiends was the first real attempt to try to strictly limit sales.
Drydocks - Ever since the emergence of ships various ways of repairing them in a dry environment have been found. By the time postcards emerged the two modern forms of drydocks were already in existence. The more common depiction is of the graving dock, cut out from land and lined with stone. Large caissons would keep the water out after a ship sailed in and it was pumped dry. This type is most often found on postcards of naval yards. The floating drydock could rise and fall as water was pumped in and out of her. This type of craft could be towed to different locations and can be found on postcards of ports and stand alone vessels in their own right.
Duck Farming - When the first snowy white Pekin ducks arrived in America from China in 1873 a new industry was born. Duck farming had been a localized endeavor concentrated on Long Island, New York for many years. A good number of cards were produced of them as a unique local attraction in a time when farm animals were still raised outdoors. As Long Island’s farms have disappeared under pressure from real estate development, duck farming has moved to the Midwest.
Dutch - While most postcards from Europe depicted its inhabitants in a contemporary manner, many cards from the Netherlands in particular showed their people from small towns in traditional dress. This type of ethnic depiction carried over into many illustrated postcards produced in the United States as well. White cloth hats, wooden shoes, windmills, tulips, and delft blue tiles all became stereotypical imagery. Its popularity and portrayal went deeper than a general interest in ethnic types, attached to romantic notions of the day.