Picturing the Postcard: A New Media Crisis at the Turn of the Century 1517902797, 9781517902797

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Picturing the Postcard: A New Media Crisis at the Turn of the Century
 1517902797, 9781517902797

Table of contents :
Cover
Half Title
Title
Copyright
Contents
Introduction: The Frankenstein Postcard
1 The Economic Postcard
2 Insincerely Yours: The New Postcard and the New Woman
3 Return to Sender: The Postcard Terror
4 The Voracious Postcard: The Craze of Collecting
Postscript: Rewriting the Postcard
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W

Citation preview

Pi cturin g th e P o s t c a rd

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Picturing the Postcard A New Media Crisis at the Turn of the Century

Mo n i c a Cu re

university of minnesota press Minneapolis • London

Copyright 2018 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Published by the University of Minnesota Press 111 Third Avenue South, Suite 290 Minneapolis, MN 55401-­2520 http://www.upress.umn.edu isbn 978-1-5179-0278-0 (hc) isbn 978-1-5179-0279-7 (pb) A Cataloging-in-Publication record for this book is available at the Library of Congress. Printed in the United States of America on acid-­free paper The University of Minnesota is an equal-­opportunity educator and employer. UMP BMB

contents

Introduction: The Frankenstein Postcard

1

1 The Economic Postcard

39

2 Insincerely Yours: The New Postcard and the New Woman

75

3 Return to Sender: The Postcard Terror

117

4 The Voracious Postcard: The Craze of Collecting

157

Postscript: Rewriting the Postcard

197

Acknowledgments 217 Notes 219 Index 245

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introduction

The Frankenstein Postcard

I

n July 1900, the first issue of the British periodical The Picture Postcard opened with a letter, “To Our Readers, Apologia Pro Vita Nostra”: We make bold to say that readers of The Picture Postcard will be surprised at the immense amount and the wide range of interest attaching to such an apparently insignificant thing as a penny picture postcard. Ostensibly but a mere miniature view of some town or place of interest to the passing traveller, a picture postcard is yet capable of possessing an interest and significance undreamed of by those who have not yet troubled to look into the matter.1

This book must begin in a similar fashion. Proposing the significance of postcards to scholars in today’s media environment, with its constantly evolving forms of social media and sophisticated technology, is indeed surprising at first. For readers of literature, it must be the same. The phrases we associate with the messages written on postcards are now as much clichés as the (often photographic) images on the opposite sides. We now take for granted that these small, double-­sided rectangles are a means of “personal communication,” but what, exactly, does one send when one sends a postcard—­and is it the same thing one would have sent at the turn of the twentieth century? What is “postcard technology” if technology, as Michel Foucault has redefined it, rightly includes all that enables us to alter our own behavior?2 1

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While some may have had their doubts about the importance of the postcard even during its height as a new form of communication (roughly concomitant with the rise of the telegraph, the telephone, and radio), many more were eager to analyze and embrace the medium. On July 13, 1901, the important weekly French illustrated periodical Le Monde Illustré published a special sixteen-­page edition written by Henri de Noussanne dedicated to the postcard, depicting it in a way that many today might find difficult to believe.3 The issue began by marveling at how thousands upon thousands of postcards were being sent and received each day, by everyone from “the Pope in the Vatican” to “the Eskimo in his hut.” Moreover, de Noussanne noted that this widespread growth had occurred at an astonishing rate: “The illustrated postcard is simply conquering the world. She advances by leaps and bounds. Twelve years ago, people had hardly started talking about her and look where she is already. Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Bonaparte and Lord Kitchener himself were never so quick, so lightning swift in their conquests.”4 The rest of the special edition covered everything about postcards, including the wide range of representation in their images (including the issue of pornographic postcards), the post office’s evolving attitude toward them and their handling, marketing strategies, the vast number of users who had joined international associations dedicated to trading postcards, and the dynamic between postcards and the public’s taste. De Noussanne waxed poetic, asserting that the new postcard was no less than the “echo of our passions, our joys, our woes, our general preoccupations”; it was “like the soul of the people, tender and mysterious.”5 Intrigue, controversy, obsession—­ the postcard inspired all these and more. The postcard appeared in the literary texts of the time as a disruptive force, whether for better or for worse. If the postcard was indeed “like the soul of the people,” literature claimed to interpret it. In doing so, literature also had to reckon with itself as a medium. Such issues would eventually culminate, in the years after World War I, in high modernist texts that interrogated the very nature of literature itself. An example is James Joyce’s Ulysses, which features, among others kinds of postcards, an anonymous and ambiguously libelous postcard, an ethnographic postcard used to establish the “proof ” of a sailor’s story, and a postcard of an Irish nationalist unwittingly purchased by a member of the British



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aristocracy.6 These kinds of postcards—­now channeled into avant-­garde art by Joyce—­had all been part of the public drama played out by the postcard when it was first invented. In its early decades, while its conventions were still malleable, the postcard elicited expectations and anxieties that seem extraordinary now. While the object may be hardly recognizable, the discourse is all too familiar. The postcard was the new media of its day. The term new media has come to signify, for many, digital media, but as the authors of New Media: A Critical Introduction caution, “‘New media’ has gained currency as a term because of its useful inclusiveness. It avoids, at the expense of its generality and its ideological overtones, the reductions of some of its alternatives.”7 Even as some new media critics accept the characteristics of new media as digital, interactive, hypertextual, virtual, networked, and simulated, other scholars have been able to identify these same elements in centuries-­old media.8 I posit that the surest way to determine what counts as new media is, in fact, through discourse. This is not to say that material changes are not “real” or do not matter; rather, a medium becomes visible as new through the discursive practices around it. In uneven ways, it is marked as disruptive, causing surprise and delight or fear or simply confusion. The discourse of newness, with varying degrees of vehemence, also categorizes an entire society into “adopters” and “resisters.” Newness is not something inherent in an object but is always defined situationally and in context. The postcard as new media, like each form of new media, promises faster, easier, less expensive, and more accurate representation. For communication media, especially, the new form offers a level of intimacy between sender and recipient that is greater than that offered by old forms. However, the process is necessarily cyclical. New media quickly become old, or rather reveal how they have always also been old. Sanguine expectations come undone as what was once read as ease of use becomes seen as impersonal and hopes of intimacy are transformed into anxieties of control. Unless new media successfully reinvent themselves, other, newer forms take their place and the cycle repeats. The postcard, as a “trivial” form of communication, illuminates this process better than more established media can. Tracing the postcard through turn-­of-­the-­century literature as well as popular culture sources not only reveals the postcard’s affective, literary,

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and administrative histories but also serves to illustrate how new media themselves are created and function. Along with media theorists David Thorburn, Edward Barrett, and Henry Jenkins, I challenge “the assumption that new technologies displace older systems with decisive suddenness and have a revolutionary impact on society” and instead view media change as “an accretive, gradual process, always a mix of tradition and innovation, in which emerging and established systems interact, shift, and collude with one another.”9 Throughout this book, I take the position that new media in general and the postcard in particular must be studied through their interactions with other media, both incorporating those media and being defined against them, often simultaneously. It is not that the postcard has no specific features of its own—­quite the contrary, these features are “ceded” by other media in the moment of the postcard’s newness and made hypervisible by them. The dominant narrative of postcard as new medium that developed in the late nineteenth century often set the postcard, first and foremost, against the medium of the letter in an antagonistic fashion. Rather than seeing the postcard as a complement or a supplement to the letter (as it was, in fact, often used), literary and public narratives favored a view in which the postcard either threatened or promised, depending on one’s perspective, to supersede the letter.10 Although the postcard incorporated many other preexisting media and technologies, its “newness” is most clearly visible in opposition to the letter, as it was seen at that time. The postcard, in fact, depended on this opposition to remain readable as “new.” A simple opposition between postcard and letter is far from the whole story, however. As historians of technology can attest and media theorists have begun to examine more closely, the invention of a medium is notoriously vexed and difficult to narrate. Beyond the competing claims of various inventors and the uncanny phenomenon of simultaneous discovery, the inception of a medium is not a solitary affair, nor is the medium even a very stable object. Convincing arguments can always be made for origins in previous technologies far earlier than the origins currently accepted.11 Modifications to a medium, complete with new patents, may or may not lead to its being called by a different name. The question of whether or not a medium determines its own end has not been settled



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either. When Marshall McLuhan famously posited that “the medium is the message,” he was asserting that a medium cannot simply be used for either a “good” or “bad” end, since it creates its own terms, a claim contested regularly. It is in exploring these very questions that we come to consider our expectations of what a medium should do for us and even what it is. In recent years, the study of media’s “past” that has been prompted by these critical issues has come under the umbrella term media archaeology. Although media archaeology takes the form of a loose set of concerns and methodologies rather than a school of thought or a formal discipline, the intention to revisit earlier stages in a medium’s development, even impossible beginnings, gives it cohesion. Scholars who engage in media archaeology do so to avoid easy answers about our use of media today. As Erkki Huhtamo and Jussi Parikka, two of the scholars most closely associated with media archaeology, write, “Media archaeologists have concluded that widely endorsed accounts of contemporary media culture and media histories alike often tell only selected parts of the story, and not necessarily correct and relevant parts.”12 For some media critics, such as Geert Lovink, media archaeology is valuable because it offers “a hermeneutic reading of the ‘new’ against the grain of the past, rather than a telling of the histories of technologies from past to present.”13 My excavation of the postcard will demonstrate that the difficulties in creating a linear narrative about the medium’s invention, rather than revealing contradictions in need of resolution, are essential to the postcard’s story and inherent in new media discourse. That the first postcards did not feature images might actually be the least surprising aspect of the postcard’s genesis. The invention of the postcard involves multiple moments of newness and multiple genealogies. The major veins include postal innovations (especially the creation of the Universal Postal Union), imperial interests as seen through the phenomenon of world’s fairs, the advancement of photography and the introduction of the carte de visite, and the rise of the cult of collecting. I will introduce and isolate these various genealogies not to provide a definitive history but to lay the groundwork for an analysis of attitudes toward the new medium at the turn of the twentieth century. The new postcard was seen as fast, efficient, often political, and potentially dangerous even as it was represented as a fad.

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These startling associations also characterize new media discourse, a discourse dependent on disjuncture. Many of the same issues that were raised about the lowly postcard in the past are being raised in the present about various forms of digital social media and, even more abstractly, about cloud technology, which should give us greater pause.14 Media specificity may be even less tenable than we previously thought, which may have the effect of tempering our utopic/dystopic impulses. An important trope in new media discourse is the creation of a break with what came before the new medium, accompanied by the sense that, but for fortunate accidents, it may never have been invented. The postcard, as a new medium, was radical. This is its “official” story, as constructed through vexed discussions between government postal administrators.15 These discussions began in 1865 when Heinrich von Stephan, a German postal director, first proposed what came to be called the postcard.16 He conceived of it as a prestamped thick-­stock paper card of standard size to simplify business communications. One side would be reserved for the address, and on the other side the sender could write a short message, to be sent at a cheaper rate than a letter, regardless of distance. Although this idea now seems uncontroversial, from the rhetoric of von Stephan’s recorded proposal, it is clear that he anticipated opposition. By way of introduction, von Stephan self-­consciously narrated a history of the materiality of the letter medium, calling attention to its many transformations: wax tablet, parchment, book bound by rings, rolls, paper in envelopes. Interestingly, although he listed these in roughly chronological order, his belief that “the material alone did not decide the form of the letter, which was also modified by custom, as well as by transient fashions” kept him from espousing technological determinism, even as he argued for the need for a new form of communication.17 Instead, von Stephan unpretentiously wrote, “The present form of the letter does not however yet allow of sufficient simplicity and brevity for a large class of communications.”18 The strange idea was rejected at the time because of concerns that the open format and reduced writing space would mean that too few people would buy postcards to make manufacturing them profitable. General Postmaster Karl Ludwig Richard von Philipsborn, in his initial response to von Stephan’s proposal, went so far as to consider the



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postcard an “indecent form of communication on exposed post pages.”19 A less impassioned reason was that, with Germany divided into many states, each with its own postal administration, uniform production of such an object did not seem feasible. Yet, as von Stephan pointed out in his proposal, Germany had already adopted a similar scheme with money orders. This moment of impossibility is crucial to the discourse of the postcard’s being new. It produces a sense of wonder at the feat of invention (and justifies the resistance of those slow to adopt the new medium). However, the postcard’s inevitability is the other side of the discourse. It was only a matter of time before someone else “invented” it. A Viennese economist, Emanuel Herrmann, made a proposal similar to von Stephan’s four years later, in an article written for the Neue Freie Presse on January 26, 1869.20 Herrmann proposed a plain, government-­issued card with one side reserved for the address to circulate at a reduced rate. His argument began with the division of mail into three kinds of correspondence: letters with ordinary information, business letters and letters with spiritual information, and love and family letters. He claimed that up to one-­third of all mail belonged in the first category and could be sent via postcard, which would be financially advantageous for the state. In his clarification of how postcards could be used, however, his opening categories seemed to break down. For instance, he noted that holiday greetings as well as receipts and advertisements could be postcard material, but the former could easily belong to the category of love and family letters. Yet the fiction of the division between public and private may have contributed to the better reception for Herrmann’s proposal. Despite the controversy that this ambiguity portended, and after intense negotiations concerning whether or not postcards could cost as little as two kreuzers rather than three kreuzers (to the letter’s five kreuzers), the Austro-­Hungarian Empire issued the first postcards on October 1, 1869.21 Within the first three months, almost three million postcards were sold. What followed was a veritable eruption of postcards. England quickly issued its own cards, and seventy-­five million passed through the British postal system in 1870.22 Switzerland was another early adopter that same year. In the first months of 1871, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway ratified the postcard. Other countries quickly followed suit in subsequent years.

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From initial concerns that postcards were not economically viable because no one would use them, the fear became that they were too popular and moving too quickly for postal systems and society in general to absorb their impact properly. The discourse around postcards at the time was rife with assumptions that the postcard would be a nuisance to postal services, as in one article that stated, “It is announced from America that the picture postcard is threatening to disorganize their Post Office system; in fact, is becoming a kind of Frankenstein monster.”23 For every rosy advantage of the postcard, there seemed to be a danger against which measures had to be taken. These are the dark threats that would live on in literature even after they had been guarded against in daily life. Both the hopes and the anxieties surrounding the postcard had to do with the features now considered essential: its lower price, open form, abbreviated writing space, and infinite image possibilities. Both were influenced by the perception of how these features interacted with what remained of the letter medium: personal communication manifested materially and delivered over space and time. On one end of the spectrum, the postcard promised to bring together, to a completely new degree, not only individuals but also social classes and even entire nations. On the other end, the postcard threatened to destroy the distinctions that made people and places unique, making them interchangeable and appropriable, and turning potential connection between individuals into control. The postcard’s cheaper postal rate indeed accounted for much of its immediate appeal. It made regular postal communication available to a previously unrepresented group, and in doing so it laid claim to being a democratic medium. In England, not since the establishment of the “uniform penny post” in 1840 had the postal system been so altered. William Gladstone, the British prime minister at the time of the postcard’s ratification, took advantage of the postcard’s social connotations and famously communicated via the new medium, adding to his liberal persona. Thus, while postcards allowed a poorer class of people to use the post, many members of the upper classes found uses for postcards as well. By 1889, the following characterization appeared in an early postcard magazine simply called The Post Card: “The new postcard brought the world a postal revolution. . . . She calls at the home of the rich and poor; in fact, she is to be found everywhere.”24



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While proponents of the new postcard celebrated the democratic nature of the medium, its critics bemoaned the social promiscuity for which it served as a metaphor. More than simply sharing preexisting pathways of circulation, postcards, at least in theory, allowed people from different social spheres to encounter each other virtually. One of the fears of these critics was that the postcard would erase distinctions between the classes, not by elevating the masses but by lowering the linguistic standards of society. This was due to another essential feature of the postcard connected to its lower cost: its limited writing space. While the restriction proved convenient for those who lacked formal education, some feared that as the postcard gained popularity, people would have less motivation to learn how to write properly, a particular concern for many critics at the time. Economist and politician Louis Wolowski addressed these concerns and others when he advocated for France’s belated adoption of the postcard in 1873. He concentrated especially on the potential economic return for senders as well as for the government. Wolowski considered England’s experience and used the latest report by the British director general of post and telegraphs to justify his claims. In his treatise La Carte Postale en diverse pays, what he meant by “economic” extended beyond just the relative costs of postage. He wrote: “The postcard should have been born in England, where the value of time is well known; ‘time is money,’ says the popular proverb of that country.”25 He posited that the postcard was economical not only because it cost less to mail but also because people no longer had to spend time writing long messages and using elaborate language for simple communications. “Time is money” subsumed all other features of the postcard into its financial aspect. The “official” narrative of the invention of the postcard privileges two things: official recognition and the concomitant decision to circulate the postcard at a rate cheaper than that for the letter. The United States might have been credited as the birthplace of the postcard except for the fact that it lacked this second aspect. In 1861, John P. Charlton obtained a patent for a postal card that approximated all of the other characteristics of the later postcard, but the card was circulated according to regular postal regulations, which charged according to the weight of mailed items. Charlton sold his patent to Hyman Lipman, and “Lipman postal

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cards” were used until 1873, when the U.S. government, seeing the success of such cards in Europe, began printing its own postal cards to circulate at a rate less than that for letters. With this development, the status of the Lipman postal card as postcard was disavowed until much later, when government regulations changed again to allow private printing of postcards, this time at the universally cheaper rate. This narrative of control applies not only to individual countries but also to the increasingly globalized international postal system. The invention of the postcard coincided with the creation of the Universal Postal Union, finalized in 1874. The man credited with being a driving force in that agency’s creation was none other than Heinrich von Stephan, the first proponent of the postcard, who eventually became postmaster general of Germany. These two seemingly disparate innovations do indeed share a common root. The invention of the postcard necessitated the setting of a standard price that would allow the cards to circulate efficiently. The Universal Postal Union aimed to allow mail to flow freely between countries by doing away with requirements for postage from both sending and receiving countries. Unsurprisingly, postcards were accounted for in the agency’s first treaty, which stated that postcards would circulate everywhere at half the rate of prepaid letters.26 In regard to this standardization of postal service, Bernhard Siegert goes so far as to say that “the postcard’s message was the World Postal Union.”27 While these two innovations were mutually reinforcing and supported by governmental authority, they were also part of a larger network. As Richard Menke notes in his analysis of telegraphy in literature in the nineteenth century, “A technology does not become adopted simply because it exists; it requires a social framework that will make its establishment seem worthwhile, feasible, and thinkable.”28 One of the main features of the postcard, its abbreviated message, represented a major shift in the nature of communication media, and the social framework for the postcard developed over time despite the postcard’s seemingly overnight success. This framework, too, depended on previous forms of media. The role of the common use of the early telegram is often forgotten in genealogies of the postcard since the telegram seems “newer.” In the beginning of von Stephan’s proposal, he noted that people often desired to send short messages and the present form of the letter was inadequate



