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Macabre - The precise definition of the macabre can vary greatly between the collector and seller of postcards so a variety of items can fall within this category. Traditionally the macabre revolves around imagery preoccupied with the ever present power of death. The Danse Macabre is an early form popularized in numerous illustration By Medieval times it begins showing up in funerary sculpture. In the 19th century Edgar Allen Poe did much to add the macabre to the American literary tradition.
Machinery - The 19th century was an age of the mechanization of almost every human activity. While many bemoaned this fact many others were intrigued by these new machines if the Industrial Age. Many of these newly crafted machines were depicted on postcards, some so strange we no longer have any idea what they were once used for. Others such as the steam engine had been used as multi-tasking devices in rural America for decades before card production.
Mail - Even though postcards make up a significant part of the mail volume that moves through postal systems there are rather few depictions of the system itself. Cards of Post Office buildings are quite common but rarely are any of the activities within them. More common but still not plentiful are images of mail delivery, which seem to be more popular on European Cards. But there are cards even more rare within this genre to be found such as female mail carriers used in labor shortages during times of war.
Main Streets - At the time they were made, views of main streets were just considered ordinary view-cards. It has only been over time, after quantities of cards were produced of many different towns, that this subject became viable as a genre. While some collectors consider any main downtown thoroughfare a Main Street, others require the exact name to be present on the card.
Mansions - While few collect mansions in general, there are those who collect them within specified geographical locations, usually where they were built in number. In places where there were an abundance of accessible mansions, they often became tourist attraction and many more postcards were produced of them. But for the most part mansions are just classified as ordinary view-cards. In certain areas these old mansions and their huge estates have been broken up for development, while in other regions nothing much has changed.
Maps - Historical to fantastical representations of maps have appeared on postcards since the early 20th century. They were most often placed on cards of highly visited tourist destinations, especially on photochromes. They continue to be produced today.
Mardi Gras - While Carnival, the festive season before Christian Lent, is not generally celebrated in the United States, postcards were produced for Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). This is a local event largely held within New Orleans, which has a long history and much spectacle that creates national interest and good visual subject matter. Many different publishers printed cards depicting Mardi Gras scenes. Sometimes cards of Carnival from other countries are included within this category.
Marriage - Gender roles were often challenged on early postcard imagery but the institution of marriage was not. Many social concerns such as a woman�s right to own property had been settled throughout the United States by the turn of the 20th century but other issues such as divorce would not begin to be liberalized until the 1950’s. While marriage was considered a sacred institution during much of early postcard history it wasn�t immune from ridicule, at least by way of comic and satyrical cards.
Maximum Card - Placing a stamp on the picture side of a card was a common practice for those who collected postcards and stamps. In this way both picture and stamp would be visible when mounted into an album. Sometimes collectors would continue to mail these cards multiple times to see how many different stamps from different Countries could be affixed. This practice eventually evolved into the Maximum Card where the image, stamp, and cancel reached maximum concordance. The first known use of the term Maximum Card was in 1932 though the practice dates back to the 19th century. These types of cards seem to have been most popular in Europe.
Maypoles - These wooden poles with long ribbons tied to their tops have been part of ritual spring dances for centuries. They are used for a variety of pagan based celebrations from May Day to Mid-Summers Eve in countries with a Germanic mythos. In the United States it used to be very popular to have school children perform May Day dances around a Maypole. These events were captured on postcards though they are not easy to find.
Mechanical - These are novelty cards with any sort of movable parts to them. They can be found in many variations. Some consist entirely of paper while others may be held together by rivets. Those of more complex designs are the most sought after, but they are also the most rare as they can be damaged with greater ease. Mechanicals were manufactured as printed novelties before the advent of picture postcards.
Medieval - Themes on Medieval Europe can be found under various pretext. They very often accompany card sets based on months, sayings, or literary references. Commemorative events from a town’s past may also be depicted in these historic terms. Very often cards may be found with figures placed against a backdrop both of which are Medieval in character but do not represent a particular person, place, or event. They may not even be historically accurate having been created for decorative and romantic purposes. Naturally these cards were mostly manufactured in Europe.
Meeting Grounds - These retreats had religious affiliations that provided a way for their members to escape hot cities during the summer months. They centered around the sermons and lectures by various spiritual leaders who would visit these camps. They often started as simple campgrounds, their tents eventually replaced by more permanent structures by the visitors that returned year after year. While some meeting grounds have disappeared under encroaching development, many others continue to survive as hidden enclaves or have become well known retreats.
Memorials - More common than statues to public figures are the memorials to the war dead. Over six hundred thousand soldiers died in the American Civil War, a figure so large it touched nearly every small village and town across the country. The demand for monuments were so great that many standing figures were massed produced. Nearly every town that had postcard views had a card of its war memorial. Monuments to the dead continued to be erected as we continued to have wars, but their depictions on postcards dwindled as did most views of small towns over the years.
Mermaids - While mermaids have a long history of lore behind them and were popular subjects in 19th century illustration, their numbers on postcards are not great. Mermaids are conspicuously absent from those artist drawn cards where you might expect to see them the most, and they appear most often instead on art reproductions.
Mexican Punitive Campaign - After the Mexican revolutionary Poncho Villa attacked the town of Columbus, NM in 1916 an American army, eventually reaching twelve-thousand strong under General Pershing, would invade Mexico to track him down. As tensions escalated over a hundred thousand guardsmen would be sent to the border. By early 1917 this conflict ended with little results other than producing casualties and many postcard images. Other cards depicting events of the Mexican Revolution are often included here.
