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P - Topicals
Paganism - Postcards depicting pagan acts were not common in the the more tightly repressive Christian environment of the early 20th century. While the Church made efforts to oppress many pagan symbols and rituals that they could not incorporated for their own use there were some that remained so imbedded in the psyche of national cultures they proved impossible to erase. Many such celebratory events were captured on cards.
Pageantry - While the most common form of pageantry, the parade, is often segregated out into its own genre, there are a number of other types of events involving rich costumes or spectacle that have been captured on postcards. One such theme is that of Carnival, which may or may not take the form of a parade. Similarly there are many other celebrations of local history as those in Europe that draw upon Medieval motifs.
Palm Houses - As Europeans expanded their colonial empires they brought back all sorts of exotic artifacts. Most objects could be stored in any manner available but live botanical specimens could not. By the mid 19th century large greenhouses were being built to the size that could accommodate palm trees. The popularity of these structures spread to other countries as well but they were no longer being confined to public gardens as the wealthy began constructing conservatories on their estates. While many public palm houses remain standing in parks and botanical gardens, postcards have captured some of those that have disappeared with the large estates on which they once stood.
Paper Moon - Photographers took studio portraits of people with a variety of painted backdrops. While some were meant to look real, others were completely fanciful. One of the most popular and enduring backdrops that have come to symbolize studio work of yesteryear is the cutout paper moon. While most of these cards were produced as real photos, printed versions were manufactured as well.
Parades - While a number of postcards were made for parades in large cities, it is actually just as common to find parade scenes from small towns to be depicted on postcards. The 4th of July was traditionaly the national holiday when most parades were held, but there were also many local parades celebrating events particular to one community that also found their way onto postcards.
Parks - Influenced by the romantic ideals that created the landscaped cemetery and estate gardens, the healing power of nature was brought into urban centers in the form of public parks. While much of the surrounding romanticism had disappeared at the turn of the 20th century their usefulness in creating a healthy environment was well established. Before invaded by recreational activities parks were often a center of social activity and a place to be seen. If one can look past dated dress those engaged with their park a century ago look very familiar.
Patriotic - These cards were most often produced around times of war but patriotic themes weren’t exclusively tied to them. Many holiday cards are dominated by patriotic themes as forms of public religious celebration were shunned by America in its early years. In the United States patriotism is less tied to ethnicity as it is a national religion. Patriotic cards from other nations are usually classified as propaganda.
Pennant - These preprinted generic stock cards were purchased by small retailers who had too small of a customer base to order large quantities of postcards. They would print local place names onto paper, felt, or foil using a small hand press and then paste them onto these cards. Because pennant cards could be printed on demand it allowed stores to sell postcards without keeping a large inventory.
Pensive - While few if anyone would create this category for postcards a great many cards were created depicting solitary figures in contemplation. Women were most often portrayed but they could be shown either seated on a park bench or standing before a still pond to wave swept shore. Many of these were art cards reproducing a popular genre in painting ever since the Romantic Movement began. Other images were drawn specifically for artist signed cards and often contained no title. Their ambiguity allowed them to be used for many types of messages as well as for collections.
Photo Illusions - In order to gain an edge on their competition many photographers added unique props that their customers could pose with to their studios. While this often did not go beyond a painted backdrop of a beach or mountain lake, some photographers built elaborate stage sets and even provided costumes. Some not content with creating a false sense of reality went beyond reality itself by using mirrors or double exposures to create mysterious illusions. These types of photographs were most commonly produced at resorts where people sought out light hearted souvenirs. They were almost always produced as real photo postcards.
Pierrot - Although Pierrot, dressed all in baggy white with big black buttons, was a character that came out of the French theater; he had become a recognizable figure worldwide in the heyday of postcards and was often reproduced on them. The Pierrot character is most often found in comical or romantic situations. He tends to represent the more melancholy side of love. Children were often dressed up in Pierrot costumes for photographs.