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for this purpose, so “nowadays the telegram may be said to be a kind of short letter. People sometimes telegraph in order to save the trouble of writing and sending a letter.”29 While the cost of a telegram kept it from being used generally in the 1860s, telegram “style” already existed in the public consciousness. How comfortable people were with the new technology also depended, for many, on whether previous categories of media specificity would be retained. Wolowski, in addition to pointing out the postcard’s economic advantages, took care to argue that the postcard would not be the death of the letter. The difference in writing style, he asserted, ensured the continuation of the letter: “Without a doubt, the postcard does not claim to replace the sealed letter, nor to suppress the sweetness and need for intimate communication; it serves only as a useful and convenient auxiliary to the kind of messages that are not lengthy nor require any sort of mystery.”30 Because of the open form and limited writing space, Wolowski argued, postcard communications would have to be different in nature from those of letters. Fears of the death of the letter were equal parts sentimental and economic, as we shall see later. Wolowski, in reassuring his readers that the postcard would coexist with the letter rather than replace it, recalled the earlier widespread fear that the newer medium of photography would supersede the older medium of painting: “The marvelous invention of photography made some suppose, at first, that painters would have nothing more to do; however, they have never been busier than after the habit of, under all conditions, getting closer to those one loves, or is curious to get to know, so that one can contemplate their features, caught on.”31 Wolowski claimed that, similarly, the postcard would actually increase the demand for letters by simplifying the postal system and making its services more available than ever before. He was also forward-­thinking when he posited that as the postcard became more familiar, people would discover more uses for it, such as for invitations to lectures or meetings. In arguing for the coexistence of these two media, however, Wolowski also indirectly revealed the instability of media specificity. Increased demand, both for letters and for postcards, almost necessarily would imply changes in the way the media were used. He said as much in reference to the postcard. Wolowski imagined, and probably had already seen,

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postcards that had preprinted messages rather than handwritten ones. Companies could print standard messages on postcards and circulate them for advertising purposes, for example. The postcard in Figure 1 is an example of just such an advertisement from 1889. The message about oat and corn delivery is printed on the back of a U.S. government–­issued postcard, the front being reserved for the address. Seen as a photographic reproduction from the back, little would indicate that this is a postcard. The “novel” use of the postcard for advertising purposes belies the fact that printed advertising cards of roughly the same size, often featuring decorative lithographic images, already existed and were distributed at stores and other venues.32 If messages could come to be printed on the backs of postcards, indeed, so could images. Because the form of the postcard that we now recognize necessarily includes an image, it may be hard to imagine otherwise. With postcards issued exclusively by national governments, or with government approval, for roughly the first two decades, decorated cards were relatively rare, usually depicting stylized symbols of the nations that issued them, such as national crests. Illustration was an innovation or, perhaps, even a separate invention. Even in some accounts of the time, the picture postcard merited recognition as a different medium, with its own genealogy. In 1897, a writer for the Italian Giornale della libreria, della tipografia e delle arti e industrie affini cited an Austrian journal in telling the history of the picture postcard: “Even illustrated postcards have their history, as the Weiner Fremdenblatt writes. They were invented by a German lithographer named Miesler (what have the Germans not invented!), whose invention was stolen by others.”33 The short article gave both Miesler and the picture postcard itself a mythological character by mistakenly claiming that Miesler sent his first illustrated postcards from Berlin at the beginning of the nineteenth century—­that is, before von Stephan made his proposal to the German government. Johannes Miesler was indeed a printer in Berlin, but he set up his business in 1876 and printed small local scenes, along with the words “Gruss aus . . .” (Greetings from . . .), on the back of government-­issued postcards. Those who wish to separate cards with images from those without images into two distinct kinds of media often take care to refer to cards

f ig ur e 1 . Postcard advertisement for Smith, Northam & Co. from 1889. Rates for oat and corn delivery are printed on the back of a U.S. government–­issued postcard.

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issued by national governments as postal cards, reserving the term postcards for those featuring images. This distinction, however, is hard to maintain, especially since the period when postcards were introduced to the massive intersections of government and commerce known as world’s fairs. As Naomi Schor writes, “In both Europe and the United States no single event contributed more to popularizing the picture postcard than the series of World’s Fairs and Expositions that were such landmark events during the latter half of the nineteenth century.”34 These international events allowed governments to brand themselves and display their nations’ industrial and technological advancements. For colonial powers, this included exhibiting not only exotic cultural artifacts and products that were available for purchase but also even people themselves, who were featured as “living exhibits” occupying “villages” that visitors could walk through.35 The Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889 simultaneously introduced the Eiffel Tower and the “official” picture postcard. The French government issued a postcard featuring an image of the new structure that occupied one-­third of the writing space on the back of the card. Made specifically for the use of visitors to the Eiffel Tower, these postcards could be bought and mailed from any of the tower’s lower levels. They were stamped with “au second étage” or “au troisième étage” to provide a record of the sender’s exact location and experience, which could then be transmitted to an absent loved one.36 The postcard gained new status as a souvenir, fusing personal, handwritten messages to larger narratives. In its issue dated September 30, 1889, a few months after the opening of the Paris exposition, the American periodical The Post Card noted the innovation and stated that many of the Eiffel Tower postcards had arrived in New York.37 The public began imagining not only “new uses” for the postcard but also new ways it could circulate. The Chicago Columbian Exposition in 1893 offered the public even more options for picture postcards, with cards depicting many of the buildings constructed specifically for the fair. Sold for a nickel apiece, more than a dozen different postcards featured the Electrical Building, the Mines Building, the Woman’s Building, and other structures, each including the caption “Official Souvenir Postal.” This allowed fairgoers to locate themselves spatially throughout the entire complex for their



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postcard recipients and served as a way for them to create a “total image” of the fair, a function of the postcard that was to become increasingly important. These souvenir postcards were privately printed but still under the aegis of the U.S. government. While the German postal service had allowed the printing of postcards by private publishers beginning in 1872, and other European countries had followed suit, it was only in 1894 that Britain adopted the same measure. The U.S. government held control of all postcard printing until 1898, when it allowed companies to issue their own cards provided that they included the notice “Private Mailing Card, Authorized by Act of Congress of May 19, 1898.” The term mailing card perpetuated the sense that the object was a different medium from a postcard when not issued by the government. The term was revoked in 1901, allowing cards printed by private publishers to be seen equally as “post” cards. Here it is important to note again that cards with images on them were already in circulation: images were printed onto some government cards, picture postcards were being produced abroad, and images on cards were circulating at the regular rate for first-­class mail. The history of the creation of the postcard is far from straightforward. For those who choose to see the postcard’s development as continuous, the dominance of the image characterizes the so-­called golden age of the postcard, from this moment until World War I. Picture postcards allowed their senders to circulate individual mass-­produced images cheaply, which contributed to an even greater number of postcards passing through the mail. Illustrated postcards featured images reproduced from a variety of artistic techniques, but for “accurate” representations of places one had experienced, one could count on a vast array of photographic images. With the world’s fair souvenir postcards as their model, the producers of postcards aimed to depict all places where potential buyers could have been or would want to go and soon expanded to everything that could be seen. Images proliferated. Nothing was too “lofty” (famous churches and artworks) or too “low” (washerwomen and pea sellers) to be represented. Postcard publishers often issued series of images based on certain themes or depicting particular places from different angles. Soon even some of the smallest towns could boast of their own sets of postcard images. Figure 2 shows a sleepy scene titled “East Street Looking

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West, Iola, Kans.” The caption may seem tongue-­in-­cheek today, but in fact it followed a standard formula for the captioning of postcards representing views of towns and cities. The sender of the postcard, a boarding student in Iola, intended the view to give her friend a sense of the place where she was studying, and she called Iola “just fine.” Despite the relative obscurity of the town, the postcard was printed by Valentine and Sons Publishing Company. Among the most famous of postcard printers, this Scottish company opened offices not only in New York and Boston (the places named on the back of the card) but also in Jamaica, Norway, and Morocco, among others. Now that the picture part of the picture postcard had become essential to what a postcard was, we must also return to an alternate genealogy. In this narrative, the postcard originated with the reproducible image, which circulated locally at first and then around the world at breakneck speed. Postal innovations can be considered additive. They allowed the images to circulate more freely, whether economically (at a cheaper rate) or culturally (with a few lines of personal address). This narrative follows the path of photography, invented in the 1830s, decades before von Stephan’s proposal. The complicated history of photography has been well

f ig u re 2 . “East Street Looking West, Iola, Kans.” A typical small-­town view in which representation was more important than any particular landmark.



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documented and well theorized elsewhere; here I want to call attention in particular to two of the postcard’s most direct photographic predecessors: the carte de visite and the stereograph.38 This visual genealogy, although “private” and nongovernmental, nevertheless contains its own power dynamics. As Jonathan Crary posits in his examination of various optical devices from the nineteenth century, vision itself can be understood as a historical construction shot through with power.39 Invented by André Disdéri in 1854, the carte de visite was a small photograph, measuring approximately three and a half inches by two and a quarter inches, attached to a slightly larger card. Thanks to Frederick Scott Archer’s development of the collodion photographic process in 1850, and his decision not to patent the process but rather make it publicly available, commercial photography became a more viable pursuit. After Archer’s publication of his invention, Disdéri was among the increasing number of photographers who opened portrait studios.40 Disdéri figured out how to achieve multiple exposures on the same photographic plate, so that the sitter could easily change poses. This innovative process, which he patented, allowed him to produce a set of small photos from each session. As the carte de visite’s name suggests, Disdéri conceived of these mounted photos as photographic calling cards. In the nineteenth century, calling cards were part of an elaborate social ritual common among the upper classes in Europe and the United States.41 When making a social call at someone’s home, a visitor would leave a small card printed with his or her name. Only if the person who had been visited reciprocated by leaving a card at the first person’s home could both individuals be sure of the acceptance of the social tie. This exchange ensured some degree of recognition. For people who knew each other well, folding a certain corner of a calling card could even express a particular meaning that both would understand. Thus, cards delivered by servants could be made to signify in code. Von Stephan himself, in discussing the need for a medium for shorter messages in his postcard proposal, noted that “occasionally a visiting card is used with the same object.”42 Calling cards prior to the carte de visite could feature various sorts of illustrations, but Disdéri had something else in mind—­a card whose very image could identify the person presenting it. Although the carte de

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visite cost significantly less than previous photographic portraits, it is unlikely that the cards were given to strangers. Instead, they were collected in the first family albums and signified the self in this way. Soon, carte de visite albums included not only family and friends but also royalty and other celebrities, whose cards were available for purchase. Even from the carte de visite’s beginnings, the form gained traction when as great a personage as Napoleon III agreed to be photographed by Disdéri. These cards began to feature more and more figures who might be of interest to the public, even when that came as a surprise to the people represented.43 The carte de visite soon expanded to include famous scenic places and artworks, as well as more “everyday” people and objects. The explosion of images led to what people at the time called “Cardomania.” William Darrah’s history of the carte de visite includes an illustrative subject guide and lists architecture, botany, circuses, mines and mining, resorts, pastimes, and sentimental subjects among myriad other categories.44 (Many of these same categories were represented when postcards began to feature images.) The carte de visite also introduced some of the first images of exotic “others” that many Europeans had ever seen. These photographs were usually either portraits of individuals, especially women (often with a caption describing the woman ethnographically as a “beautiful young woman” from a particular country or tribe), or arranged group scenes. In the United States, Joel E. Whitney and other early photographers captured images of Native Americans and made them available for sale, especially after the Indian War of 1862.45 At around the same time the carte de visite was invented, the stereograph was being developed, offering a parallel way of seeing the world. The stereograph featured two photographs of the same scene taken at slightly different angles and attached, side by side, to a card. When viewed through a stereoscope, the two photographs appeared to the viewer as a single three-­dimensional image. Commercial production of stereographs was well under way by the middle of the 1850s, with a wide variety of viewing instruments and cards available.46 In contrast to the carte de visite, whose principal subject was portraiture, early stereographs primarily depicted geographic locations. Stereographs became popular as souvenirs at tourist destinations, and they were also viewed as educational, allowing people to picture places they had never been. Eventually,



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stereographs also featured many of the same secondary categories of subjects as the carte de visite, including humorous scenes that did not necessarily benefit from a three-­dimensional view. Figure 3, for example, a stereograph from the “World Series” published in 1905, shows nothing more dramatic than a baby placed side by side with a dog. Titled “My Protector,” to give it narrative interest, this image was part of a set in which it came between images titled “The Japanese Way of Going to Bed” and “Aqueduct Ruined by Earthquake, Manila, Philippine Islands.” The stereograph’s ability to give the illusion of depth set it apart from the carte de visite. The stereograph produced a discourse akin to that associated with virtual reality today. The American polymath Oliver Wendell Holmes, writing for The Atlantic Monthly in 1859, predicted that the demand fueled by the stereograph would soon cause people to prefer the image to the object: “Give us a few negatives of a thing worth seeing, taken from different points of view, and that is all we want of it. Pull it down or burn it up, if you please.” Interestingly, Holmes did not assert that this would mean the end of travel; rather, he believed that travel would have a different purpose: “Every conceivable object of Nature and Art will soon scale off its surface for us. Men will hunt all curious, beautiful, grand objects, as they hunt the cattle in South America, for their skins,

f ig u re 3 . Stereograph from the “World Series” published in 1905 titled “My Protector.” Stereographs depicted sentimental as well as exotic views, even when a three-­dimensional perspective seemed unnecessary.

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and leave the carcasses as of little worth.”47 That is, travel would continue, but it would be a search for the surface rather than the substance. For Holmes himself, this was not a cause for concern. In a later article, he presented readers with a “stereoscopic trip across the Atlantic,” virtually introducing them to some of the most important sites of Europe through descriptions of stereographs.48 This optimism that new media could transcend physical experience, along with concomitant concerns, would later transfer to the postcard. In the history of the postcard, the changing form of the card demonstrates the significance of the image. Although the British postal service was slow to allow the private printing that fostered the proliferation of images, once it did, it quickly introduced an innovation that made the postcard even more popular: the “divided back.” Great Britain adopted this form in 1902, and shortly thereafter it spread across the globe. Until this moment, the image and any written message the postcard sender wanted to convey had to share the same space. One side of the postcard, the “front,” was reserved for the address, and the message and image both had to fit on the “back.” This resulted in some publishers’ decreasing the size of the images to provide blank writing spaces of various widths so that senders did not have to write over the images. Regardless, the writing on picture postcards before 1902 was minimal. But on a postcard with a divided back, the sender’s message and the receiver’s address were arranged side by side on the back, allowing for the front to be occupied entirely by the image. As Naomi Schor has pointed out, this change of what was considered the front, or “recto,” and the back, or “verso,” of a postcard could be considered a reversal of the primacy of message and image.49 The addition of images to postcards changed the way society viewed and used the cards. People now saw them not only as a convenient means of communication but also as items worth collecting. Already primed by the Victorian cult of collecting and experiences with the carte de visite and the stereograph, the public marveled at the collectible qualities of postcards: they were inexpensive, attractively diverse, compact, and readily available. They soon became the most highly collectible items of the time. Entire stores were dedicated to selling postcards, and collectors formed trading clubs, through which even strangers from far-­flung countries



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exchanged postcards via international post. As an extreme example of this trend, postcard-­specific phrase books were published to help foreign correspondents communicate. The postcard’s new status as collectible also led many senders to shorten their messages even further. Now the text often simply read “Here’s another one for your collection,” or only a signature was added, even given the added writing space made available by the divided back. The illustrated postcard as collectible often became conflated with the postcard as communication. This further encouraged new ways of circulating postcards. For example, one fad was to match a postcard image with the image on a stamp as closely as possible and affix the stamp on the image side of the card (a practice that was soon banned). Although postcards had already been considered new media in the 1870s, decades later the introduction of images reactivated this hermeneutic. The postcard, once again, was seen as having incredible potential to stimulate both social and antisocial behavior. The theme of promiscuity gained new force, as well as literary representation. Since the inception of the postcard, theoretically, the rich and the urban poor could send postcards to each other without knowing one another’s social stations, since the normalization of limited writing space allowed correspondents to reveal little. Now, with the increased trade of images through postcard clubs, more reason existed for such exchanges. Figure 4 shows a hand-­colored local view of Lima, Ohio, that was sent to Madrid, Spain. The message asks if the recipient wants to exchange postcards: “Querer ella ellos cambiar tarjetas postales con me?” Ostensibly, the sender obtained the recipient’s address from the list of one of the international exchange clubs. The ungrammatical nature of the message in Spanish suggests that the sender used a phrase book, but the message itself highlights the ambiguity possible in this postcard exchange. Is the recipient a she (ella) or a he, one person or multiple (ellos)? This ambiguity enabled by far-­reaching new media could also become erotically charged. A comic turn-­of-­the-­century short story titled “Picture Card Romance: A Tale of Nineteen Postcards and Two Letters,” composed completely of “postcard” text, plays on this possibility.50 A woman from Vienna and a man from Budapest exchange views of their cities and slowly become more intimate; midway through their correspondence,

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f ig u re 4 . Hand-­colored local view of Lima, Ohio, sent to Madrid, Spain. The ungrammatical message in Spanish asking the recipient to trade postcards (“Querer ella ellos cambiar tarjetas postales con me?”) implies that the exchange occurred through an international postcard club.

she asks for a postcard with his picture (the carte de visite come full circle in real-­photo postcard form) and signs her nickname. Following two unprinted letters and a postcard saying he is coming to Vienna, a postcard exchange with his Viennese friend Hermann reveals that the woman is a maid. This, of course, ends the correspondence. The postcard’s open form, although unchanged since the medium’s inception, continued to bother many, especially since it could enable communications from the “wrong” sorts of persons. One writer in 1889 complained of the kind of friend who thought “a postal card the best medium for forwarding the specifics she has promised to send you for biliousness and bunions; or she asks you where you bought the frizzes, which you have so artfully arranged that even your rival ‘specs they growed’ on your own head.”51 The colloquial language here is no accident. The postcard’s ease of use was thought not only to make communication more available to the less educated but also to perpetuate a disregard for the rules of written language. In addition, a perennial concern about postcards among the upper classes was that these communications were subject



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to the eyes of prying servants. As time went on, a greater concern for all postcard users was that the open form created the possibility of circulating slander without necessarily attributing agency. Anything written on a postcard theoretically would be seen by many people, and thus any defamation would be instantly published. Ironically, the first suggested solution to this threat, that postal officials not allow libelous postcards to circulate, only gave credibility to the fear that many people were, indeed, reading postcards addressed to others. This concern continued to be depicted in caricatures of spying or overly curious postal officials as late as 1920 in the British weekly humor magazine Punch, among other periodicals.52 Later writers would lament that the open form encouraged platitudes, since nothing substantial could be said safely, aside from the fact that there was not much room for substance. Books such as The Post-­Card Code: A Novel and Private Method of Communicating by Post-­Card, published in 1908, aimed to remedy this problem, although postcard writers had used Morse code and various other ciphers on occasion since the postcard’s early days. Even the author of The Post-­Card Code noted in his introduction, “The utility of this work is too apparent to mention at length.”53 The writer of the postcard in Figure 5 used not only Morse code but also an additional polyalphabetic cipher to keep his message private in 1885.54 The sender’s final lines in regular script (“Mail is here. I will write more in a few days. Yours, JAC”) suggest that the process of encryption and transcription was relatively time-­intensive, if not laborious. One could speculate endlessly on the writer’s decision to communicate in this way. In theory, using various codes and ciphers allowed people to exchange messages that all could see but only the sender and receiver understood. One wonders how much of a problem the lack of postcard privacy actually was. The Private Code and Post-­Card Cypher: A Telegraph and Post-­Card Code-­Book for Family Use, published in 1914 by well-­known humorists Constance and Burges Johnson, played with this notion. Following in the wake of similarly titled publications, the book appears to set out a legitimate postcard grammar in its first half, but then it takes code to the extreme, where writing the word “Congress” means “I saw five churches, three art-­galleries, one museum, and eleven restaurants yesterday. Spent to-­day in bed, eating milk-­toast and reading Marie Corelli.”55 A coded

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f ig u re 5 . Message written in code on the back of a U.S. government–­issued postcard in 1885. Writing in code was not uncommon in the early days of the postcard, as correspondents sought to keep messages private.

postcard message at the turn of the century was more likely to be an inside joke between sender and recipient than a true attempt at conveying crucial information. The open format of the card provided the opportunity for play and thus, in fact, was partly responsible for the postcard’s popularity. This feature was so obvious to early users that it even became self-­ referential at times. The “language of stamps” postcards provide an extreme example. Published by various countries in various languages, these postcards featured images on their fronts that instructed senders and recipients in how to use the positioning of the stamp on a postcard to communicate meaning. Clearly, stamp messages conveyed on these postcards were easily decipherable, since one only had to compare the front and back of the postcard. This method of “secret” communication gained enough of a following that it contributed to the governmental regulation of where the stamp must be placed on a postcard. Rather than simply conveying literal meaning, sending postcards in this way could be a means of playing a game and thus creating a connection between correspondents that went beyond words. The example in Figure 6 shows an English postcard where the stamp on the back corresponds to the proper “Top, Right-­Hand Corner” and indicates “a kiss.” Despite the language of stamps

f ig u re 6 . “The language of stamps” postcard published in England. The “hidden” message depended on where and how the stamp on the other side of the card was positioned.

f ig u re 7 . “Le nouveau secret du timbre” postcard published in Belgium. The sender of this postcard used the stamp on the other side to communicate “I suffer in your absence.”