Military - Any card depicting military equipment, personnel, camps, or battlefields can fall into the general military genre. While many common military topics may be broken off into their own subset, there are hard to find cards depicting lesser known wars and subjects that are difficult to classify in any other way.
Military Gruss Aus - In the 1890’s Gruss auss style cards became very popular in Europe. While the vast majority of these cards depicted specific locations, generics were also produced. Many generics were specifically oriented to those serving in the military, a large consumer group who had a propensity to write home. Some of these cards with military themes simply said Gruss auss but many added the words from maneuvers, bivouac, or garrison.
Miniature Cards - Some publishers produced postcards smaller than standard size as novelties. While these cards came in various sizes, the most common was in the panoramic format of 2 3/4 by 5 3/4 inches. Because of their difficulty in fitting into standard size albums they never became very popular. Some cards were made so small that the Post Office Department no longer considered them postcards and they required letter rate postage to mail.
Mining - Mining has long been a regional occupation in many parts of the United States. In certain areas where mining dominates the local economy a great number of cards depicting this industry are often produced. These can be scenes of workers in the tunnels to the many large and unusual structures that accompanied them on the surface. While some images become nearly abstract, others convey the unhealthy and dangerous conditions miners work in. There are also good examples of child labor to be found here.
Minstrels - These early entertainers told stories through song to the courts of Kings or plied their art out on the road. While their craft became so specialized allowing them to form into guilds, all sorts of wandering entertainers began being called minstrels. By the 1830’s this term was taken by a variety of acts performing in blackface. They promoted derogatory racial stereotypes at a time of growing nativism. Minstrel shows were still popular when postcards were first published but most disappeared around 1910. They can be found on theatrical cards but their use in imagery on comic cards extended beyond that of most acts. Images of Medieval minstrels were also common on romance cards.
Mismatched - View-cards can always be found where the caption does not match the image printed on it. While these cards may first appear as mistakes they are actually generic cards. The scenery on most generic cards are meant to be so plain they can be attributed to a vast number of places but sometimes oceans, mountains, or similar distinctive features appear that have no relation to the place name. These cards were probably sold to small retailers at discount prices who then added titles to them.
Missions - The early Spanish missions of the American Southwest were popular tourist destinations and subjects of pictorial depiction during the height of national tourism. Many missions, especially those of California and New Mexico, were depicted on postcards. No longer the focus of tourist promotions, missions have largely faded in the publics mind and postcards of them are no longer as popular.
Months - Postcards representing the twelve months of the year were issued in sets by many different publishers. It provided them with a logical excuse to sell multiple cards together for more profit. The months of the year were an old genre used by artists for centuries and often contain many fanciful allegories. Much artistic license could be taken here.
Mottos - These short poems, usually of four lines, with simple decorative borders were printed on postcards in the early 20th Century. The mottos conveyed simple expressions of feelings that could be used in the same manner as we use greeting cards today. Similar types of poetry were often used on holiday cards.
Mountain Climbing - While many consider postcards depicting mountain climbers as part of the general topic of sports, these cards often contain a certain romantic air about them that sets them apart from the rest. Images of mountain climbers are most often found on European cards of the Alps where 19th century nature movements lured people out of cities and into active outdoor ventures. Likewise most cards with hikers are also from Europe. In the United States mountain climbers tend to be shown in a more matter of fact way, usually within postcards of National Parks.
Movie Stars - The depictions of movie stars on postcards grew rapidly with the rise of the movie industry in the post-WWI years. These cards became most popular in the depression years of the 1930’s when movies were and important distraction from everyday problems. Movie stars, especially those of the Westerns, were also a major subject for arcade cards.
Movie Stills - Even though motion pictures became a important early competitor with postcards for the public’s attention, they also provided a tremendous amount of subject matter for the postcard industry. The use of still photography to help publicize movies can be seen in the 1920’s but was not used in earnest until after the Second World War. These shots by photographers working on movie sets were usually taken during actual filming but many were specifically staged afterwards. Postcards became one of the ways these images were distributed and they remained popular into the age of the modern chrome card.
Moxie - This is the brand name for the first carbonated soft drink introduced in the United States. It was already popular when postcards came into production and it appears on many store signs. Competitors have generally driven it out of the market place but it is still sold in New England. There are many collectors that search out cards with the word Moxie in them, it its presence in any card usually drives up its value.
Multibaby - Apart from cute illustrations and depictions of actual babies in photos there was a type of card that populated a scene with numerous babies. Many cards show babies in fields of cabbage (cabbage babies), a visual play on folk stories of where children come from. But many other cards present these young children in other types of real to fantastic settings. They appear to incorporate some influence from late Symbolist painting.
Museums - Museums like other buildings of civil importance or of tourist interest were placed on postcards in number. Quite often the most interesting of these images to be found show a museums interior but they are the most difficult to find. While some may assume that little has changed in these institutions over the years they may be surprised. Many museum collections were once displayed in a crowded hodgepodge with many opportunities for hands on experiences.
Music - Popular songs were often translated into postcard form by printing a single line or whole verse onto it. Unlike song cards these music cards were not issued as installments but printed individually. Music cards however display musical notes written out on a bar. They may be accompanied by anything from simple drawn graphics to a large photo image.