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Racy Language - In times when the open discussion of sexual matters was not socially permissible many publishers tapped into this undercurrent to attract customers. While this resulted in many risqué cards it also led to somewhat innocent looking postcards that dealt with sex exclusively through suggestive language. These cards were almost always comic in nature to help defuse any criticism of its subject matter.
Rainbows - While depictions of rainbows appeared in early biblical painting they began to appear in greater number with the introduction of northern European landscape painting. Whether rainbows have been used in a purely naturalistic manner, as abstract design, or in symbolic ways they have always found a receptive audience. Considering this it is actually surprising that rainbows do not appear more in postcard illustration beyond reproductions of fine artwork.
Rally Day - Rally day cards were sent out as subtle invitations or not so subtle reminders that a church event was coming up on the calendar and the receiver of the card should not forget to attend. These church events could be actual special occasions or little more than regularly scheduled Sunday school classes, but most often they revolved around fund raising activities. These cards were usually artist drawn and although they could contain serious religious symbolism they were often more playful in nature.
Rebus - The practice of placing a picture within a line of text to act as a substitute for a word is as old as the printed word itself. Rebus can be found in many early books illustrated with woodcuts. Rebus cards were already being printed as novelties by the 1860’s to satisfy the public taste for word games. A number of postcard greetings, especially valentines would later incorporated this practice.
Red Cross - After witnessing the terrible suffering of those wounded after the battle of Solferino in 1859 the Swiss businessman Henry Dunant suggested that all nations train volunteers for national relief societies that could help in times of war. By 1863 the International Committee of the Red Cross was formed just to do that. A year later an international agreement known as the Geneva Convention was drawn up to which signatories would recognize the status of each countries Red Cross workers and give them due protection. In the course of time various nations set up their own branch of the Red Cross. Largely through the efforts of Clara Barton who organized relief aid during the American Civil War, an American Red Cross was established in 1881 and the United States ratified the Geneva Convention a year later. Many postcards have been produced depicting Red Cross nurses and aid workers in action. But the Red Cross also published a large amount postcards themselves for fund raising. While most of these cards were art reproductions and artist signed illustrations, many of those produced during times of war were highly propagandist depicting its suffering but sometimes ironically glorifying the conflict.
Regiments - A regiment is a military unit commanded by a colonel and usually made up of recruits from the same area giving it greater cohesion. While its individual members change over time its name and history remain closely tied to it. Even though these cards are often simply filed under the category of military they were once a much more popular collecting genre than they are today. A number of publishers created entire postcard sets depicting famous regiments and they were produced in Europe in great number. Cards depicting regiments from a Country’s colonies were popular because of their exotic flavor, plus they reinforced notions of empire. Most of the cards in this category were artist drawn while real photo cards depicting regiments are usually presented as group portraits.
Reproducing Postcards - First copyrighted as a novelty item by A. Loeffler in 1895, this design eventually found its way onto postcards. These cards had a simple drawn linear image printed onto them in a light ink and then the same linear pattern 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 more times than anyone would have patience to do.
Resorts - The height of the postcard craze coincided with the age of the Grand Hotel. Numerous postcards were printed for these large resorts, as the people who stayed there were a prime market for cards. Before the automobile, travel by individuals was difficult and most hotels sprang up along well defined routes of transportation. As people were forced to clustered in small areas, large social scenes developed around them. Most of these wooden structures burnt down over the years only leaving postcard images behind.
Restaurants - These cards were usually given away at the establishment as free business advertising. These cards are predominantly found as linens or chromes. It is not uncommon to find these cards in a multi-view format showing both interior and exterior views. This genre can also include images of bars and nightclubs.
Revenue Cutter Service - This maritime law enforcement agency operating under the Department of the Treasury was largely formed to prevent smugglers from avoiding tariffs. In latter years they played an important role patrolling our coast in search of ships in distress. The ships of the service saw combat in the Spanish American War and took part in the Blockade of Havana, Cuba. In 1915 they joined together with the U.S. Life Saving Service to form the U.S. Coast Guard. Compared to other branches of our military few cards were produced of this Service, and the ones that exist are mostly of ships.
Reward Cards - These cards carrying a great variety of appealing images and subject matter were included free with packaged goods as a reward for the purchase. They did not have postcard backs, only descriptive information and advertising. They were issued in sets to encourage additional sales of a product among those anxious to collect more cards. Reward cards were usually smaller than standard postcard size. They were produced as collectables and were not meant to be mailed except for those produced in Great Britain between the 1880’s and the 1920’s. There they were also issued by schools as a reward for good attendance by students. These were produced in a standard postcard size until 1903 when the size increased making them impossible to mail without trimming them down.