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being skewed toward romantic messages, the written message is from a married daughter to her father, giving him a view into her life. Figure 7 shows a French version of this type of card, published in Belgium, labeled “The new stamp secret.” The sender of this postcard uses the stamp to communicate “I suffer in your absence” to Mademoiselle Jeanne. Here, the sender leaves no signature. While the message is clear, the relationship between sender and recipient is not, perhaps not even to the recipient. The sender could be a beloved fiancé or an unknown, potentially even unwelcome, secret admirer. Such personal messages on postcards, when received in a corresponding way, could create a sense of intimacy by opposing sender and recipient to the perceived wider public. Part of the pleasure of sending a postcard in the medium’s early days was the frisson that came from knowing that one’s private message could be read by others. When postcard users managed to avoid this “danger,” they could imagine themselves in a world of communication all their own. The ingenious example in Figure 8 comes from a Romanian sender who was able to write in two registers on one postcard. The message on the left is a stylized, poetic New Year’s greeting. The sender addresses the recipient in the formal second person.

f ig u re 8 . The back of a Romanian holiday postcard. Removing the stamp reveals a hidden message: “Receive, my dear, a New Year’s kiss.”



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A hidden message revealed by the removal of the stamp expresses the sender’s desire to give the addressee a New Year’s kiss—­it is written in the informal form. Placing this message under the stamp ensured that it could be revealed only after the postcard had reached its intended destination. Even royals were not immune to the lure of the postcard. Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Victoria Eugenie, was successfully courted by King Alfonso XIII of Spain via postcard, beginning in 1905. Despite her occasional complaints of not having any privacy, many of her postcards to Alfonso are stamped and postmarked, implying she had no issue with sending them through the mail. The postcard was, oddly enough, an especially fitting medium for the international royal couple because of its small writing space. Since neither knew the other’s native language well, they communicated principally in French, which was uncomfortable for both of them. Victoria Eugenie complained in one of her postcards that when Alfonso wrote to her in Spanish, it took her hours to decode what he was saying. Undaunted, she ended the postcard with “But we understand each other, don’t we? God bless you darling! Your loving Ena.”56 Taken literally, because of the open form and limited writing space, the postcard medium’s messages provide hardly any information, which, in the eyes of some, disqualifies the postcard from being a useful method of communication. Taken figuratively, the elliptical writing of the postcard message always signals to something beyond, something unsaid that would have been said had there been more space and had sender and recipient really been alone. For users of the postcard in this frame of mind, the postcard becomes a nearly transcendent means of communication—­one beyond words. Of course, for this reading to take place, one must always have the letter in the back of one’s mind as a point of comparison. That the postcard “means” something depends on its similarity to the (already codified) previous mode of communication. That it can “mean” more completely depends on its difference. The introduction of the image and the development of the picture postcard heightened the already present dialectic between what is said and what is unsaid over and above the letter. If a postcard’s shortened message signals all that is intended, the postcard’s materiality and image signal not only the sender’s absent body but also his or her entire world.

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Beatrix F. Cresswell’s poem “To My Friend,” which appeared in The Picture Postcard in 1902, is both an apology for and a celebration of the postcard’s absent presence: I cannot write a letter dear, nor would its pages bring The thousand thoughts towards you that are ever on the wing: And I should need a magic pen to place before your eyes In all its fullest beauty the scene that round me lies: So I trust the picture postcard I send to you to-­day My thoughts, love, and surroundings, in one message to convey.57

The poem explicitly juxtaposes the postcard and the letter. While it initially seems as if the speaker is apologizing for sending a short postcard rather than a longer letter, it is the letter that the speaker deems inadequate. The letter is able neither to capture the speaker’s “thousand thoughts” nor to describe the speaker’s environment fully. The lowly postcard, rather than failing more completely than the letter at this task because it is shorter, appears to succeed through the speaker’s “trust” in the postcard—­a fantasy of the ideal medium. Moreover, the poem claims that the postcard can convey “thoughts, love, and surroundings” together “in one message,” creating a complete sense of the sender’s world, both outer and inner “realities.” Even in writing less effusive than Cresswell’s poem, the image and text of the postcard are imagined as completing each other in the idealized medium. The magic inherent in Cresswell’s postcard—­that it is able to contain all of the speaker’s “surroundings”—­belongs to the wider phenomenon of “postcardization.” Beyond simply “postcarding” sites (depicting various places on postcards), postcardization completely merged outer realities and inner worlds through the new medium. In an effort to offer any image that would be of interest to buyers, postcard manufacturers sought out an increasingly wide array of images. They produced topographical views ranging from villages to cities to foreign scenes, often from myriad angles. In large cities, residents could fairly easily buy postcards showing their own streets and mark the locations of their houses on the cards before sending them. Postcardization promised that the postcard sender would be able to find the perfect postcard, one representing not only the



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sender’s exact location but also his or her mood and inner state. Postcards proliferated. Despite attempts to place postcard images into categories, including views, postcards always eluded categorization, both because of the novelty of their subjects and, as Naomi Schor points out, because they belonged to several categories at once.58 In 1935, after the postcard’s new media moment was over, George Watson Cole published a plan for the “systematic arrangement” of postcards, but he failed to recognize that it was precisely this excess that helped create the impression of a postcardic world so essential to what the postcard was in its early days.59 While the seemingly inexhaustible ability of the postcard to reproduce people, places, and situations from “real” life fascinated the general public at the time and added a dimension of collectibility to the postcard’s communication, others saw postcardization as a further threat to authenticity in an already mediated world. A 1903 article in Punch satirically stated, “Candidates for the new Geographical Tripos at Cambridge will be expected to show proficiency in identifying picture post-­cards of various places, scenes and landscapes.” Moreover, it continued, the British Museum’s artifacts were to be replaced by picture postcards, the superfluous artifacts being sold to Pierpont Morgan to defray “a part of the immense cost of the new national treasure.”60 The counterargument was that postcard images made previously inaccessible cultural icons available to a larger audience, creating a visual canon. Such was the claim of a writer for the London magazine The Poster and Post-­Card Collector: “It was a very happy idea to think of reproducing, in penny post-­card, Hogarth’s famous picture of ‘Marriage a la mode,’ familiarizing the work of the great caricaturist in places where he had hitherto been known only by name.”61 Others, however, felt that not enough of these “right” kinds of educational postcards (view cards and reproductions of high art) were being produced to justify the existence of the form. At their perceived worst, postcards seemed to empty their subjects and sites of meaning. Several reasons were given for this. One was the lack of accuracy in postcard representations themselves; for example, national monuments were sometimes “painted” in garish colors, shown by “moonlight,” or “decorated” in an effort to make the postcards unique so they could be sold as a novelties. Another was that the postcard as a medium indiscriminately featured both portraits of heads of state and

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sentimental prints of cats (with only the numbers of postcards produced to indicate a hierarchy), which some felt “cheapened” the subjects depicted. The same postcard rack often featured images of both actresses and religious leaders. Single postcards could also depict multiple subjects, often in strange juxtapositions. The effect was one of compression, in which the postcard collection collapses in on itself. Rather than providing a comprehensive world picture through an infinite number of postcards, these postcards made the world illegible. In an effort to remedy this symptom of a much larger issue, The Picture Postcard made an appeal to taste and devised the “cartophilic motto of ‘One card, one view.’”62 Postcards were seen as either making the world more accessible and better connected or flattening it out completely, so that all sites began to look the same. At the height of the postcard’s popularity, the ways in which users, and thus publishers, interacted with the postcard changed continually as the result of regulation, a significant mark of the postcard’s status as new media. After citing the requirement that all postcards bear their stamps on the back, in the upper right-­hand corner, The American Almanac, Year Book, Cyclopedia, and Atlas of 1903 listed postcard regulations as specific as the following: When post cards are prepared by printers and stationers for sale, they should, in addition to conformity with the requirements of this order, also bear in the upper right-­hand corner of the face an oblong diagram containing the words “Place postage stamp here,” and across the bottom the words “This side for the address.”63

As long as postcards were a major international business, they would remain under government scrutiny. Competition was fierce and global. German factories were at the forefront and printed images obtained in other European countries as well as in remote locations in places such as Mexico and South Africa. Local companies were also continually striving for their share of the market. One writer even went so far as to claim that “in no other industry is there such a competition to put forth something new that will catch the public and its pennies.”64 The intense competition produced a plethora of themes, styles, and techniques. Taken to



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extremes, postcards were decorated with fabric, feathers, and even human hair. This led to regulatory decisions such as one in 1907 that postcards featuring feathers were to be taxed at “50 per cent under the provision for ‘manufactured feathers’” rather than at “25 per cent as ‘printed matter.’”65 With each innovation arising from competition, national governments instituted new regulations. As the postcard form evolved, a complex social system worked to hedge its possibilities. An item in The Picture Postcard linked the policing of postcards to both government officials and arbiters of “taste” and also established a tie between materially and morally noxious postcards. According to the writer, certain postcards were no longer popular—­ those featuring “illuminations or jewelry [that] were represented by a sort of white tinsel. The postmen complained that this composition poisoned their hands, so orders were given to destroy any such cards posted in the future.”66 Oddly, these particular postcards would have had no way to remain popular since they were banned. This discrepancy reveals an attempt to present postcard users as autonomous and independent of official policy. Yet the writer also sought to establish a natural confluence between official policy and the dictates of taste: “We would remind our readers that all cards having beads, glass dust, and such-­ like ornamentation, are also forbidden by the British Post Office. We are very glad this is so, for the stuff is not only liable to injure those whose hands it passes, but the root-­idea of such appliqué ornamentation is barbaric in conception, and most inartistic in execution.” Equally telling, the same news item interspersed information about “improper”—­ that is, pornographic—­postcards, linking them to physically toxic cards by noting that both kinds needed to be destroyed: “The Paris police recently made another raid, and seized 3000 improper post-­cards at the kiosques. . . . As to the so-­called ‘improper’ post-­card, we do not regard them as post-­cards at all; they are simply indecent pictures with the word ‘post-­card’ printed on the back.”67 The writer of this item went a step further than postal officials in getting rid of pornographic postcards: he un-­postcarded them. Eventually, all of this regulation would come to seem unnecessary, but not while people were still writing about the postcard. It is the literary imagination that keeps postcard possibilities open (and reinforces

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the postcard’s new media discourse) by evoking the hopes of intimacy and anxieties of control that official and social forces seek to manage through regulation. Postcards in literature become the perfect space to play out such turn-­of-­the-­century anxieties as the changing nature of cultural authority, the equivocal character of the “New Woman,” the role of new technologies in the invention of a “private” self, and the dangerous and totalizing quality of new media. Literary texts make the postcard “new” again by altering a previously established and regulated narrative. Instead of the sender being elsewhere, perhaps she is writing from the same room. Perhaps the postcard arrives mysteriously without having to circulate through the post. The actual recipient may be unintended. Literature allows deviations to surface at every point in the postcard narrative, to uncanny effect. These texts written at the time of the postcard’s invention reveal the postcard’s underlying instability even as it was being codified. The relationship between literary texts and postcards is also a dynamic one. By altering the story line of the postcard, literature not only reveals the possibilities of the postcard but also reinvents its own possibilities as a medium along the same line. The postcard raises hopes and fears not only in the readers of these texts but also in writers, particularly in novelists. The older medium of the novel has its own history and shares with the postcard a widely acknowledged “ancestor”: the letter.68 At the end of the nineteenth century, literature underwent a period of great transition. The novel had won hard-­earned legitimacy just prior to this time with the formation of new literary disciplines, and the rise of pulp fiction and the spread of new forms of mass entertainment were responses to this regulation.69 For some authors, the postcard, in its supposed opposition to the letter, became a cipher for competing new forms of mass media. Those who referred to or incorporated the new postcard into their already established medium also reflected on their own ability to connect with their readership and to represent the world of their imagination accurately. Changes in publication practices, writing styles, relations to tradition, reception, or a combination of these facets appeared in the guise of the postcard. The postcard in literature signaled change, for better or worse, in literature itself. Although I will analyze a wide variety of media in this study of the postcard, given the novel’s own history, literature is especially well suited



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to an analysis of the discourse surrounding the postcard at its inception. Postcards and literature were reciprocally reinvigorating even as they were presented in opposition. The postcard’s literary representation once more raises the questions of who sends what to whom, leaving open to interpretation every action from the selection of the image to the writing of the message to the openness of the address. This, in turn, revitalizes the literary texts in which postcards appear, making them modern. This “dialectic of new media” underscores the discursive nature of what we understand to be new. As I analyze how and what the postcard came to be and could have been, two seminal critical works that deal with the postcard, both published in the 1980s by French Algerian writers, necessarily form the background of my study, despite some of the differences in our focus. For Jacques Derrida, the postcard serves as a figure to interrogate the very nature of writing, of communication more generally, and ultimately of personal and interpersonal identity. Simultaneously a work of literary theory and philosophy, as well as a (faux) autobiography, Derrida’s The Post Card intentionally destabilizes genre and even media lines. The “Envois” section of the book is written as a series of love letters from “Derrida” to his unnamed “love.” Yet from the preface, every certainty of that description unravels: “Who is writing? To whom? And to send, to destine, to dispatch what? To what address? Without any desire to surprise, and thereby grab the attention by means of obscurity, I owe it to whatever remains of my honesty to finally say I do not know.”70 These questions take on more emotional resonances within the body of the “Envois” section but remain essentially the same. In one of the first “letters” the narrator writes, “And when I call you my love, my love, is it you I am calling or my love?”71 While Derrida never explicitly examines the postcard in its historical context, his treatment of the possibilities and impossibilities of the medium aligns The Post Card with the spirit of my inquiry. The other work, Malek Alloula’s The Colonial Harem, explores the symbolic colonial possession of Algeria through French postcards featuring images of Algerian women. Alloula’s close readings of these images expose them as colonial fictions and fantasies, created through staging and inaccurate captioning, rather than true representations of the people, especially the women, of Algeria. The book’s title refers not only to the

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exoticized and eroticized space of the women’s quarters but also to the collection of these postcards and the possession by proxy of the women depicted on them. Each chapter of Alloula’s book enacts a progressive “unveiling” of these women through increasingly more sexualized images to reveal the logic of colonialism. In his final chapter, he writes: “Summarily, and in its customarily brutal idiom, the colonial postcard says this: these women, who were reputedly invisible or hidden, and, until now, beyond sight, are henceforth public; for a few pennies, and at any time, their intimacy can be broken into and violated.”72 Alloula looks at one of the central features of the postcard, its open surface, and draws out its implications in a colonial setting. Although I aim to consider the postcard form more broadly, I am deeply indebted to his critique of the interaction between the material and the imaginary as it relates to the medium of the postcard. Moreover, Alloula lays bare some of the ways power works in this medium, an important reminder when one is tempted to remain for too long in abstraction. Although these critics are French Algerian, and the postcard was first invented in Germany and first adopted in the Austro-­Hungarian Empire, I have chosen to examine the postcard as new media primarily through its discourse in English, in British and American sources. New media, following the logic of expansion of capitalism, necessarily aims to become a global commodity.73 The global superpowers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries quickly adopted the postcard for both domestic and international circulation. The postcard’s history and discourse, in turn, run alongside the rise and reinvention of the era’s superpowers. During the time of the postcard as new media, the United States had grown through manufacturing into new international preeminence while Great Britain maintained its global influence. Of particular interest to my study of the postcard are the different ways in which American literature and British literature interact with the “foreignness” the postcard invites. While the postcard is a vexed figure in both empires, literature from the United States tends to consider the possibilities of the postcard more positively, while that of Great Britain focuses more on the postcard’s threats. Chapter 1 examines postcards in the travel writing of William Dean Howells, the “Dean of American Letters,” and the entrepreneur-­cum-­travel



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writer Samuel Gamble Bayne. Their respective narratives, Roman Holidays and Others and A Fantasy of Mediterranean Travel, reveal how the half-­penny picture postcard, despite temptations to denigrate it, was big business. Big business was also what writing itself was becoming, with ever more people taking up a pen professionally. The increasingly competitive and professionalized literary marketplace of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries forced even “serious” authors to find new ways to sell their work through savvy positioning vis-­à-­vis both the traditional canon and new mass cultural forms. Established and aspiring writers alike had to navigate this terrain, incorporating and taking cues from the postcard in order to achieve its wide appeal while setting themselves apart as unique and authoritative writers. In chapter 2, the (anti)heroines in Edith Wharton’s novel The Custom of the Country and lesser-­known Anne Douglas Sedgwick’s Franklin Winslow Kane highlight the dialectic between letter and postcard, the differentiation between old and new so essential for new media discourse. This discourse intersects with the discourse of the “New Woman” at the end of the nineteenth century. The New Woman characters in the novels by Wharton and Sedgwick not only use postcards as opposed to letters but also are defined by many of the same characteristics. Like the postcard she sends to represent herself, the New Woman is half personal communication and half mass-­produced commodity. She threatens the breakdown of authentic, readable relationships but promises liberation from stultified, antiquated roles. Wharton and Sedgwick themselves, as women novelists at the end of the nineteenth century, activated the same anxieties in some of their critics but also took advantage of new possibilities. Chapter 3 demonstrates how the postcard’s ease of use and mass circulation actually invited misuse from the very beginning. The postcard as new media allowed the anonymity and pseudonymity of the postcard sender in ways that the letter did not, or no longer did. Conversely, the open form and image of the picture postcard made its recipients and subjects more visible. This could be used in harmless ways but it also created new pathways to power, which could be appropriated by vigilante groups representing both minority identities and those who desired to uphold the current establishment. In Where Angels Fear to Tread, E. M. Forster plays not only on British and Italian cultural dissonances but also on

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dissonances between classes. The resulting confusion in the intention behind sending a postcard leads to the death of a child. The popular writer of mass fiction Herbert Flowerdew furthers the threat of violence inherent in new media in his murder mystery The Seventh Post Card—­its circle of victims keeps expanding despite a tidy ending. Both Forster and Flowerdew complicate the notion of new media as a mere tool in their works, instead presenting it as a force beyond the control of the user. For the writers themselves, the same ambiguity inherent in the postcard as new media shaped their careers in a time of societal and market change. The process of publication gave them a voice but also limited them and made them vulnerable. Chapter 4 addresses how the postcard’s movement in the direction of representing all subjects also standardized, decentered, and flattened those subjects. As the postcard shifted from being a means of communication to a souvenir to a collectible, the distance between self and other was not bridged but rather collapsed. Places and people all blurred together in the plethora of available postcards; the self became objectified in its complete identification with representative objects. What was intended to bring people and places closer, taken to the extreme, brought them too close in a relationship that replicated the processes of colonialism. Rudyard Kipling’s short story “The Village That Voted the Earth Was Flat” and Bram Stoker’s Dracula explore this extreme. These works present worlds saturated with media where media, collectively, takes on a life of its own, subsuming what it should be representing before turning against itself. In my concluding Postscript, I examine the purported end of the postcard and its various afterlives in the twentieth and twenty-­first centuries. I argue that the postcard’s “end” is merely its end as new media, and perhaps not even that in a totalizing fashion. The move from a cutting-­ edge technology to an object of nostalgia is surprisingly short, but that is also because media are unstable. The new and the banal are two sides of the same coin. Twentieth-­and twenty-­first century artists who have incorporated the concept of the postcard into their works, such as Marcel Duchamp, Martin Parr, and Tom Phillips, have engaged with this dual nature and played with switching from one side to the other. With the rise of digital media, the postcard has undergone further hybridization and alternately reawakened new media associations while holding on to



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the nostalgic connotations it has acquired. The postcard’s initial utopian hopes and apocalyptic fears live on with “newer” new media while its form continues to evolve. The picture of the postcard that emerges in this book offers insight into the fascinating history of this cultural artifact as well as into the dialectical nature of new media discourse. Although, for the most part, I do not explicitly make connections between the postcard and contemporary new media (especially social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) until my Postscript, parallels between the two through new media discourse should resonate throughout. In this analysis of the postcard in all its various periods, media specificity remains important and complicated, but the similarities between the ways the postcard and other media are discussed temper claims of media determinism. I hope this book not only contributes to the excitement of those who study the particularities and possibilities of emerging media but also encourages those anxious about navigating the ever-­changing complexities of such media.

