Real photo images. These postcards started as just that: real photos. Real photo postcards mirror the development of the camera and photographic techniques. Early real photo cards are from the turn of the century, and are sometimes - especially when views of people from France and Germany - hand colored.|
To date a real photo with some degree of accuracy you need additional information: a person dressed a certain way, driving a certain type of car, in front of a certain building that you know wasnít built until such-and-such a date. For instance, the following card, a very early real photo view of Redmond,Washington, seems to date from the late 1910s to early 1920s, as evidenced by the early cars parked on the seemingly unpaved street. There is also a hand pump with what could be a horse trough in the lower left hand corner, so it might be just an accident that there aren't any horse-drawn carriages in this view.
Sometimes youíre lucky and there is a cancelled stamp on the back, but even cancellations are only helpful, not totally accurate, since cards had a long shelf life.
The most modern postcards, those still produced today, are colored real photos with a shiny surface. They are called " Chromes ", and have been around the mid-forties. I can only think of a handful on our entire site.
Specific dating techniques:
Trying to accurately date a postcard is fun, especially if you are looking at a sequence of two, three, or more versions of the same view. Itís like detective work. Here is an example.
When you are dating a " sequence ", sometimes the best you can do is say: " Well, I know this one came before this one came before this one ". I know that because 1) this one has a dirt road and in this one the road is paved, 2) this one has small shrubs by the front door and in this version they are huge, 3) this view has only carriages on the street, and this one has a mix of carriages and cars, or 4) in this view this building stands alone, and in this view thereís a new building beside it.
Sometimes a postcard has a date on the face of the image put there by the publisher. Thatís certainly accurate. Or a building could be under construction or newly built. For instance, we have several real photo images of the Oakland Bay Bridge under construction, which makes the images relatively easy to date. Sometimes a movie marquee will be showing a particular movie, and that will indicate the year the image was made.
Generally speaking, dating a postcard image is an inexact science, but fun and always interesting.
Also, please remember that old buildings can, and do, change ownership, purpose, and their name over a period of time. We quote the title of the original image, but thatís not to say it could be totally different today.