Risqué - These cards depict women in poses designed to evoke sexual fantasies. The true risqué card does so without showing any nudity though flesh may be exposed. They are defined by their times for many would not see the sexual references in some of them today. These cards can consist of cartoons, other types of narratives, or just simple poses. At various times these cards are seized by Postmasters in moral crackdowns.
Road of a Thousand Wonders - When the Southern Pacific Railroad opened its 1300 mile Shasta Route, from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon it gave it the name Road of a Thousand Wonders to encourage tourism. A great many postcards were created by a variety of different publishes that captured the views one would see while traveling this way. While the railroad promoted the production of many of these cards others were produced independently cashing in on the well known name.
Roadside - These cards represent the various diners, drive-ins, motels, and tourist attractions that sprung up along highways as Americans took to the Road in large numbers during the 1930’s and beyond. These cards were both sold and given away for advertising. It is a true American genre representing a new cultural experience that is best expressed on linen postcards.
Roadside Shrines - These types of shrines are most often found in the form of crosses, roofed poles, niches, and towers. Many, especially in Eastern Europe contain a wide variety of pagan symbols that harken back to older traditions. Since the 18th century they were widely used by travelers and agrarian workers who did not have access to a church. While most were erected within the beliefs of Catholicism there is also a tradition of roadside shrines to various deities in Japan. The resurgence of placing memorial shrines along highways as deaths from traffic accidents mount has become a controversial issue.
Rocks - In the absence of places of historical significance any unusual natural feature often became a community’s makeshift attraction. Any large erratic or wildly eroded stone could become the focal point of a postcard.
Rodeo - While many cards were produced depicting cowboys, they appeared on rodeo cards most often. Rodeos were less expensive to put on than the elaborate old Wild West shows and they became popular throughout the American West. These public displays of the skills needed to work on the range often drew large crowds and many cards were produced to quench the thirst for souvenirs. This indigenous sport was a true American genre. Most rodeo cards were produced as real photos and often captured dramatic action. Performing cowgirls were also very popular and often appear on these cards. During the 1920’s rodeos were the only activity where women compeated on equal terms with men.
Roller Skating - Improvements on the 18th century roller skate made it easy enough to use so that the first public skating rink was able to open in Newport RI by 1866. Many more improvements came during the late 19th century, so by the time postcards were beginning to be published skating was a popular pastime. Postcards depicting roller skating are not nearly as common as those showing ice skating and often revolve around comic themes.
Romance - A great many cards depicting lovers were produced. They could range from the comical to the highly sentimental. There was never any nudity incorporated onto these very restrained images but a kiss was sometimes allowed. This genre was far more popular in Europe than in the United States posibly because of diverging attitudes regarding public behavior.
Rowing - The rowing of boats is one of the oldest known competitive activities. In Europe it became a common sight to see ferrymen challenging one another before rowing became a recognizable pastime of boat clubs by the early 19th century. While there are various forms of rowing for both recreation and competition, the type of racing known as sculling where each rower uses two oars in unison became the most recognizable. Many postcards depicted the sculling competitions between University teams. Sometimes rowers were just depicted as part of a romantic backdrop.
Royalty - In the years that postcards came into fashion most of the world was ruled by Monarchs. Postcards were produced featuring many of Royal family members, few who we remember today. While mostly consisting of carefully posed portrait and figure work the various ceremonies they engaged in were also captured on postcards.
Ruins - The ruins of past civilization litter the globe and have captivated us for centuries. While they have historic value their primary interest to us has been based on a romanticism that has drawn artists, tourists, and postcard publishers to them. Depictions of ruins are most often found on European cards, and then from those countries surrounding the Mediterranean. Even though the United States is a relatively new Country there are ruins to be found here as well and postcards were made of them. In contrast to Europe, America’s notions of progress has led to a general distaste for ruins so many have disappered under modern development of have been restored since they first appeared on cards.
Russo-Japanese War - The war between Russia and Japan during 1904 and 1905 was mostly captured on foreign postcards, Japan alone issued about 4500 cards of which many were highly decorative while others captured scenes of combat. Those cards produced in Europe concentrated on political cartoons of the belligerents. Except for the peace signing in Portsmouth, New Hampshire few of these images made their way onto American Cards. However this war did create a greater interest in things Japanese.