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1 The Economic Postcard

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he postcard as a new medium was more than a “novelty.” In contemporary discussions of the postcard, commentators constantly referenced its economic aspect. No less than London’s Financial Times published an article titled “The Importance of the Post Card” in 1902, establishing postcard production as a legitimate source of revenue.1 The discourse of new media inevitably involves discussion of financial opportunities, early adopters, and the ability to “monetize” a new invention. Because each new medium adapts previous technologies and fulfills aspects of their functions, it builds on preexisting consumer pathways. An uneasy disavowal of this dependence is crucial to the discourse of newness. A medium that “radically breaks” with what came before it encourages users to leave behind the old in order to justify the purchase of the new. The logic of consumerism requires an ever-­changing object, with slight but observable “enhancements,” that must be acquired. In practice, however, media change never occurred in wholesale fashion with the postcard. Letters and photography existed alongside the postcard, feeding into demand for it rather than actually competing. Literature that presented the postcard as a threat to civilized society reinforced the postcard’s importance and, in fact, placed it within a recognizable framework. Moreover, referencing the new medium of the postcard made a text seem more “of the moment,” giving the text itself a sense of newness. 39

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The process of remediation lies just beneath the surface. As theorized by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, remediation functions according to a double logic: “Our culture wants both to multiply its media and to erase all traces of mediation: ideally it wants to erase its media in the very act of multiplying them.”2 In this model, a medium oscillates between “immediacy and hypermediacy.” In its mode of immediacy, the medium seems to “erase” itself, providing clear and unmediated access to the object depicted. In hypermediacy, part of the pleasure of engaging with the medium lies in seeing it for what it is, a heightened experience rather than a “natural” one. Although all media take part in this dialectic to a certain extent, the postcard provides surprising but distinct examples. In its various formats, it can either present itself as the truest representation of a person or place or it can draw attention to its own artifice, often by referencing preexisting media. One of the most important uses of the postcard inextricably tied it to previous media forms: its use by travelers. Although far more postcards circulated domestically than internationally at the end of the nineteenth century, in the public imaginary, the postcard became the form of media most closely associated with travel and communication from abroad. These connotations remained throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-­first. The travel postcard became a locus for discussion of two related concepts: authenticity and cultural capital. On the one hand, picture postcards, especially photographic postcards, claimed to depict places accurately. Images were authoritatively captioned to provide more information about the sites. The postcard’s indexical quality included the time stamp from the local post office. On the other hand, from the picture postcard’s very beginnings, images were often colored, doctored, or otherwise idealized. Captions, as Malek Alloula famously pointed out, could be wrong from many points of view.3 Also, paying too much attention to postcards could distract from “authentic” travel. Despite the inherent role of media in performing travel, overmediation threatened to obscure the immediate experience. The picture postcard as a new medium actually repeated some of the same expectations and anxieties that surfaced with photography. For some, photography became the new standard for what could be considered “real.” Only if something could be photographed did it count as



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evidence, as something that could be measured and verified. However, at the same time photography was seen as a marvel of accuracy, even magical in its reproductive abilities, the earliest photographers experimented with effects and “trick” photography. By the end of the nineteenth century, especially after the introduction of the carte de visite, images of faraway places had become familiar. The term cliché had already acquired its metaphorical meaning. As for picture postcards, many of their images came from photographic plates made decades prior and recycled. Just because the medium was new did not mean that the images were. However, one key difference between photographs and postcards at the turn of the twentieth century was economic. Postcards were still cheaper than photographs, and they could double as an inexpensive way of communicating with those back home. The increasing democratization of travel through the expansion of railways and the growth of tour companies that offered discounts, such as Thomas Cook & Son, might have allowed more people to journey far from home, but they may still not have been able to afford expensive albums of photographic views. However, everyone could afford a postcard. The postcard’s relative cheapness caused its popularity to surge, and soon the general public seemed to buy more postcards than photographs regardless of the price difference. Various companies even began marketing albums designed specifically for the display of postcards. Moreover, postcards had the added value of circulation. That is, the postcard differentiated itself from previous image-­bearing cards, such as the carte de visite and the trade card, not only by having space for writing but also by being mailed. Essentially, the postcard is always a travel postcard, even when not depicting foreign lands, because it travels from elsewhere in order to relay a message. However, a postcard from another country thematizes this distance. At the turn of the century, the postcard obtained its greatest value through circulation, even when the message was secondary and the primary goal was collecting. Members of postcard clubs often requested that correspondents send images specifically from their home cities rather than widely available images from other places. Travelers who were also collectors went so far as to mail postcards to themselves during their trips or made arrangements for relatives to return the cards they had sent them (and woe to those who promised

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falsely). Postcards sent from farthest away were often the most valued because of rarity. As a 1902 article in the British newspaper Today stated: “Enthusiastic or thoroughly insane collectors refuse to have anything to do with cards which have not passed through the post, and send off about half-­a-­dozen a day to foreign correspondents, who send them the same number in return. As the postage of a foreign post-­card is a penny each, this amounts to nearly 20 pounds a year.”4 Movement clearly added value to the postcard. Sending postcards soon became requisite for anyone traveling abroad, and part of the experience of tourism itself. The aura of physical distance gave such postcards authenticity. For both the tourists and the postcard recipients at home, the images on the cards reinforced the iconic status of the views and places depicted. By the turn of the century, would-­be travelers knew what they had to “do” at various destinations as much through images as through what they had read and heard. Postcards partially satiated but covertly fueled the desire to experience “the real thing.” The following exchange between two correspondents about the value of a set of postcards appeared in a postcard journal: “‘These views of Pompeii—­have you seen better?’ ‘No, nor want to. Why I seem to be there again,’ I exclaimed; ‘there’s no need to go to Italy now!’”5 On the one hand, the postcard is presented as a replacement for travel, particularly travel that is inconvenient or even dangerous. On the other, the connoisseur can appreciate the postcard only because he has already visited Pompeii. Hence, postcards also served as a symbol of the particular sender’s cultural capital. In satires of the period, tourists were depicted as going to foreign countries precisely in order to be able to say they had been there, the postcard serving as proof. In its negative connotation, always relating to the tourist rather than the traveler, the postcard view replaced the actual view. The act of “performing travel,” which included purchasing and sending postcards, literally mediated the experience. As the Daily Chronicle newspaper stated during this period: “Some people think the pictorial post-­card has got to be a nuisance. Wherever you go now-­a-­days you find it. Climb to the top of an Alpine pass, and there is a German busy writing his name for the benefit of friends at home.”6 The German character, rather than enjoying the view, has climbed to the top in order to be able to send postcards and obfuscates the landscape for those supposed



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“travelers” who wish to experience it directly. In a sense, the “German” is a figure for the postcard itself, produced predominantly in Germany at this time. He subconsciously reminds the traveler that the traveler’s own “authentic” experience is tenuous. If postcard-­writing tourists are there, the traveler has not succeeded in getting off the beaten path. He also depends on the current “canon” of travel, consisting of previous travel writing, contemporary touristic infrastructure and fashions, and, of course, the postcard. The postcard at the end of the nineteenth century was not just a view from a beautiful place; it was also a guide to getting there. This represents a gradual shift in medium if not in practice from the eighteenth century, when travel was much more restricted to the wealthy and the learned. For British young men of the upper classes, the “grand tour” provided a finishing school of sorts where they could experience firsthand the places they had read about in books and acquire the worldly tastes that would set them apart from those of lower social status. Because their travels were ostensibly based on classical works they had read, young men on the grand tour followed a fairly set route that took them through France and Switzerland and then into Italy. Nouveau riche Americans later traced this route in the nineteenth century, seeing it as de rigueur.7 These new tourists, however, were not necessarily familiar with the works of classical writers such as Livy and Plutarch. Instead, nineteenth-­century writers who had read these works served as cultured and refined interpreters of the Renaissance and classical sites and artworks one “must” see in Italy. John Ruskin’s three-­volume set The Stones of Venice was seen as the guide par excellence, and any high-­minded traveler to Venice had to reckon with it.8 Read as a literary masterpiece in its own right, the text advised visitors not only on what they should see but also on how they should see it. As the literary and travel market diversified, writers after Ruskin were far from alone in offering their services. In the increasingly diverse and professionalized literary marketplace of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, even “serious” authors found themselves in the position of having to market and sell their work. They had to locate themselves vis-­à-­vis the literary canon and at the same time differentiate themselves from new mass cultural forms (including what came to be known as pulp

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fiction), finding their own particular niches. However, especially when it came to travel writing, they peddled books that were more like postcards than they might have cared to admit. They traded in the same material and had to demonstrate how their views differed from postcard views. Otherwise, the travel writer might seem dangerously similar to any tourist writing postcards. Travel writers in the nineteenth century separated themselves not only from those without the means to travel (less of a distinction by the end of the century) but also, and especially, from those who did not demonstrate a spirit of observation while traveling. James Buzard, in his seminal study of travel writing The Beaten Track, traces the increasing distinction between the words “traveler and tourist from the eighteenth century onward, until they obtained the respectively positive and pejorative connotations they hold today.9 The traveler is the explorer, the conqueror, the scholar, while the tourist simply performs travel, often employing the services of travel agencies, failing to see things in and of themselves. The genre of travel writing evolved to endow the writer with the persona of the traveler, a figure increasingly blurred by the democratization of travel. The distinction between traveler and tourist, and between different kinds of travel writers at the time, parallels one vein of the discourse of new media. The discourse marks a temporal disjuncture, a “first” and then a “later,” as well as a differentiation in authenticity, an “original” and a “copy,” or “simulacra.” Travelers claim priority and discovery, while tourists mindlessly follow, despite the fact that travelers themselves follow others. Writers disavow or minimize how much they reshape what came before them when they accuse the writers of new mass media forms of being derivative and inauthentic, all the while obfuscating possible economic considerations for doing so. The postcard, even when it gave a certain class of people their first views of distant places, faced the charge that it “cheapened” what it depicted and even made it more difficult for people to experience those places themselves “authentically.” However, this explicit separation between “old” and “new” belies how interconnected and mutually reinforcing the two actually are. By the beginning of the twentieth century, travel writers had to conceive of increasingly sophisticated strategies for positioning themselves vis-­à-­vis



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the migrating masses. They had a vexed relationship to “the beaten track” because, on the one hand, they relied on well-­known sights and tropes, as well as previous travel writers, for recognition and prestige. The physical act of traveling reinforced a travel canon analogous to the literary canon, and the two canons were often mutually constitutive. On the other hand, in order to lay claim to originality and make their writing marketable, they had to find ways to focus on new material. Reinforcing the discourse of postcard as new media was a way of harnessing its energy. The anxieties of travel writers at the turn of the twentieth century appeared in their treatment of the postcard, which mirrored the postcardic nature of their projects. The postcard, in fact, embodied simultaneously the commercialization of travel and travel’s canonical aspirations. The recurrent character of the postcard seller bears much of the postcard’s representational weight in travel literature. Whether as a man, a woman, or a child, the postcard seller appears in travel narratives to offer views of the sights, which are almost always rejected, although the seller may be befriended. The standardization of postcard distribution today makes such a character unexpected, but his or her presence is something of a surprise as well even in these texts. The postcard seller’s mundane activity is a constant source of nuisance for travelers and travel writers, but the character attracts repeated description all the same, often in great detail. Like authors themselves, the postcard seller deals in representations. In the early years of the twentieth century, professional writer William Dean Howells and businessman Samuel Gamble Bayne were well aware of what it meant to be a traveler rather than a tourist. As Americans traveling primarily to Europe, they especially had something to prove. They both published travel narratives during the height of the picture postcard craze: Howells’s Roman Holidays and Others appeared in 1908, and Bayne’s A Fantasy of Mediterranean Travel came out in 1909.10 Howells, known as the “Dean of American letters” after 1899, not only received critical acclaim during his lifetime but also turned his writing into an extremely lucrative career, thanks to his popular appeal and prodigious output in a variety of genres.11 Bayne had a varied career, making money in the oil industry and then in banking before finally becoming a successful travel writer in his later years. On close examination, Howells had more in common with the now obscure Bayne than one might initially

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assume. Both Howells and Bayne were independently wealthy by the end of their lives and engaged in the rhetoric of the “self-­made man” when discussing their achievements. This was especially important to Bayne, who entered into the highest New York social circles despite having emigrated from Ireland to seek his fortune, but it permeates Howells’s self-­ presentation as well. The personas of these two American travel writers, one canonical and one amateur, are surprisingly similar.12 As self-­made men, Howells and Bayne both present themselves as travelers “in the know” because of their familiarity with the material conditions of travel, which included new media. In terms of literary style, Howells conveys this by transferring realism, the aesthetic of his fiction, to his travel writing and avoiding “sentimentality.” Bayne’s strategy is a witty and self-­reflexive attention to the economics of travel, material and social, as well as a reevaluation of authenticity. While both focus on the economics of travel, they face different challenges. Bayne, as a businessman, must call himself a “layman” when it comes to describing the Rome that “has been so thoroughly exploited,” but this allows him to maneuver more freely and comment on the unexpected.13 He seems much more comfortable than Howells ever does in discussing the touristic apparatus, of which the postcard is representative, and incorporating it within his own writing, Howells, as a professional, must engage more closely with tradition and put the old in a new context. He is uneasy with what the postcard represents and yet depends on being able to interpret it. When Howells was writing Roman Holidays and Others, he was contending not only with centuries of writing on Rome but also with decades of his own previous writing. Besides being an editor for The Atlantic Monthly, he was already well known for his travel sketches when his novel A Modern Instance catapulted him to fame in 1882.14 These travel narratives included Venetian Life and Italian Journeys, based on his time abroad as the American consul in Venice.15 By 1908, Howells was a famous novelist, capable of fetching huge sums in advance book contracts, but Roman Holidays marks his return to travel writing. Howells’s transition to realism, the movement he helped champion in American literature, comes into clearest relief in this genre. Although he pays some homage to his predecessors (including his younger self) and former travel “romances,” Howells is more concerned with seeing things “as they are”



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than with presenting an idealized version of a place. He pays particular attention to the living situations of the lower classes, describes brief everyday scenes, and focuses on the minor details of travel. The postcard, for Howells, represents a romanticizing tendency, in which the landscape is abstracted and layered with meaning by previous travelers. At the same time, through its very contribution to the banality and commercialization of the scene, the postcard comes to play a contemporary role worthy of notice by the realist writer. The realist movement dominates the discussion of American literature at the end of the nineteenth century because, led by Howells, “the realists were the first group of American authors to produce a full body of theory about the purpose, function, and quality of literature,” according to Daniel Borus.16 In this sense, realism is the literary equivalent of nineteenth-­century American travelers in the know, of having arrived. Yet criticism today recognizes that, rather than a monolithic “realist movement,” multiple realisms existed that were often contradictory even within themselves.17 This would have come as no surprise to Howells. In his most famous volume of literary criticism, Criticism and Fiction, he traces affinities to his literary aesthetic back to diverse sources such as Edmund Burke and Jane Austen and actually finds them principally in countries other than England, especially Russia.18 Howells tends to pit what is “real” against what is “ideal,” but even he recognizes the problematic nature of such a distinction. He demonstrates an awareness of how literary movements can depart from their initial intentions: “Romance was making the same fight against effete classicism which realism is making against effete romanticism.”19 Howells also prophetically announces the possibility of the later irrelevance of realism, as it becomes conventionalized, substituting a “book-­likeness” for “life-­likeness,” although part of what is “real” in literature involves creatively reworking literary tradition. Howells includes an extended quotation from Burke in which he states that artists’ main problem is that “they have been rather imitators of one another than of nature.”20 Howells both resists and yet relies on the literary canon. This oscillation between what is “real” and what is “affectation” belongs to the wider phenomenon of media perception and media change rather than just to literary movements. As Bolter and Grusin point out, remediation, the dialectic between immediacy (or realism) and hypermediacy,

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is not a twenty-­first-­century phenomenon. They give examples of media that are “attempts to achieve immediacy by ignoring or denying the presence of the medium and the act of mediation,” such as seventeenth-­ century perspectival paintings and the photography of Edward Weston, and contrast those with a medieval manuscript, which utilizes multimedia techniques for a heightened awareness of its status as an art object.21 Ultimately, not only do media vary between the modes of immediacy and hypermediacy, but perceptions of these modes, and therefore perceptions of previous media artifacts, change as well. What once counted as real could well be seen later as affectation, and vice versa. In Criticism and Fiction, Howells states repeatedly that writing should be “simple, natural, honest”—­qualities that may seem vague but actually reflect a specific desired paradigm shift. Howells aligns the new realist writer with the “scientist,” in contrast with the bookish “pedant,” because the scientist observes the “real grasshopper” versus the model grasshopper made out of wire and cardboard. Borus explains that “American realism in its broadest definition set for itself the task of producing a literature in which the material world where its readers dwelt figured as a dominant characteristic.” Specifically, “novelists were to record all that they saw around them.”22 Thus, Howells advocates writing with a new sense of the visual. As Nancy Armstrong has persuasively argued, in the mid-­ nineteenth century, the invention of photography provided a new visual standard. What was “realistic” in literature came to be writing that depicted objects that had been or could be photographed. The visual order created by photography “acquired the status of the order of things themselves.”23 Howells, at least at some level, anticipates the connection between realism and photography when, at the end of the imaginary conversation between the scientist/writer and the pedant in Criticism and Fiction, the pedant says, “The thing you are proposing to do is commonplace; but if you say that it isn’t commonplace, for the very reason that it hasn’t been done before, you’ll have to admit that it’s photographic.”24 The reaction of the scientist/writer to this, supposedly derogatory, charge of being photographic is not recorded in Howells’s essay. Contemporary critics often approvingly likened Howells’s own writing to photography, but the claim did not always sit well with him. The underlying criticism is that writing “things as they are” can be a mechanistic process



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rather than a literary craft. Writing then becomes something anyone can do. As much as he wanted to distance himself from slavish devotion to canonical writers, Howells also wanted to avoid association with mass fiction writers, who worked solely according to stereotypes, with all the mechanical associations of the word still very much present. In Howells’s travel writing, this becomes an even greater imperative. With the advent of the economical postcard and the democratization of travel, “travel writing” began to seem more automatic than ever. One needed only to go to the obligatory places, buy postcards with the anticipated scenes, and write the expected messages about them. In this capacity, the postcard became associated with a previous sentimental mode of writing, as opposed to realism; it represented perception through “type” as well as adherence to a circumscribed “canon” of travel. A common complaint about tourists, in contrast with travelers, was that they saw all places as essentially the same because they were not able to pick up on details photographically. This sentimental mode corresponds to the early German “Gruss aus” postcard genre, which often featured generic landscape scenes with spaces for handwritten or individually printed city names. These scenes were often reproductions of watercolor paintings rendered in a picturesque and idealized style. They were almost anywhere and nowhere. The example in Figure 9 from 1898, “Gruss aus Vöslau,” shows what we can assume to be the town of Vöslau in the distance, although it is hard to distinguish from any other small town in Austria (or in many other European countries). The same can be said of the image of the hotel featured in the insert, except that it is labeled. The grapevines encircling it probably represent Vöslau’s famous red wine, but they could very well be used simply as decorative elements on other postcards. Figure 10, probably produced about a decade later, shows a more extreme example. Although the postcard shows an image of a town, the sender can actually write in his or her own location in the space below “Greetings from.” The floral motifs surrounding the vignette of a general country town thus have no referential value. Even when postcard images were photographic reproductions, and therefore to some degree unique and specific even when reproduced, publishers often aimed to categorize them and often produced series of

f ig u re 9 . “Gruss aus Vöslau” postcard produced in Austria and sent in 1898, depicting stylized symbols of the town of Vöslau.

f ig u re 1 0 . “Greetings from” postcard produced in the United States circa 1910. This type of postcard gave postcard producers a potentially larger market by allowing postcard sellers to write in the names of local towns.