Pigs - Even though pigs are one of the oldest domesticated farm animals they are seen in far more postcard images that have nothing to do with barnyards. So while pigs can be classified under the general category of animals, they are above average in popularity and hold special meanings that give them a class of their own. In Germany, where most postcards were printed, the pig is highly associated with good luck. To have good fortune is schwein haben, that is to have pig. Pigs are often depicted in situations on postcards that in reality they would never be found in. They are often found on New Yrar’s cards.
Pin-up - These postcards are largely an expression of a longer social movement that began to be seen in the late 1930’s, and peaked during the Second World War. Pin-up girls were sometimes photographed but most often drawn. Famous actresses were often turned into Pinups but most images were of an anonymous generic type. While woman were captured in sexually provocative poses, it was done without revealing any inappropriate flesh. Their conflicting duality made them sexually attractive to men while they often represented the independent female to women. In the post war years pin-ups became one dimensional tools of suggestive sexuality. Many pin-ups were depicted on arcade cards.
Playing Cards - While their origins may be in dispute playing cards were being used throughout much of Asia and Europe by the 13th century. Both the cards within a deck and the rules used to play card games varied widely over the years but these were more standardized as postcards began to be made. The great popularity of card games made them a common subject for postcards. They sometimes appear in artist drawn cards just for their decorative graphics. At other times they were used symbolically to signify vice but most often luck, especially in love. Though rare, complete sets of playing cards were issued as postcards.
Poetry - Poetry was placed on postcards in various forms but almost always with an accompanying illustration. Many poems were written specifically for their use on cards. Both the poems and graphics on these cards tend not to be of the best quality, and many are overly sentimental though there are exceptions.
Political - In the United States these cards were primarily used to support candidates at election time but they were not produced in great numbers and rarely do they address specific political issues. They are generally patriotic in nature and little else. Political cards from other Countries tend to take the form of satirical cartoons that were often very biting.
Pollarding - This is an old tradition of cutting off the tops of young trees to foster enhanced growth of many new limbs. These new branches could then be harvested for firewood on a regular basis without killing the tree. Only certain types of trees could survive this practice. Pollards were usually cut at a height where cattle could not eat the new growth. Trees cut closer to the ground were known as stubbs and usually used as markers. While not a typical collectable topic, pollards can be found on many old European view-cards.
Pony Play - Therianthropic imagery can easily be found amidst most civilizations, and while there is a long history to animal role playing among tribal cultures it is more difficult to ascertain its role in later Western culture. Animal play seems to have been a form of entertainment within the Court of the old French Kings but how it was perceived is uncertain. Today pony play usually refers to sexual fetish rituals that can have some association with bondage or exhibitionism. But it seems to once had a more innocent side to it as part of the theater, which is the context it will be most likely found on postcards. How innocent these depictions are of course depends on your views of the unconscious mind.
Portraiture - Most of these cards are of women and children, and many can be filed under those categories. Good portraiture is a rare find for the intensity of the individual must stand out as opposed to the many almost anonymous figure studies that are often more concerned with design.
Post Office - For many small towns and communities the local Post Office was the center of social activity, disseminating news as well as mail. It was often combined with other essential services such as that of a general store. An image of a Post Office may be the only view of a town that was ever placed on a postcard. It took many years for the U.S. Post Office Department to build all their offices as independent structures. While most Post Offices cards are now usually just considered ordinary view-cards, images of olders small rural Post Offices are quite desirable.
Premature - In an effort to gain a sales advantage over competition many publishers produced view-cards of structures from their design plans that were not yet built. When actually constructed the final result would sometimes have incorporate changes that made it look very different from the already printed postcard. In some cases nothing would ever be built at all.
Presidents - A number of publishers produced sets of postcards depicting American Presidents. Even though there were photographs available of many of them they were mostly depicted in artist renditions. While some of these cards are little more than portraits, others are accompanied by relevant historic scenes or symbolic graphics. Postcards of some Presidents may be nearly impossible to find outside the context of sets but many cards were made individually of others such as Washington, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Sometimes an image of a president may appear on a card as part of a larger patriotic theme. Other images may be incorporated that depict particular events or places.
