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No other single format has provided such a massive photo history of America, particularly of small-town and rural America where photography was often a luxury.
Many real photo postcards were unique prints captured by amateur photographers, but others were mass-produced by companies such as the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company in Belfast, Maine.
Realtors used them to sell new housing by writing descriptions and prices on the back.
Real photo postcards became expressions of pride in home and community, and were also sold as souvenirs in local drug stores and stationery shops." On March 1, 1907, Federal legislation permitted senders, for the first time, to include a message on a portion of the back of a postcard.
Because these cards are not actually postcards, they are typically referred to as “mailed cards.” During this period, envelopes were produced with pictures on them, and some speculate that postcards are the direct descendants of the picture envelopes.
This technology allowed photographers to travel from town to town and document life in the places they visited.
However, messages were still not allowed on the address side of postcards.