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cards in specific categories. Early French postcards make this explicit by including the caption “Scènes et types” on images of foreign (especially colonial) subject matter. Thus, a card might claim to depict a “typical” Algerian even when the photographic image suggests an individual, “real” Algerian.25 The postcard in Figure 11 is of French production in Egypt, and the caption reads “EGYPTE.—­Saluts arabes.” Rather than a simple photograph of two men encountering each other on the street and greeting each other, this postcard image is highly staged. Taken in a studio, the photograph includes a backdrop of a hazy forest scene with a town in the distance, interrupted by the wainscoting in the lower left and the decidedly smooth carpet “ground.” In some ways, the less-­than-­realistic background isolates the two men as the “real” element in the image. The natural gesture of a greeting, a “salut,” is then described ethnographically as “arabe.” The caption is in the plural, suggesting an entire postcard series of Arabic greetings in Egypt. In this way, postcards actually help create tourist sites and sights by categorizing and captioning them: something as mundane as a greeting can become an event to observe and even collect. Although the postcard can call attention to itself as media, it also has ways of aligning with the realist project. Especially in its photographic guise, the postcard can serve as a near substitute for seeing the thing itself. The postcard perpetuates the myth of the photographic image as a transparent representation, and it can be framed to show not so much what the sender has seen but the thing itself. The postcard in Figure 12, which was sent in 1906, shows an image of the Roman aqueduct in Gard, France. The message functions more as a label than as a personal communication. The lack of a verb in the opening line (“The remains of an acqueduct [sic] built in the first century by the Romans”) equates the image on the postcard with the actual thing. In the rest of the message, the sender focuses on objective facts (that the aqueduct was built in the first century and that the top elevation was once encased in lead). This message, along with the detailed photographic print, allows the postcard to function as a realist representation. Despite Howells’s ambivalence toward the postcard when it functions as idealized type, he also recognizes its value in establishing a visual canon of travel. Postcards are the poor man’s way of seeing the world—­inadequate, but better than nothing. In Roman Holidays, Howells describes one of

f ig u re 1 1 . “EGYPTE.—­Saluts arabes.” Postcard produced by Comptoir Philatélique d’Egypte in Alexandria, circa 1904. Despite announcing ethnographic import, the photograph is very clearly staged.



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Rome’s most famous sights: “Seen from above, the Spanish Steps are only less enchanting than the Spanish Steps seen from below, whence they are absolutely the most charming sight in the world. The reader, if he has nothing better than a post-­card (which I could have bought him on the spot for fifty a franc), knows how the successive stairways part.”26 He implicitly allows that postcards accurately depict the visual facts of the stairway, yet he still puts them hierarchically below physically being there with the phrase “if he has nothing better.” He continues his narration to characterize life around the steps, implying that a postcard could not tell the whole story, but he has already picked up certain techniques from the postcard. Howells shows the Spanish Steps as seen from both above and below, mimicking the multiple perspectives of competing postcard series, in which a famous sight is photographed from all directions. Moreover, within Howells’s writing, postcards themselves are also part of the scene he witnesses. By including postcards in his description of the Spanish Steps, Howells verifies that he was there and “could have

F ig u re 1 2 . “Le Pont du Gard” postcard produced in Marseilles and sent in 1906. The message reads like a caption: “The remains of an acqueduct [sic] built in the first century by the Romans. Nimes was supplied by water from the mountains by this method. The top elevation was once encased with lead.”

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bought” them. Their reality also lies in the fact that Howells can say they cost a franc for fifty. In order to focus on the material conditions of his journey rather than continue the idealized depictions of the past or the mass-­produced postcard images of the present, Howells allows the postcard, which he might otherwise reject, to crop up in his travelogue. His persona in Roman Holidays is that of the seasoned traveler, someone who has already seen what is most worth seeing and, more important, knows how to see. He is an arbiter of taste, not one who is overawed by what might impress the masses, but he is also genial and self-­deprecating, and he takes an interest in the common man. Howells’s first-­person narration and direct address to the reader create the impression of a lack of pretense, despite the authority he claims for himself, and a sense of intimacy. Postcarded sights hold no attraction for him as novelties, but they do attract him as sites for new, personal observations that he can then communicate to his readers. These sites are loci of heightened attention and give him access to different social classes at the same time. Howells turns to the economics of tourism, represented by postcards, in these places for a new view of the local setting. The narrative of Roman Holidays follows Howells’s persona from Madeira through Spain and on to Italy, concentrating especially on Rome. Rather than being a guidebook in any strict sense of the word, the text derives its narrative interest from the juxtaposition of Howells’s earlier self with the now famous writer, which appears through descriptions of the way Italy has changed over the years. Howells self-­consciously references his earlier travel writing especially while he portrays himself standing in front of Italy’s most canonical sights: “I remembered the amphitheatre [in Pompeii] so perfectly from 1864 that I did not see how I could add a single emotion there in 1908 to those I had already turned into literature.”27 This passage performs the double service of implying that he has given a definitive rendering while also providing him with an excuse to turn his attention elsewhere. Howells relies on previous travel writing (including his own) and travel convention to affirm his canonical status, but he nonchalantly introduces new details that keep him up-­to-­ date and prevent a fall into reminiscence. The postcard is a sign of the times. About the Roman Colosseum, he writes: “After twoscore years and three it was all strangely familiar. I do



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not say that in 1864 there was a horde of boys at the entrance wishing to sell me post-­cards—­these are a much later invention of the Enemy—­ but I am sure of the men with trays full of mosaic pins and brooches, and looking, they and their wares, just as they used to look.”28 Instead of romanticizing the Colosseum and revisiting the heroic deeds that may have occurred there, Howells focuses on the locals with whom he invariably comes into contact as a result of being a traveler. He writes about the guide, the waiter, and especially the postcard seller, who often doubles as a beggar. The postcard seller appears in almost every city within the narrative. Of necessity to his persona, Howells speaks of him with annoyance as the keeper of every major sight. The postcard seller is a constant reminder of the commercialized state of travel—­that is, tourism—­and the impossibility of unmediated experience. In one passage about Naples, Howells refers to the source of his annoyance more explicitly: “This terrible traffic pervades all southern Europe, and everywhere pesters the meeting traveller with undesired bargains. In its presence it is almost impossible to fit a scene with the apposite phrase.”29 On the one hand, Howells is simply referring to the importunate calls of the postcard street vendors that distract him. On the other hand, as a travel writer, he indirectly comments on the way modern tourism, embodied in the postcard trade, prevents him from being able to describe the scene in a fitting and original way, since it has all been described before. Here Howells implicitly levels his strongest arguments against the postcard in calling attention to its cheapness as “undesired bargains,” its totalizing nature, which “pervades all southern Europe,” and its mass production as “traffic,” all arguments used elsewhere by critics of the postcard craze, and of tourists. Tourists likewise were seen as swarming the continent, interfering with normal circulation and unaware of what was truly valuable in foreign cultures. At the same time, once Howells takes the implications of modern tourism as his object proper according to the tenets of realism, with nothing material being too unworthy of observation, he continues, “and yet one must own that it has its rights. What would those boys do if they did not sell, or fail to sell, postal-­cards. It is another aspect of the labor problem, so many-­faced in our time.”30 Howells cleverly uses the presence of the postcard to push the text away from the potential sentimentality of

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a visit to Naples toward a realist interest in social issues. Without the “nuisance” of the postcard sellers, Howells merely would be describing “the divine beauty of the afternoon light on the sea and mountains” over again, whereas now he is content to mention it briefly.31 The postcard seller is, in fact, crucial to the project of Roman Holidays rather than an interruption or distraction. The figure of the postcard seller allows Howells to circumvent describing the natural landscape in one instance, but to be taken seriously as a travel writer, he still must demonstrate his ability to evoke it. The challenge is to present an account that is “simple, natural, and honest” when the scenery has already been layered with meaning. Interestingly enough, he begins the description of Madeira in Roman Holidays with a metaphor of artificiality: “No drop-­curtain, at any theatre I have seen, was ever so richly imagined, with misty tops and shadowy clefts and frowning cliffs and gloomy valleys and long, plunging cataracts, as the actual landscape of Madeira.”32 By using a metaphor from the theater, Howells contrasts a painterly visual representation to “the thing itself.” Howells partially gives the drop-­curtain artist his due, saying he has “been most impressed by the splendid variety which the artist had got into his picture,” but the visual artist’s work amounts to little “in the presence of the stupendous reality before [him].”33 By saying this, he reserves the right of accurate reproduction for himself as a writer, since he continues to describe the landscape for several pages. Yet when describing the mountains of Madeira, he calls attention to the limits of words: “Their picturesqueness of form and their delight of color would beggar any thesaurus of its scriptive reserves, and yet leave their beauty almost unhinted. A drop-­curtain were here a vain simile; the chromatic glories of colored postal-­cards might suggest the scene, but then again they might overdo it.”34 Whereas Howells uses the drop-­ curtain as a metaphor, strictly maintaining the superiority of words, he refers to actual postcards of the island. Clearly, the postcard image, in Howells’s estimation, is a more accurate representation than the drop-­ curtain metaphor, but his wording betrays a strange ambiguity. On the one hand, to “suggest the scene” means the postcard is not quite enough. Looking at a postcard is less than being there, although it is the next best thing. On the other hand, that the images “might overdo it” implies that



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they are already too much. Viewing them might prevent one’s having a “clear,” unmediated picture of the scene. Howells specifically cites colored postcards, which were often colored by hand or printed over in varying numbers of tones. The postcard has the propensity to layer a scene with previous viewings, just as color is layered over the postcard image. In the example in Figure 13, the Hochstrahlbrunnen fountain in Vienna is painted over to depict a night scene, and the jets of water are tinted blue and red. The effect is rather unrealistic, especially to the modern eye, but the intent is, in fact, the highest accuracy. In 1906, as a novelty, the fountain was equipped with lights that shone different colors on the water at night; this lighting continues to be part of its iconic appearance today. Howells’s initial decision to relegate the description of the Madeira mountains to the postcard foreshadows that the beautiful scenery is actually a backdrop to what will be of most interest to him: the human drama on which he will focus. Several times throughout Roman Holidays, the postcard itself actually takes the place of more detailed description. Howells feels the weight of the conventional, romanticized landscape

f ig u re 1 3 . Postcard of the Hochstrahlbrunnen fountain in Vienna depicted as a night scene through tinting.

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but deflects it onto the postcard so he can emphasize the less traditional aspects of the places he visits. After a long paragraph on beggars in Naples in general and an encounter with the organized charity of the Catholic Church in particular, Howells continues, “That was while we were driving toward Posilipo for the beauty of the prospect along the sea and shore, and for a sense of which any colored postal-­card will suffice better than the most hectic word-­painting.”35 The famous scenery, despite its magnificence, is not even the subject of the sentence’s main clause. Rather than verbally describing it, Howells passes on the responsibility to the postcard, complicating its association with the tourist rather than the traveler. The postcard allows him as a travel writer to save up his words economically, just as it allows tourists to be frugal with descriptions of their trips. Howells finds a place for the postcard within his framework of realism by allowing the postcard to be the bearer of the sentimentalized landscape. Despite the fact that the reader never sees Howells, the quintessential traveler, engaged in the act of buying and sending a postcard, Howells mirrors that act in his own descriptions. Besides substituting a postcard for an extended picture of a place, as on the drive to Posilipo, he also writes postcardically through elliptical commentary about established sights. A postcard writer can foreshorten his message to “Wish you were here” because of the touristic apparatus associated with the form.“Here” refers to the image on the front of the postcard. “Wish you were” encompasses all the ways modern tourism has marketed going to these particular sites as something desirable and potentially a status symbol (“I am here, and you’re not”), to which the postcard itself has contributed in a circular fashion. In the same way, Howells participates in the economy of postcard writing specifically through his engagement with the canon. He extricates himself from the need to be exhaustive by referring to previous travel writers. In visiting Spain, he calls it “the country of many more youthful dreamers in my time than, I fancy, it is in this. We used then, much more than now, to read Washington Irving, his Tales of the Alhambra, and his history of The Conquest of Granada, and we read Prescott’s histories of Spanish kings and adventures in the old world and the new. We read Don Quixote  . . .”36 By citing these classics, he avoids the need to construct Spain as a site of interest single-­handedly. These books read for generations more than justify his account of a mere day trip across the



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Spanish border. When he begins describing the two blocks of the Spanish border town, he can focus, once again, on the postcard sellers, a few buildings, and the theft of a black shawl rather than an epic or romantic narrative. In summary, he claims, “Our visit to Spain did not wholly realize my early dreams of that romantic land, and yet it had not been finally destitute of incident.”37 His visit allows him to express a preference for the prosaic, his “love of reality underlying all [his] love of romance.”38 Howells differentiates himself from the common tourist precisely by paying attention to what is “common.” To some degree, Howells does accept his own role as a tourist, but only insofar as it allows for realistic depictions of the places he visits, à la the postcard. For example, he constantly refers to the amounts of the tips he doles out to waiters and cabdrivers, whether too large or too small. While that does make him appear to conform to the stereotype of the rich American, it also allows him to signal an economic reality of which he is only a part. A major criticism of Victorian tourists in Italy, starting in the late nineteenth century, was their self-­centeredness. They privileged the ancient Roman past to the exclusion of its present and often condemned Italy’s modernization efforts, which they felt imperiled the classical architectural treasures they wished to visit. Howells calls for a departure from the previous touristic mode even as he acknowledges he is engaged in a new one: “I hold that Italy is for the Italians who now live in it, and have to get that better living out of it which we others all want our countries to yield us; and that it is not merely a playground for tourists who wish to sentimentalize it, or study it, or sketch it, or make a copy of it, as I am doing now.”39 He recognizes his complicity, but if he is a tourist, at least he is not of the worst (sentimentalizing) kind. Making “a copy” of Italy is somehow getting closer to an essence, which is ultimately unobtainable. Samuel Gamble Bayne makes no secret of enjoying touristic copies (both the act of tourists copying and copies made for tourists), even if he has not completely given up the notion of authenticity. He plays the role of the rich American tourist even more closely than Howells and actually embraces it. Rather than fearing looking like a tourist, he is concerned instead with not being the tourist who is duped. Bayne wants to get the most out of what he pays for, even if he is aware that it is not a “genuine” experience. He expects the trip to be commercialized. Writing as an affable

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businessman on vacation, Bayne presents himself as humorous, easygoing, not overly concerned with bookish knowledge of the places he visits, but observant when it comes to current affairs. He brings a sense of newness to his travels on the beaten track (virtually the same one Howells had just completed for the second time in Roman Holidays) through his business acumen. As an amateur writer, Bayne demonstrates his literariness by converting his trip into a narrative in which he is a central character surrounded by secondary ones, more than by describing the places he visits. At first glance, Bayne may seem like an unlikely hero for a literary work, but Michael Pupin, a well-­known early twentieth-­century inventor who improved long-­distance telephone communication, describes Bayne thus in his foreword to Bayne’s autobiography, Derricks of Destiny: “His career epitomized what Americans mean when they speak of the ‘romance of business.’”40 The meanings attached to the phrase “romance of business” evolved significantly from the nineteenth to the twentieth century. One of the first uses of this phrase is in the title of an 1862 novel by Richard B. Kimball, Undercurrents of Wall-­Street: A Romance of Business. In this context, it refers to a dramatic, or even melodramatic, story in which the action is provided by the twists and turns of the protagonist’s economic fortunes, a plot structure later popularized by Horatio Alger Jr. Bayne’s self-­representation as the typical rags-­to-­riches hero begins in his travel narratives and culminates in his autobiography. Derricks of Destiny itself reflects this meaning by chronicling Bayne’s boyhood in Ireland before he immigrated to the United States, his struggles in the oil industry, his role in the establishment of the Seaboard National Bank, his success and celebrity connections, and his foreign travel. It features all the elements of the conventional business romance: unexpected “breaks” as well as disappointments, experiences with business partners (both wise and treacherous), a dramatic inheritance, and an advantageous marriage. However, by the time Bayne published his autobiography, “a romance of business” had already become “the romance of business.” The article change reveals a shift in focus such that business is no longer just the vehicle for a main character’s development but rather the main character itself. Elbert Hubbard, an influential proponent of the Arts and Crafts movement in the United States, refers to “the romance of business” in his 1913 Book of Business when he describes business as “eminently a divine