Pressed Flowers - The art of pressing flowers is an old one but they began appearing mounted to postcards as publishers looked for novel ways to attract customers. The flowers on these cards were pressed and dried before being adhered to a pre-printed card. The card stock used was slightly heavier than normal because flexing the substrate could damage the flower. While many of these cards were placed in envelopes for protection a good number went directly through the mail as is.
Press Out Cards - Cards were produced with die cut perforated edges only partially around illustrated objects like butterflies or birds. This allowed their edges to be pressed out from the flat surface of the card that supposedly gave the subject a more natural look. This concept was developed by Raphael Tuck & Sons for which they applied for a patent. Totally intact cards are quite rare today.
Prisons - Postcards were created of prisons and jails just like any other municipal structure. Very often if it were not for the title it would be hard to discern the exact subject of these cards. The very nature of these structures usually kept the photographer at a safe distance, unable to get shots of greater interest. There are however postcards of prison interiors and even of electric chairs but these are far less common.
Prohibition - Various groups had worked towards the elimination of alcohol consumption during the latter 19th century. By World War One the anti-German attitude toward Beer Halls and the growth of the Suffrage movement tipped the tide and the 18th Amendment to the Federal Constitution was written enacting Prohibition. Prohibition began in 1920 and lasted until repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933. A tremendous effort was made by the public to bypass these laws, but as illegal activity could not be shown on postcards, most images on Prohibition themes revolve around law enforcement raids or anti drinking campaigns. While some counties and towns still retain Dry Laws they no longer inspire many postcards.
Promotional - Postcards are often printed in numbers greater than the orders placed for them to create a margin of error against damage. If extra usable cards exist at the end of a press run they are sometimes added to a customers order for free or they are used by the printer to promote examples of his work. Many such cards were further overprinted on their backs with information regarding offerings, styles, rates, or discounts. Since these leftover cards were not sold or collected in their day they are not common today.
Propaganda - Traditionally propaganda was created to turn people against a newly found enemy at the approach of or during a war. But as the 20th Century moved onwards propaganda was also employed to rally people around or against various ideologies and beliefs. During the early years of postcard production it was often difficult for publishers to obtain images from conflicts on other continents and they settled for printing a large proportion of propaganda cards. Postcards can be found representing all types of propaganda.
Prostitution - Considering the age of this profession and the abundance of professionals throughout the world, images of prostitutes should appear much more frequently than they do on postcards. Images of prostitutes can be found on real photo risqué cards, which were always generally more difficult to obtain, and on artist signed cards as artists often disregarded the foibles of class or occupational status, but these images were rarely reproduced. Notable exceptions are the postcards of prostitutes from foreign lands. Many cards were made of half dressed to fully nude women, especially from North Africa, that were labeled as being prostitutes. Whether this was done to explain away their posing or to add enticement to their exotic flavor, it provided a way to meet the demand for nude images without challenging the social status and morals of Western Women. Most postcards depicting prostitutes were published in Europe, especially France as they were more accepting of the practice than in the United States.
Psychedelia - Psychedelia - A new graphic style emerged out of California in the 1960�s inspired in part by the growing drug culture. This psychedelic style that incorporated swirling shapes with bright intense colors, and often flowers and rainbows, was meant to evoke a hallucinatory experience. It had a very powerful influence on fashion, music, and graphic design, and was used for many oversized postcards promoting concerts. The characteristics of this style however were so strong and difficult to integrate that it fell out of vogue before the decade’s end.
Punishment - While cards depicting acts of punishment are rare, there seems to be just enough to create a collectable genre. This subject can include artist renditions of historical or generic events, to real photo postcards that capture actual executions. Devices such as the electric chair have been made into postcards.
Puns - This type of word play that deliberately confuses the meaning is commonly used on postcards and often found on those of older age. In addition to rhetorical effect many of these cards also used the playfulness of paronomasia to disguise less socially permitted racist or sexual innuendo.
Pyrographs - The ancient art of pyogrophy means literally writing with fire. Postcards were made on both wood and leather by burning images into them with a hot metal poker. These hand made cards could be either crude or carefully drawn depending on the disposition of the craftsman or the instrument used to create them. Some of these cards were backed with paper while others are on nothing more than a thin wooden veneer.