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calling.”41 A posthumously published collection of essays by Hubbard is titled The Romance of Business.42 William Cameron Forbes recycled the title in 1921 for his own collection of essays, which he says he wrote “to explain the nature of business, in the hope that it would remove some of the prejudices that many people wrongly hold against business.”43 These later writers wanted to disassociate business from the negative connotations it had taken on because of the lack of culture displayed by nouveau riche businessmen. Derricks of Destiny, in addition to telling Bayne’s personal story, provides a narrative of the development of various American industries, principally the oil industry. Pupin claims that Bayne “would have been eminently fitted, if he had chosen, to write the ‘inside story’ of half a dozen of the greatest American institutions.”44 Implicit in this claim is that business had become something glamorous rather than a mere economic necessity. For Bayne, this romance of business extended both to the travel postcard as a commodity and to the postcard’s ability to commodify the sites it depicted. While Howells was bothered by the inauthenticity of the postcard, along with the way it could sentimentalize and stereotype a scene, Bayne was unfazed. In A Fantasy of Mediterranean Travel, published in 1909, a year after Roman Holidays, Bayne takes fantasy as one of his objects proper. He makes it clear that he enjoys reproductions as reproductions, as well as seeing their productive—­that is, business—­value. As Miles Orvell has noted, a shift occurred between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in attitudes toward imitation and authenticity. While Victorian America celebrated the simulacra of familiar experiences in miniatures and art reproductions, “the culture of authenticity that developed at the end of the [nineteenth] century and that gradually established the aesthetic vocabulary that we have called ‘modernist’ was a reaction against the earlier aesthetic, an effort to get beyond mere imitation, beyond the manufacturing of illusions.”45 As this shift was taking place, not in any smooth transition, the postcard became a site for the contesting valorizations of authenticity and imitation, or “immediacy” and “hypermediacy” in Bolter and Grusin’s terms, as it was both a representation and one of the material facts of modern tourism. In their respective writings, Bayne sees the romance in new economic models of tourism, of which the new postcard is an essential element,

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whereas Howells focuses on economic realities in order to escape previous romantic literary models. On the surface, Bayne’s Mediterranean journey resembles Howells’s in many ways. The two authors pass through virtually the same ports, with Bayne simply going farther east before returning by the same route. Both are aware of the costs of things. But unlike Howells, who focuses on the material conditions of the places he visits and only indirectly discusses the impacts of his going there, Bayne focuses on the conditions of the “trip.” Although both of these men, in their old age, are traveling by cruise ship, only Bayne refers to the “list of passengers”; Howells merely mentions obliquely that he is accompanied on his excursions. For Howells, the action of his travel narrative happens on land, whereas Bayne recognizes that just as much happens aboard the ship, with its “extensive programme of entertainment . . . consisting of balls, lectures, glees, games of bridge whist and progressive euchre, concerts, readings, and a bewildering schedule of functions.”46 A Fantasy of Mediterranean Travel opens with a humorous poem that Bayne says he composed on the steamer in anticipation of “what was to happen on our coming voyage.”47 Rather than imagining the sights he will see, the poem focuses on the characters of the captain, the management, and the purser. From the start, Bayne makes the voyage’s constructedness apparent and its artificiality enjoyable. In a tone that is clearly facetious, he alludes to previous romantic conventions as he begins his narrative: “The fame of this ship and her captain spread so far and wide that a worthy band of male and female pilgrims besought him to take them to foreign parts, for a consideration.”48 The fact that he is obviously on a commercialized voyage rather than an authentic pilgrimage (despite the fact that he does end up in Jerusalem) is what gives the statement its humor. Yet this observation in no way implies the superiority of one over the other. The inauthenticity of tourism is part of the experience for which Bayne is consciously paying. If Howells’s travel writing is a sober, black-­and-­ white “real-­photo” postcard, Bayne’s is a garishly colored postcard sent as a joke. The first operates in the mode of immediacy while the latter revels in hypermediacy. Rather than opening with a view of the landscape, as Howells does, Bayne spends the better part of his first chapter giving an account of the characters on the ship. He includes “the human skyscraper,” “the



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fidgetarian,” “the General,” “the pocket Venus,” and “the Impressionists,” all of whom “were doing their best to attract attention in a harmless way.”49 Instead of immediately engaging in another exoticizing depiction or even pseudoethnographic study of the natives, he concerns himself with the inauthentic positioning of tourists on board. He sees them as figures in a particular social set, the upper and upper-­middle class, and they all mark themselves by wearing the foreign items they have obtained on their journeys. Much as certain postcard sets were divided into “scenes” and “types,” Bayne plays with the conventions of the “types,” categorizing people more according to their social functions than to their cultures or ethnicities. The displays of fellow tourists, and their various accoutrements, are clearly part of the enjoyment of the trip for Bayne. He collects them both according to rarity (or eccentricity) and representativeness: “No collection of this kind would be complete without a military officer, and we had him all right.”50 It is not surprising, then, that Bayne ends this first section with a transition to the postcard that would otherwise seem abrupt: “Now we reach the post-­card mania.”51 What he has been describing all along has been related to travel’s role in acquiring cultural capital. Bayne understands this when he claims that the habit of sending postcards is based “in vanity and egotism,” although “at the start it was a mild, pleasurable fad.”52 Sending postcards to all one’s acquaintances back home communicates one’s status—­that one has the money, leisure time, and cultural finesse to go abroad—­rather than just particular pieces of information. Like collecting proofs of travel, sending postcards is addictive: “Once it gets a foothold it supplants all other vices.”53 Acquiring postcards, in Bayne’s estimation, actually interferes with other touristic activities as well. It is the first thing the passengers do when landing at a port, before they even see the sights depicted. Bayne points out the precedence of this activity over more “authentic” experiences, noting that the passengers would not have stopped “to say ‘Good morning’ to Adam, to take a peep at Bwana Tumbo’s hides and horns, or to pick up the Declaration of Independence if it lay at their feet.”54 Although that might seem like a criticism, he himself devotes more space to the description of postcard acquisition than he does to many of the places on the itinerary. The sections on certain cities, including Cádiz, Pompeii, and Sorrento, could actually fit on a postcard.

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He also acknowledges his complicity with the postcard mania when he says, “We toiled like electrified beavers,” including himself in the group of those who were desperate to finish sending all their cards to family and friends.55 Yet he draws the line when the behavior becomes too “inauthentically” inauthentic. Bayne claims that certain passengers who did not leave the boat for particular tours would still buy and address postcards depicting those places and ask others who were landing to mail them. In Bayne’s estimation, these passengers were attempting to cheat the economy of cultural capital in which the postcard played such a large role. When asked to mail such postcards for others, he states,“I felt no hesitancy, after silently receiving my share of this fraud, in quietly dropping them overboard as a just punishment for this impertinence.”56 Bayne’s drastic action is a response not so much to the postcard’s inauthenticity of representation, or even the economics of tourism that the postcard represents, but rather to attempts to circumvent the proper steps of tourism. The bad tourist is one who does not go through the motions completely or is not aware that he or she is going through motions. Part of being a good tourist is recognizing what is an appropriate souvenir, one that will confer the greatest amount of cultural capital. Bayne gives a counterexample, noting that in Funchal, “while strolling in the public market I noticed a bit of local color: one of the fierce looking pirates had for sale half a dozen little red pigs with big, black, polka dots on them. I stopped to look at them and the corsair insisted that I should buy one at least and take it with me for a souvenir.”57 In Bayne’s view, this particular souvenir is actually too authentic to be of any value to a tourist. What he wants to obtain from the public market is not so much any real object but rather “a bit of local color.” His shopping trip is successful when he has this experience, which he then turns into his account, his written story that confers cultural capital. The postcard is the ideal souvenir because it combines both the superficial “local color” (quite literally) and a readily exchangeable material form, not unlike Bayne’s own narrative. Bayne puts the postcard seller near the top of his list when describing Cairo: “From Shepheard’s veranda, crowded with tourists, one may see hawkers of all kinds yelling, or coaxing possible purchasers, and offering post-­cards, ornamental fly-­whisks,



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walking-­sticks, shawls, scarabs, etc.; snake charmers, boys with performing animals, jugglers, and every possible thing you can think of that might be bought for a souvenir . . .”58 This sentence continues for half a page, enumerating Egyptian women, Bedouins, professional mourners, and more. As Bayne creates the view for his readers, it becomes difficult to distinguish between souvenirs and sights. Jugglers seem to belong to the category of everything “that might be bought for a souvenir.” Far from being in competition with the postcard, Bayne’s narrative incorporates it. The view Bayne is offering is also for sale, in the form of his book, and it is a bargain. Like the postcard, the narrative can contain a seemingly infinite variety of representations of other objects, besides being an object itself. The postcard likewise blurs the lines between touristic sight, souvenir, and even experience by providing an image that is for sale. The tourist’s own experience can return to him or her in remediated form. In Figure 14, the scene presented by the postcard is an idealized painted depiction of an afternoon spent lounging outdoors under umbrellas and palm trees. The caption on the reverse of the card identifies the almost generic scene as Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo, the same

f ig u re 1 4 . “Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo.” This idealized postcard depiction has few indicators of a specific locale.

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hotel mentioned by Bayne. The caption allows a host of otherwise unrelated associations to coalesce around a physical location, so that the postcard does a disproportionate amount of work as a souvenir. In Bayne’s narrative the postcard’s authenticity is not up for discussion: what you see is literally what you get. The other souvenir that Bayne comments on extensively, the Egyptian scarab, occupies a more ambivalent position. “Because there is now a veritable and increasing boom in scarabs” in Cairo, Bayne finds the background of the scarab worth telling, focusing on the fact that most of the objects taken out of graves are already in museums, and new factories have sprung up to manufacture scarabs to satisfy the demands of tourists.59 What he sees as the difference between the two types of scarabs is not primarily a matter of authenticity: “Of course there is a marked difference between a scarab cut by an old Egyptian, which has been buried for thousands of years, and something made out of glazed terra-­cotta and sold by the dozen; the former being worth a good sum of money and the latter a mere trifle.”60 Bayne is amused by attempts not only to differentiate but also to hierarchize the two. When a local tries to sell him the “real thing,” Bayne sidesteps the offer by saying that he wants only an imitation; the local then offers the same object as an authentic imitation for five cents. Interestingly enough, in the ancient history Bayne provides, he notes that originally bodies of the “real” insects were placed in tombs until it was ascertained that they did not last and imitation scarabs of semiprecious stones were introduced. While Bayne clearly sees the value of imitations, he resents being asked to pay more for something that is “authentic.” Bayne uses the word authentic in a facetious sense in almost every instance. Even the most authentic and unique sites in Egypt, the iconic pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza, obtain their value for Bayne through common consensus rather than something inherent: “A thought struck me when looking at the Pyramids and the Sphinx, and that was that no object of any kind, natural or artificial, has ever been seen by so many great men in all ages as has this group at Gizeh. For six thousand years the great of all nations have made an effort to look upon these mammoth monuments.”61 The fact that figures like Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and Cleopatra had seen them, Bayne explicitly states, constitutes the



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monuments’ appeal and the feeling from which “the spectator, do what he may, cannot release himself.”62 Far from resisting the lure of tradition, the impressions of thousands before him, Bayne revels in it. The acceptance of the inevitability of mediation even allows Bayne some measure of irreverence as he plays out his role as a tourist. Pages later, in captioning an image of the Sphinx, he labels it “the grand old girl of all sculpture . . . the Queen of post-­cards, to which the pyramid behind her runs a close second.”63 While it may initially seem ironic that the objects most viewed by the great men of the past should be the trivial postcards of today, this is the very essence of remediation. Bayne appears to be reconciled to that fact—­he gladly takes his place among those who have seen these objects and written to others about them. The captions that accompany the mechanically reproduced images in Bayne’s book are not accidentally postcardic. Images had begun to play a huge role in the success of travel writing, just as postcard images were becoming a crucial part of the travel experience itself. Use of the marketing claim “profusely illustrated” increased exponentially in publishing after 1870, hitting its peak at the turn of the century and tapering off again with the advent of World War I. This curve is almost exactly analogous to the popularity of the postcard. Harper & Brothers, which published both Howells’s Roman Holidays and Bayne’s A Fantasy of Mediterranean Travel, was producing illustrated editions of travel narratives as a matter of course by the beginning of the twentieth century. The images provided parallel narratives to the written ones, intersecting at some points as illustrations but not necessarily. Like the postcard, regardless of the direct correspondence between image and text, the combination of the two in travel books served as a substitute for experience, annexing the publishing industry to the travel industry. These books packaged places in such a way that they were “the next best thing” to actually being there—­they were certainly more economical and convenient than actual travel. The reader might not be able to travel to Italy, but publishers intended the images to create a second-­level aura of authenticity, with which the writers were complicit. At the same time, travel writers reserved ultimate authority for themselves, drawing attention to the images as yet another form of mediation.

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Bayne began his travel-­writing career much later in life than did Howells, and his books exhibit more obvious signs of adaptation to the current market. Harper & Brothers had also published the travel books he wrote before A Fantasy of Mediterranean Travel: On an Irish Jaunting-­Car through Donegal and Connemara and Quicksteps through Scandinavia, with a Retreat from Moscow, both with copious illustrations.64 Quicksteps through Scandinavia opens with a short foreword in which Bayne explains, “Illustrations are more illuminating to the average mind than words, and they have been used freely in an attempt to place before the reader what countries herein described are really like.”65 Rather than being merely or even primarily an aid to travel, Quicksteps through Scandinavia actually becomes a replacement for travel. Implicit in Bayne’s statement is both a display of deference to the power of the image and a veiled criticism of the potentially “average” mind of the reader. Bayne as writer creates a substitutive experience, just as the postcard offers its recipient the benefit of almost being there. The New York Times went so far as to headline its review of Quicksteps through Scandinavia “Northern Europe by Verbal Kodak.” While Bayne implicitly privileges his own writing over his images, the reviewer explicitly conflates the two, focusing on what makes the book marketable. The combination of text and image means that it is a “novelty,” much like the postcard. It is this quality that the reviewer values in the work, since, “naturally, one does not look for deep information upon people, places, and politics in a book of this kind.”66 Bayne finds his niche in the market by postcarding his travels, combining superficial “objective” information, personal address, and images. Bayne’s illustrated travel writing as postcard finds its full expression in A Fantasy of Mediterranean Travel. This begins with the image on the cover, a depiction of a man who appears to be sleeping in a lounge chair. Above his head are pictures of the Acropolis, the Arch of Constantine, Hagia Sophia, the Sphinx, and a pyramid, accompanied by Bedouins in the foreground. Together, the composite images form a super-­postcard of the most canonical Mediterranean sights, in tricolor splendor. The man ostensibly is Bayne, who falls asleep in a steamer chair in the opening scene of the book, but the subtext is that of the armchair traveler, one who experiences the fantasy of travel rather than its reality. Already, before



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even opening the book, the reader is attuned to the prospect of a vicarious journey, thanks to the publisher’s design choices. Inside the book, the layout of images mimics the postcard. The images appear within rectangular borders and are printed on pages separate from the text, on paper of thicker stock. The majority of them are standard postcard subjects, including landscapes, views of monuments, and pictures of natives. The book closely follows the classic postcard division of “Scènes et types.” Bayne also plays with one kind of standard postcard caption in which the description gets progressively more “specific” when he writes, “Arab types—­Camel Drivers—­Sunburnt Snowballs of the Nile.”67 In reality, he is writing on the postcard, in the senses of both on top of and on the nature of. Most telling are the captions that begin “This is . . . ,” such as “This is Queen Hatshepset’s De-­Al-­Bahara Temple at Thebes, ornamented with fine gold. The original methods by which ‘Hatty’ swiped the money to build this temple leave Wall Street tied to the hitching post at the sub-­treasury steps.”68 Here Bayne takes a more or less standard image of an already classic tourist sight and personalizes it, as one would while writing a postcard to a friend or associate. As the president of a bank, Bayne both allows the image to speak for his personal interests and invests it with “currency.” The image of the temple gives him the appearance of being cultured, by virtue of his having been to all the right (canonical) places, while his droll caption secures the relevance of the temple to the modern touristic circuit. In effect, he writes his own messages on these faux postcards. Howells, in contrast, began writing his travel texts before the postcard age in publishing; in fact, travel writing established his literary career. Venetian Life, his first book, led to his increasing celebrity at a relatively early point in his life. Through the evolution of images in Howells’s first travel text, a picture of the increasingly important, and vexed, relationship between the travel-­writing market and the tourist industry emerges. Before the postcard, images were not seen as vital to the experience of vicarious travel, and the narrative voice alone did the work of conveying a sense of place. The initial 1866 editions of Venetian Life, one published in London and one in New York, were not illustrated, although they were well bound—­an indication that the publishers considered the work to be serious literature. Howells’s first book went through several editions

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relatively quickly, but it was not until 1891 that Houghton, Mifflin and Company published an illustrated edition. Clearly intended as a luxury item, the “Large-­Paper Edition” two-­volume set features elegant white covers with gold lettering, gilded page edges, and red silk-­lined inner covers. The illustrations are reproductions of “original watercolors” by Childe Hassam and others, and opposite each illustration is a sheet of tissue paper with the image’s title. The style of the artwork, as epitomized by Hassam, recalls French impressionism, even as, by the 1890s, the vanguard of impressionism was giving way to postimpressionism and fauvism. Rather than representing the spirit of Bayne’s cutting-­edge realism, the images seem supplemental. The illustrations added to Venetian Life function as separate art objects that aestheticize the edition as a whole. In the same year it published this luxury edition, Houghton, Mifflin also released another, simpler edition of Venetian Life without illustrations. While the publishing company saw the value added by illustrations, this small, two-­volume set with plain blue covers signaled the recognition that Howells’s narrative could stand alone. By the time Roman Holidays was published, however, the market had changed significantly from the mid-­nineteenth century. Images appear in the very first 1908 edition. Unlike travel books from a previous generation, Roman Holidays does not advertise itself as “illustrated” on its cover, as the practice of illustrating a travel text now seems to be taken for granted. The majority of the images are photographic reproductions in the vein of “view” postcards, such as those that tourists would buy. Not only did Howells’s book feature photographic illustrations, but critics also described his writing as photographic. The appeal of Roman Holidays came from the way both the photographs and Howells’s narration filter the everyday. A short review under the rubric “Table Talk” in the publication American Photography focuses on how photography interacts with Howells’s writing: Mr. Howells discourses in his own inimitable style in this beautiful volume on his views and impressions on revisiting Rome after an absence of forty years. Mr. Howells sees things in a photographic way, being a realist of most pronounced type, and his descriptions are always most charming. It is interesting to compare in some instances the verbal description with



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the photograph, and see how adequately one translates the other. This is sure to become one of the standard books of Roman description.69

On the one hand, photography is the mark of the “real” through its indexical quality, and this metaphor for Howells’s writing infuses his style with authenticity. Rather than being supplemental, photographs within the text illustrate not only what Howells saw but also how he sees, “photographically.” On the other hand, in contrast to the implied reproducibility of the photograph, Howells’s personal style is “inimitable,” and the charm of his description comes from his own point of view. Image and text are seen as “translating” each other, as if they were two different media languages trying to describe the same object—­Rome and the other places visited on Howells’s journey. That the photographs and texts mutually translate each other rather than “Rome” has the effect of making the site of Rome seem more removed and at the same time more authentic. The combination of text and image, according to the review in American Photography, achieves both standardization and canonization, as well as a marketable product for “$3.00 net, postage 17 cents.” Roman Holidays becomes “one of the standard books of Roman description” through postcard technology by containing the expected sights and also having a personal voice. Most of the images have straightforward postcardic captions, simply naming the views or monuments; the personal quality is left to the text. This allows Roman Holidays both to fit within a tradition of travel writing (or “Roman description”) and set itself apart. While Bayne’s Fantasy of Mediterranean Travel does not set out to become a standard of travel description (and hence commanded a price of only $1.25), it also engages in the economy of the postcard, layering the sights’ reputations and bolstering the author’s own. By sending these book-­postcards to the American public, both Howells and Bayne gained cultural capital themselves, as well as generated revenue for their publishers. Howells renewed his previous status as an expert on all things Italian. He also renewed his status as a canonical writer. Passages from Roman Holidays made it into handbooks on rhetoric for college students. Even more interesting is that, despite Bayne’s lack of literary credentials, some of his descriptions were repeated in other travel works, such as The Classic Mediterranean, by John Bancroft Devins.70

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Bayne became citable by sending his own literary postcards, confirming the stereotyped views available to all tourists. While direct contact with exotic places yielded the most cultural capital, at the beginning of the twentieth century individuals could accrue such capital through increasingly mediated states. New media provided new methods for self-­fashioning through travel. Even while the legitimacy of the postcard itself was under discussion—­a necessary part of the medium’s development—­the new medium was also able to bolster more traditional media. Postcards drew potency from recognized canonical sites, established partially by centuries of travel writing, and could circulate cultural capital to those who sent postcards, those who wrote about them, and even those who received them. The transfer of cultural capital, in turn, could lead to the creation of new sites. In this way, Bayne and Howells, from having traveled and written about their travels, became travel destinations about whom others wrote. Bayne’s New York home became a tourist attraction in its own right. Located among the mansions of Riverside Park, it appeared in the 1910 version of New York: The Metropolis of the Western World, also called the New York Standard Guide. The guide listed Riverside Drive, consecrated by the famous British actor Sir Henry Irving as “the most magnificent residential avenue in the world,” as home to “S. G. Bayne, President of the Seaboard National Bank.”71 The 1914 guidebook King’s How to See New York continued to mention Bayne’s home among must-­see sights.72 Likewise, several of Howells’s homes (befitting his more canonical status) also became sites of tourism, visited to this day. These include locations in Belmont, Cambridge, and Boston, Massachusetts; Kittery, Maine; and Jefferson, Ohio. Attention to Howells’s houses also came in the forms of magazine interviews, essays in books (in the literary “homes and haunts” genre), and inclusion in tourist guides. Coming full circle, images of Howells’s homes are even made available to the public in postcard form. The process of Bayne’s and Howells’s own postcardic canonization occurred as a result of their savvy handling of the ambiguity between the ideal of the traveler and the actuality of the tourist, and between what is canonical and what is cutting-­edge. In the increasingly competitive literary marketplace of the early twentieth century, these travel writers took their cues from the new medium of the postcard. Bayne and Howells



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wrote about the postcard, engaging in new media discourse, but they also wrote postcardically. They made old sites novel by providing fresh visuals and self-­reflexively commenting on the economic realities of their day. Poised to profit from the intersection of the mass-­produced and the personal, their books—­from their content to their covers—­worked to reinvent the travel genre. Travel gave Howells and Bayne cultural capital in much the same way it had for prior generations of travel writers, but it was the modern touristic and publishing apparatus that allowed these authors to monetize that capital in a multimedia fashion. Howells’s canonical status, in particular, required that he maintain the tension in the relationship between old and new. Only thus was he able to put himself on the map, both literarily and touristically, to be featured in both Literary Landmarks: A Guide to Good Reading for Young People and Literary Landmarks of Boston: A Visitor’s Guide to Points of Literary Interest in and about Boston.73 At the turn of the twentieth century, a literary landmark, thanks to tourism and the postcard, was increasingly as material as it was textual.

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2 Insincerely Yours The New Postcard and the New Woman

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uring a meeting of the Royal Society of Arts in London on April 25, 1906, Frederic T. Corkett of the firm of Raphael Tuck and Company read a paper describing the merits of the picture postcard. It was a controversial move, since, even by Corkett’s own admission, postcards might not seem “to deserve the attention of the members and friends of this distinguished Society.”1 The postcard was clearly the newest upstart of the communication world, and, given the late nineteenth century’s mania for categorization, in addition to the polarizing nature of new media discourse, many felt a vested interest in relegating it to the bottom rung of the media hierarchy. The majority of cultural critics ranked the postcard firmly below the letter and the telegram. The postcard, with its showy visual aspect and abbreviated writing space, seemed unworthy of being called a means of personal communication. It was a commodity, and a cheap one at that. Yet despite the protests of the keepers of culture, the lowly postcard managed to capture the imagination of the masses, becoming immensely popular and even infiltrating the highest ranks of society. Corkett concluded with the following advice to ease the Royal Society’s suspicions: “Collect only good, artistic, and interesting cards. . . . Shun all indecent and undesirable subjects. Then will your collection always be a pleasure to your friends and acquaintances, and a delight to all who see it.”2 Postcards could very well stand for the people using them, both in public discourse and in literature. The anxiety of the Royal Society of Arts 75

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surrounding the new popular form at the turn of the century mirrors concerns about the possible entrance of members of the lower classes, especially women, into high society through gaps in social readability due to rapid social change. In the United States, a nation of upstarts at the time, Edith Wharton most famously represented this anxiety, especially in her novel The Custom of the Country (1913), although the subject also proliferated in the works of lesser-­known contemporary writers, such as Anne Douglas Sedgwick’s Franklin Winslow Kane (1910). The theme of social ambiguity surfaces in these two novels through conflicts between the nouveau riche and old-­money families, transatlantic marriages, the changing role of the professional, and, most important, the figure of the New Woman, intent on turning the traditional order of society upside down. The postcard as new media intersects with these other discourses of newness. To begin to understand why the postcard was so problematic and how it came to represent anxieties about modern femininity, it is important to remember that the original purpose of the postcard was to facilitate business correspondence.3 The postcard’s small space for writing allowed businesses to dispense with ornate prose. It saved money by saving time as well as paper and postage. Regular receipts and orders could be sent through the mail without the previously requisite accompanying letters conveying compliments and so on. A somewhat surprising development, however, was that people quickly adopted the postcard as a means of personal communication. They used postcards to send messages about everything from the times of arrival of visiting relatives to what was cooked for dinner. The principle of simple and economical communication originally intended for business affairs was applied to day-­to-­day life. This adoption of the business model of communication threatened the way members of the upper classes conducted cultural commerce, particularly as the elite had previously separated public and private spheres according to gender. Postcard writing and the businesslike, rather than ladylike, behavior of the New Woman went hand in hand. Because it was not originally intended to be used for personal correspondence, the postcard format proved objectionable to elites, who disapproved on the grounds of what they termed promiscuity. Some members of the upper classes bemoaned the postcard’s lack of privacy; its form made users’ communication visible to servants, both private and



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civil. Moreover, it was difficult to tell the class of a sender from the information on a postcard, and any one postcard might be circulated among persons of several classes by means of the postal service. This complaint was only aggravated in the 1890s by the official introduction of the picture postcard, which came into being when the government allowed the private production of postcards. Images proliferated. Moreover, postcards became a regular means of postal correspondence for people who, because of their economic situation and limited education, would not have sent letters. Even people for whom money was no object began sending postcards on a frequent basis, attracted by the images. The picture on the postcard became an excuse to send correspondence through the mail, even with a mere signature as the postcard’s “message.” Other members of the cultural elite railed against the postcard as contributing to the death of the art of letter writing. They believed that the postcard would not only supplant the letter in terms of popularity but also lead to the degradation of the overall quality of written correspondence. In their eyes, the limited writing space on a postcard favored a lower level of literacy. They concluded that the postcard made postal communication available to people who would not have been able to write sustained letters, and this availability meant that they would have no incentive to learn how to do so. Considering how closely the tradition of letter writing was linked historically to both learning and morals in Europe, nothing less than the future of Western civilization was invoked. Renaissance works such as Le Miroir de vertu et chemin de bien viure, by Pierre Habert (1571), which includes a section titled “Le Stille de composer et dicter toutes sortes de lettres,” were indeed the antecedents for Emily Thornwell’s 1856 The Lady’s Guide to Perfect Gentility, in Manners, Dress, and Conversation . . . also a Useful Instructor in Letter Writing . . . Etc. Correct letter writing was a synecdoche for an ordered society, and the behavior of women came to be considered the clearest gauge of order. When turn-­of-­the-­century critics lamented the letter’s demise, more was at stake for them than merely the changing of media forms. The postcard allowed the New Woman to slip in through the mail slot. Even as the postcard was invoked against the letter at the turn of the twentieth century, letters themselves had undergone a dramatic change

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in the nineteenth century. In 1837, British reformer Rowland Hill published a pamphlet titled Post Office Reform; Its Importance and Practicability. His proposal for a uniform rate of one penny for all standard-­size letters sent anywhere in Britain led to the adoption of the penny post in 1839 and paved the way for other improvements. In this period of great postal reform and innovation in Britain, the nineteenth-­century post office itself participated in the discourse of new media. Being able to count on safe, accurate, and speedy delivery of mail (thanks in part to the standardization of addresses and the invention of postal codes), all for the price of a penny, seemed a wonder. It made communicating over distances more available to more people than ever before. It also introduced fears of the negative effects of “social mixing” as a result of the common handling of communications from different social classes. As David Henkin writes about similar postal innovations in the United States at the same time, this even gave rise to “popular associations between the post office and sexual promiscuity.”4 These associations became more specifically gendered as feminine as the penny post was normalized and the new postcard came to carry these new media connotations. No longer content to remain in an enclosed domestic sphere, women, from suffragists to typists, became public figures, and, accordingly, their words were no longer only personal—­they were also public. As Ellen Jordan explains, the term New Woman arose at the end of the nineteenth century out of a complicated discourse of competing femininities sparked by a generation of English feminists who had profited from increased educational and vocational opportunities in the 1880s.5 Jordan traces the first use of the term to an exchange of articles published in the North American Review in 1894 by two women novelists, Sarah Grand and Ouida, who took different positions in the feminist debate. While this first mention of the New Woman came from a dialogue between two British writers, the appearance of the term in an elite American periodical shows the interest in and influence of the idea on the other side of the Atlantic.6 For Ouida, the New Woman was a self-­righteous usurper who awkwardly wished to take on male roles and characteristics instead of excelling in her own current spheres of influence. For Grand, in contrast, the New Woman was someone who wanted to leave behind



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ill-­fitting social constraints to become financially and socially independent so that she could work for the good of all. However one may have felt about the possibility of these changes, the New Woman was also unsettling because of her inscrutability. Opinion varied in part because it was not entirely clear who the New Woman was. The New Woman appeared in literature as well as in the popular press in many, and sometimes contradictory, guises. Depictions of the New Woman included a variety of “nontraditional” behaviors, ranging from advocating for female suffrage, remaining unmarried, insisting on a husband’s involvement in domestic chores, and attending public lectures to working in an office, riding a bicycle, and smoking. Despite this inscrutability, the consistent thread of the New Woman’s persona was her spectacularity. Whether she made a “spectacle” of herself by voting or simply stood out in public by taking a tram by herself in order to get to work, the New Woman was always hypervisible. The New Woman was the public woman.7 This publicness could take many forms, including playing an active role in the public sphere by advocating for women’s right to vote and other causes. By the end of the nineteenth century, women had regularly held public lectures for many years—­on subjects such as the abolition of slavery, temperance, and suffrage for women—­but women who engaged in public speaking were still generally disapproved of, especially when they addressed mixed audiences and earned income in this way. These women necessarily were featured in the press, which provided another potential cause for societal disapproval.8 Even people who supported women’s causes might still take umbrage at the means used to promote them, such as one reporter who wrote about a women’s suffrage lecture in 1869, “Much as I am interested and greatly as I sympathize in the movement and desire its success, there are those who can do a nobler work for the cause than by public speaking.”9 Another form of the New Woman as public woman was characterized more by self-­promotion than by the promotion of specific causes. In this manifestation, the New Woman exhibited her beauty, at times using new technological means, in order to increase her personal “value,” especially her marriageability. Attitudes toward this type of public woman can be traced to the ambiguous status of actresses in England,

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especially in the previous century. What made the New Woman new was the control she demanded over her own image. Rather than presenting a unified program for change, the New Woman was an ambiguous marker of it. As Sally Ledger argues, the New Woman was primarily a discursive phenomenon, which is not to say she was not “real” or that she should be seen as completely unrelated to the lived experiences of women at the turn of the twentieth century.10 As such, the New Woman shares many characteristics with new media, and, indeed, their discourses overlap. As with new media discourse, the discursive object of the New Woman became a magnet for both utopian expectations and dystopian fears. The New Woman could be the figure of feminine physical health and the harbinger of a new world order while also being associated with decadence and anarchism and viewed as heralding the complete destruction of traditional society.11 Moreover, the “new” here also had a dialectical relationship with the “old.” Older media, in particular novels featuring New Woman characters by writers such as Olive Schreiner, Mona Caird, and George Egerton, were crucial in creating the discourse “surrounding” the New Woman, often relying on the subversion of a marriage plot. Interestingly, an awareness of the New Woman as discourse appeared early on in the popular British illustrated comic magazine Punch. In an 1895 issue, the writer of an item signed “A Bachelor” claims about the New Woman that he does not “believe she ever existed. Never met her anywhere myself, and never met anybody who has. It’s my belief that there ‘ain’t no such person.’ Merely an idea or an influence, don’t you know; and you can’t shake hands, go into dinner, dance, or flirt with a poisonous influence, any more than you can with a bad smell.”12 The writer’s lack of belief in the existence of a real New Woman, rendering her in the realm of discourse, does not annul her power. Even as a mere influence, the New Woman appears to have a real effect and produces more discourse: “Whatever she is, though, afraid she’s driven me into evil courses—­rhymes.” The poem that follows seems almost talismanic in its disavowal of the New Woman: “This monster has, surely, no lasting vitality / Only existing in fancy and print; / It is just an unlovely abstract personality.”13 These lines hover between denigrating the New Woman and disbelieving in her existence.



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Yet, as Tracy Collins points out, Punch helped reify the New Woman in many ways at the end of the nineteenth century. The magazine not only depicted the New Woman through caricatured images of women usurping the roles of men, but it also promoted a sense of the New Woman’s reality through more sympathetic images of women dressed in athletic attire.14 While the accompanying text often expressed implicit or explicit disapprobation, the figures of these women appeared quite natural, healthy, and attractive rather than deformed and unappealing. This conveyed an attitude toward the New Woman that was much more ambivalent than that indicated by the text. In some of her guises, the New Woman appeared to subvert the traditional order precisely by partaking in it more aggressively rather than by trying to create a new order. This ambiguous subversion is seen in her most popular incarnation, that of the Gibson Girl.15 Originated by American illustrator Charles Dana Gibson, the images depicting so-­called Gibson Girls, which came to be associated with the New Woman, first appeared in 1894 (the same year the term New Woman was coined) in a book by the artist titled simply Drawings.16 Gibson’s trademark images featured beautiful young women with vaguely haughty, amused, or vacant expressions. They conveyed a sense of personal independence but were a far cry from satirical depictions of masculinized suffragettes. Gibson Girls embodied ideal femininity and were very much framed in terms of their marriageability. However, as such, they were frequently depicted as dominating hapless, rich suitors through their physical charms and thus obtaining a form of economic freedom. In this guise, the New Woman circumvented the traditional courtship plot characterized by love letters, and in doing so became both consumer and commodity. Rather than adhering to any romantic notions of marriage, she would choose to go to the highest bidder, the one who would allow her to spend the most. In this sense, she appeared only half “human”—­both in objectifying herself and in devaluing affect. As if to underline that point, the Gibson Girl was also a literal commodity. Gibson’s drawings were featured on almost everything that could be decorated and sold, including matchboxes, plates, brooches, calendars, pillowcases, fans, and screens. Most significantly, the image of the beautiful but inaccessible woman generated an entire postcard genre.

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The postcard in Figure 15 is an example: the caption “Enraptured” emphasizes the power of the New Woman (legible as such through her Gibsonesque upswept hairstyle and blasé expression) while, at the same time, depicting the male gaze as possessive. Interestingly, the male writer of the postcard’s message identifies with the narrative of the postcard in more ways than one. He begins by writing on the front, “That’s the way I’d feel if I should hear from you” (i.e., “enraptured”). On the back, he associates himself with the Gibson Girl’s hapless suitor, saying, “I haven’t a position yet. I don’t know what I’ll do.” He then suggests the natural end for her, as well as perhaps tries to ascertain a time limit for himself, when he asks, “How much more school have you?” Martha Patterson points out that the New Woman was unsettling because she “both promised and threatened to effect sociopolitical change as a consumer, as an instigator of evolutionary and economic development, as a harbinger of modern technologies, as an icon of successful assimilation into dominant Anglo-­American culture, and as a leader in

f ig u re 1 5 . “Enraptured,” postcard published in New York and sent in 1909. The drama of the Gibson Girl plays out both in the image and in the messages on the postcard. The sender writes on the front, “That’s the way I’d feel if I should hear from you,” while on the back he writes, “I haven’t a position yet. I don’t know what I’ll do. How much more school have you?”



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progressive political causes.”17 The Gibson Girl as New Woman, like a modern-­day Pandora, needed a beautiful exterior to carry out the havoc she was capable of carelessly wreaking. She was simultaneously commodity and consumer, captive and captor. Edith Wharton and Anne Douglas Sedgwick both wrote novels exploring what the marriage plot could look like for desirable women who lacked “proper feeling.” Unsurprisingly, their characters communicate via postcard as well as behave like the postcard. Wharton’s and Sedgwick’s New Woman characters are half personal and half mass-­produced commodity, simultaneously obtainable but ultimately inaccessible. Like new media in general, they are necessarily sexier than their predecessors. Rather than wholeheartedly embracing this new model of gender relationships, however, Wharton and Sedgwick display caution. The New Woman in Wharton’s The Custom of the Country, Undine, reveals the author’s fundamental wariness of change (desirable though it may be) in the old world. For Wharton and for Sedgwick, the New Woman and the new postcard herald the breakdown of authentic, readable relationships, although they promise liberation from stultified, antiquated forms. Wharton allows Undine to continue unpunished to the end, while Sedgwick’s ostensible New Woman in Franklin Winslow Kane, Helen, is “saved” by the love of a good man—­ putting the postcard in an envelope, as it were. The women who send postcards in these novels are just as threatening, attractive, and, ultimately, protean as their form of communication. In these novels, media changes figure as changes in traditional forms of gender relationships. The transition from letter to postcard features most prominently. But these media changes affected literature more broadly as well. Kate Thomas argues that with innovations in the British post office itself after the crowning of Queen Victoria, “the postal took the place of the epistolary in the cultural imagination.”18 The outsides of letters and all their markings as media, rather than their “intimate” contents, drove new fiction forward in “postal plots.” By the beginning of the twentieth century this transition was by no means complete. Rather, the tension between old and new media and the modes of connection they were taken to represent provided the drama for works like those by Wharton and Sedgwick. Likewise, the woman novelist at the turn of the twentieth century had to define herself vis-­à-­vis the New Woman, which is part of the reason

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Wharton’s and Sedgwick’s characters are so vexed. As public figures making their livings from their writing, these authors stood to profit from a greater acceptance of nontraditional femininity. However, they also had to navigate established models of what was and was not palatable to the general public, as well as which interventions would, in fact, work in their favor.19 Wharton and Sedgwick had to be especially circumspect because critics tended to assume that the writing of women came from personal experience, while they expected men naturally to have a broader vision of the world. To insist that one’s imaginative work could be separate from one’s own experience put the woman writer dangerously close to the description of the New Woman, who disregarded personal feelings in favor of a public persona. Wharton and Sedgwick (who was constantly compared to the older and more established Wharton) tantalizingly shared several of the more striking aspects of the characters they created, but they resisted overidentification by questioning the liberatory promise of the New Woman. When Wharton opens The Custom of the Country with the line “Undine Spragg—­how can you?” she intends for Undine’s mother’s question to resonate for readers throughout the rest of the novel.20 It signals the New Woman’s basic inscrutability. The Custom of the Country follows Undine’s rise to social prominence through a series of calculated marriages and divorces. Despite her extreme self-­centeredness, Undine seems to lack any sort of stable center. Unsure of what she wants, she reproduces for herself the desires she attributes to others and then uses anything and anyone to satisfy those desires before moving on to the next thing. Misreading her, or reading too much into her, proves to be the downfall of her second husband, Ralph Marvell, who had mistakenly believed he was her first husband. And even when other characters think they see her for what she is, they cannot help attributing more depth to her than she possesses. She defies all conventions, even while appearing to follow social norms. If the other characters in the novel think in terms of letters and expect an interiority waiting to be revealed, Undine Spragg is a postcard. The two forms of media belong to the same classification by the thinnest of ties. Undine is the very representation of evolving media and the concomitant new social order. Like the new postcard, she is utterly mobile, both socially and geographically, often living as expatriate in Europe and



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crossing social circles in global circulation. And like the postcard, she is visually appealing and is, in fact, entirely surface. Her physical attractiveness makes up for a lack of “content,” with other characters reading their own desires into her. This attractiveness is bolstered by her postcardic displacement of artifacts from the past for her own benefit. Ultimately, she converts herself into a commodity rather than claiming subjectivity, increasing the desire of the men around her to possess her but thereby defrauding them of what they hope to obtain. The first description of Undine in the novel, by her masseuse, Mrs. Heeny, establishes her basic characteristics: “I never met with a lovelier form.”21 This epithet is no coincidence and is repeated by the narrator several pages later: “The young girl whose ‘form’ had won Mrs. Heeny’s professional commendation suddenly shifted its lovely lines as she turned back from the window.”22 The description seems to refer to someone only half human, especially given the ambiguous possessive “its.” Undine is a form, and she constantly changes as she adapts, and adapts well, to different social environments. One of the reasons she can achieve this is that she is all form, without content. Readers expect to be able to read lines, whether of a book or of a letter, but Undine’s “lines” here are the lines of her body and are purely visual. While her beauty remains constant, the uses to which she puts it are constantly changing based on whom she has decided to try to attract. By commodifying her own beauty, Undine turns herself into an object, one that has nothing to communicate on its own, once again demonstrated by “its,” which could refer to either “young girl” or “form.” Undine’s volition, which becomes more unyielding as the novel progresses, defines her personhood and personality, yet her principal choice is always to decide to which man she will belong. In the same way, the postcard is valued as a gesture and an object, one that can be collected, rather than for its deep revelation. Its open form almost requires platitudinous communication. Undine has evolved, in the Darwinian sense to which Wharton often alludes, out of social necessity. Wharton presents a world that is highly stratified, with inner circles that are successively smaller and penetrable only by the very adaptable. Wharton gives part of Undine’s prehistory early on in the novel through the topos of geography. The Spraggs move from the midwestern locale of Apex City to New York, apparently motivated

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by the social advantages that the move might afford Undine. The family keeps changing addresses even after arriving in New York, in an effort to be more fashionable, moving, for example, from a house in West End Avenue to the Stentorian Hotel. But even more important than the mailing address is the way Undine learns how to address others. The novel pays minute attention to how Undine manages to express a depth that she lacks by simply keeping everything on the surface.23 Throughout, she uses an incredibly wide range of means of communication to accomplish this. Aaron Worth notes the significance of varied media in Wharton’s works as a whole, observing that various modes of communication not only further the situations in Wharton’s texts but also figure the characters themselves.24 The different modes are not chosen haphazardly. As Worth mentions, “Like the social parvenu, the new technologies had their own rules of propriety and tact (or tactlessness), operated according to their own principles, and frequently found themselves in conflict with existing media—­though in the end they would themselves become the ‘natural’ center of things.”25 Yet, in his discussion of The Custom of the Country, he fails to recognize the centrality of the postcard in his rush to acknowledge the telephone. While the telephone is indeed the latest technology within the novel, Wharton is much more interested in the progression of both communication and her main character. The postcard is, significantly, the first mode of communication that Undine uses as a young girl. The context is the site of Undine’s “first struggle,” which is “to get away from Apex for the summer” and travel somewhere fashionable.26 She uses tactics such as sucking lemons to make herself look sickly, and her parents, “alarmed by her appearance, were at last convinced of the necessity of change, and timidly, tentatively, they transferred themselves for a month to a staring hotel on a glaring lake.”27 Here we see, albeit in inchoate form, Undine’s first use of her appearance to get what she wants, even though she is not exactly sure why she wants it, other than the fact that it is what the other girls have. One of those girls is Indiana Frusk, Undine’s principal rival since childhood and less successful foil. At her first resort, “Undine enjoyed the satisfaction of sending ironic post-­cards to Indiana, and discovering that she could more than hold her own against the youth and beauty of the other visitors.”28 Wharton mentions Undine’s first use of communication media in the same



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sentence as her awareness of her beauty. Undine discovers the strategic value of an attractive surface, both of the postcard and of her own body, in dominating. Only a postcard could have said so much and so little. In a novel where origins are key, the appearance of the postcard at this crucial junction in Undine’s prehistory resonates throughout the rest of the narrative. Elaine Showalter judges that the principal action of the novel spans “from about 1900 to 1912,” beginning with Undine’s arrival in New York as a young woman.29 This places Undine’s postcard at the height of the picture postcard craze in the late 1890s. By the time postcards reappear at the end of the novel, they have become an ordinary part of the cultural landscape. Like any form of new media that remains viable, the postcard erases its past as it adapts in the same way that Undine later does. The experiences Undine has as a young teenager are formative. Everything and everyone from Undine’s past, starting from her first friend and rival, Indiana Frusk, and ending with her first husband, Elmer Moffatt, whom she remarries, returns in updated form. Likewise, although she is never again seen writing a physical postcard in the novel, Undine transforms every medium she uses into a postcard. As she continues her social ascent, she simulates depth and emulates a higher social status through traditional forms of communication, but superficiality ultimately defines her. Moreover, when she communicates via older media, she flattens them as well, just as she flattens traditional social relations. The first time Undine does this is on the eve of her true “arrival.” Mrs. Henley Fairford sends a note to Mrs. Spragg, inviting Undine to dine, although neither Mrs. Spragg nor Undine has ever met Mrs. Fairford. Undine’s masseuse has to translate that this is the protocol of the highest class in New York, and the real motivation for the invitation comes from Mrs. Fairford’s brother, Ralph Marvell. While this mode of operating is perfectly intelligible to Marvell’s traditional social circle, Undine and Mrs. Spragg are baffled and fail to see the point of communicating in this roundabout way. When Undine decides to do the same and composes a reply in her mother’s name, however, she violates the rules of the game. If Laura Fairford can write implicitly on her brother Ralph’s behalf, Undine assumes it should follow that she can reply for herself using her mother’s name without needing Mrs. Spragg to write out the note. What old New

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York allows figuratively, however, it frowns upon when done literally. The only reason Undine succeeds is that, as Mrs. Heeny concedes, “Mrs. Fairford don’t know [Mrs. Spragg’s] writing.”30 What is to the upper class an intelligible, albeit coded, address becomes, in Undine’s hands, a subterfuge. Although the old way of communication is less than straightforward, it is stable. Undine’s decision to reply as her mother already signals a disturbance in a social fixed identity; doing it convincingly is a further disturbance. The first obstacle is stationery, which Undine already knows will reveal the writer’s standing. “She had read in the ‘Boudoir Chat’ of one of the Sunday papers that the smartest women were using the new pigeon-­blood note-­paper with white ink; and rather against her mother’s advice she had ordered a large supply, with her monogram in silver.”31 Undine, lacking any other model, takes her cue from mass media and seems to be quite pleased with her choice. In fact, she holds Laura Fairford to her standard, thinking, “It was a disappointment, therefore to find that Mrs. Fairford wrote on the old-­fashioned white sheet, without even a monogram—­simply her address and telephone. It gave Undine a poor opinion of Mrs. Fairford’s social standing, and for a moment she thought with considerable satisfaction of answering the note on her pigeon-­blood paper.”32 Ostensibly, Undine believes that the form is the substance, which is why she gravitates toward the gaudy stationery. Mrs. Fairford, on the other hand, because she has the substance of social standing, chooses a simple form. Undine is so eager to make a mark on society that she does not even realize that using her pigeon-­blood paper will expose her as a fraud not simply because of style but because of her monogram itself, which is different from her mother’s. Fortunately for Undine—­and ultimately unfortunately for Ralph Marvell’s sister—­she decides to imitate Mrs. Fairford and sends a plain note as well. The final obstacle for Undine in replying to the note is, interestingly enough, not the body of the note itself. As if the note were a postcard message, Undine “giggled as she formed the phrase ‘I shall be happy to permit my daughter to take dinner with you.’”33 As the postcard’s critics feared, the brevity of the communication keeps the social farce from being exposed. The “content” of the note per se is what interests Undine least. The signature, on the other hand, requires her to rewrite the note



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multiple times. Often, the signature was the only writing the turn-­of-­the-­ century postcard contained. Wharton discloses three of the possibilities that Undine considers for the signature and mentions “several other experiments.” When Undine decides it is beneath her mother to use a simple signature like Mrs. Fairford’s unadorned “Laura Fairford,” she flounders for direction. What should be the most straightforward part of the note, the marker of identity, becomes the most complicated. The postcard, in its new media moment, similarly mimicked letters. Innumerable postcards featured images of envelopes, although the postcard itself precluded the use of one. Figure 16 represents an extreme example: a postcard that does not merely reference a letter but actually includes one. The tiny envelope on the front, which had previously been opened, presumably by the card’s first recipient, has just enough space for a small sheet of paper containing a “secret” message of even fewer words than fit on the back of the postcard. Clearly this envelope is not really included to ameliorate the shortcomings of the new medium by providing more space and privacy. The image of the older medium acts as a cipher for the perceived intimacy of an earlier form. A letter never seems to conceal its

f ig u re 1 6 . “A Note from Pontiac.” The vendor of this postcard attached an additional miniature envelope to the front along with text and decorative glitter highlights.

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message so well as when it is shown on a postcard. Alluding to it allows the sender to profit from both a sense of intimacy and a feeling of exposure. Undine seems not only to transform letters into postcards but also to transform the nature of the letter so that even when she sends letters, they become postcards in the hands of their recipients. She has the opportunity, or rather the duty, to write letters to her husband, Ralph, when she goes abroad to Europe alone in surreptitious pursuit of Peter Van Degen. Aside from the fact that her letters are rare (until she completely ceases to send any at all), they contain only stock phrases about the people she has seen and the information that she is in good health and hopes Ralph and their son, Paul, are well, and that “the weather was too lovely or too awful.”34 Only if she wrote “Wish you were here” could Undine’s letters be more stereotypical of postcards, but that would be perhaps too ironic under the circumstances. Undine’s letters resemble postcards even spatially. They are always brief, their length clearly delimited, and she includes the “invariable expression of the hope that [Ralph] was getting along all right: the phrase was always the same, and Ralph learned to know just how far down the third page to look for it.”35 For ease of “personal communication” with her husband, Undine mass-­produces her own letters, leading to a postcard effect, that of being intensely personal and impersonal at the same time. This postcard effect takes its toll on Ralph Marvell: “What satisfaction he extracted from these communications he would have found it hard to say; yet when they did not come he missed them hardly less than if they had given him all he craved.”36 For Ralph, aside from any content, these postcard letters simulate his wife’s physical presence: “Sometimes the mere act of holding the blue or mauve sheet and breathing its scent was like holding his wife’s hand and being enveloped in her fresh young fragrance: the sentimental disappointment vanished in the penetrating physical sensation.”37 Here the letter acts like a postcard in its sheer materiality. The postcard, unlike the letter, which traditionally concentrated on conveying textual information, is particularly suited to this substitution because of its focus on the visual. It is no coincidence that Undine’s “colourless” words are written on blue or mauve sheets, as if to compensate. The letter as postcard also has a higher indexical quality. This is so much the case with postcards that at least one company wove the idea



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into its designs as being essential to the postcard. The company stamped the text “I wish I were this little card so I could shake your hand now” and a drawing of a pair of clasped hands on a variety of postcard images. Figure 17 shows how little correlation there was at times between the image and the text, but this is not surprising considering the desired effect. The stamp creates an extra layer of mediation so that what is read is not so much the actual postcard, which now becomes visible as pure medium, but the speaker’s intention, which is necessarily beyond words. This particular postcard features a slightly embossed scroll over which the “I wish I were” message has been stamped, implying that the card could have displayed an infinite number of other messages. The postcard letter particularly evokes Undine’s presence for Ralph because even when she is present in the flesh, it is not her words that matter to him. Wharton conveys this clearly in Ralph’s retrospective realization that he read too much into his wife’s physical hand when he held it some years earlier in an Italian ilex grove: “Its surface-­language had been sweet enough.”38 Undine’s hand, both her physical hand and her

f ig u re 1 7 . On this postcard, sent within the United States in 1913, the message “I wish I were this little card so I could shake your hand now” is printed on top of an unrelated rural scene. This message appears in the same typeface on other postcard images of the time as well.

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handwriting, allows Ralph to imagine that it says what he wishes. At other times, he half acknowledges to himself that there is nothing to read, and he is not bothered by this: “In other moods it was enough to trace the letters of the first line and the last line for the desert of perfunctory phrases between the two to vanish, leaving him only the vision of their interlaced names, as of a mystic bond which her own hand had tied.”39 Rather than a mystic bond, the bond is a postal one, between the sender and the recipient, creating the illusion of intimacy. Mark Goble argues that awareness of distance, both technological and epistemological, far from precluding desire, actually increases it.40 He draws attention to popular narratives from the 1870s and 1880s that weave Morse code and the telegram into their courtship plots, like Ella Cheever Thayer’s Wired Love: A Romance of Dots and Dashes and Charles Barnard’s “─ • ─ • ─ ─ •: An Electro-­mechanical Romance.”41 Goble observes that in Wired Love the characters engaged in courtship “are never so close as when they are communicating telegraphically or acting as if this were their only means of maintaining their connection. . . . Presence is much more problematic to their love than absence, and if proximity threatens always to attenuate their desire, distance provides both energy and inspiration.”42 New media are eroticized partly through the fantasy of the greater intimacy they will produce, but also partly through the “energizing” distance they reify. The anxiety that new media ultimately may prevent intimacy rather than facilitate it contributes to this effect. For Ralph, the distance between himself and Undine is erotic, but their relationship is doomed. The result of Wharton’s conflation of new media and the New Woman is an object of desire that has no stable identity. The postcard forever alters not only the letter but also another of its historical precursors: the calling card. With its open form and minimal writing, the calling card served as a model for the postcard, but the calling card was hand-­delivered, and it deliberately and transparently represented an individual’s status. Unsurprisingly, in Undine’s hands, the calling card becomes a postcard. Instead of standing for a stable referent and adhering to legible rules, the calling card for Undine is a means to an end. Unlike Ralph and the Marvells, Undine has no conception of the calling card as an expression of intimacy and a stable identity. She initially devalues the tradition of leaving cards as rudeness. Later on, after her divorce, she views



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her own calling card in monetary terms: “Her new visiting-­card, bearing her Christian name in place of her husband’s, was like the coin of a debased currency testifying to her diminished trading capacity.”43 Rather than resorting to keeping an ornate but closed card case, like the riding master who almost fools her into thinking he is a nobleman, Undine prefers to utilize shifting titles and signatures. Undine’s solution is never to change her essence, but rather to change her name, which she does by marrying the Marquis Raymond de Chelles after divorcing Ralph. Unlike the riding master who pretends to be a nobleman, Undine actually becomes a noblewoman at this point, but the title has lost all intrinsic meaning since she will not even pretend to act like one. Undine does not attempt to evade the social system; by entering into it, she obliterates it. Undine brings the same lack of stability to what is perhaps the oldest representational marker of social status: the portrait. Having one’s portrait painted had denoted status for centuries, but Undine’s portrait, and particularly her use of it, destabilizes a fixed identity. It is no coincidence that the artist who first paints her is the thoroughly modern Claud Walsingham Popple. As someone at Mrs. Fairford’s dinner party says, “All his portraits seem to proclaim what a gentleman he is, and how he fascinates women! They’re not pictures of Mrs. or Miss So-­and-­so, but simply of the impression Popple thinks he’s made on them.”44 Undine’s portrait by Popple is never of “her,” and, likewise, she can see “herself ” only through the impression she makes on others. Undine is a reproduction without an original. Like a postcard, she has little intrinsic personal value; rather, her value is produced by the circulation of her image through publicity. In viewing her portrait, Undine “saw herself throning in a central panel at the spring exhibition, with the crowd pushing about the picture, repeating her name; and she decided to stop on the way home and telephone her press-­agent to do a paragraph about Popple’s tea.”45 The older medium of portrait painting is of interest here for Undine only to the extent it can be cannibalized by the new media of the telephone and newspapers that endlessly reproduce her image. Her derivative nature is especially manifested in Ralph’s possession of only a photoreproduction of the painting, which he puts away after the divorce.46 Undine seems monstrous to the old order because of her fixation on this reproduction of herself by technological rather than natural means.

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The showing of the painting, as well as its transmission to her press agent and conversion into further publicity, causes her to forget about her son’s birthday party, for which the Marvell family had assembled. She has no real affection for what she biologically reproduces, her son Paul, except as he fits into the “picture,” as he does later for suitors such as Mofatt: “Undine reflected that, with Paul’s arms about her neck, and his little flushed face against her own, she must present a not unpleasing image of young motherhood.”47 Undine’s name recalls the mythological water nymph that can gain a soul only by marrying a mortal man and bearing a child. Wharton’s Undine, however, is named after a “hair-­waver” first marketed by her father. Undine appears least human, in fact, when she interacts with her son, as she prefers remaining ageless and immortal through her conversion into endlessly circulating art reproductions. Connected to Undine’s lack of motherly feeling is her lack of domestic feeling, another supposed staple of New Woman behavior. Undine constantly changes her location, as crucial a shift in the social order as the postcard is in the postal order. While initially people did mail postcards locally, from home to home, postcards quickly and almost definitively became known for being sent from somewhere other than home. Undine, and those like her in the novel, always seems to be away from home. She is rootless and spends most of her time pursuing men who seem to be grounded. In the opening of the novel she associates being fashionable with transience, since “all the fashionable people she knew either boarded or lived in hotels.”48 For Undine and the rest of the Spraggs, the rootedness of the Marvells is hardly conceivable at first, as shown by their reaction to Mrs. Heeny’s statement that “they live with old Urban Dagonet down in Washington Square.”49 While their stability, coming from their status as among the oldest families in New York, gives the Dagonets and the Marvells the respectability that Undine craves, ultimately it is completely foreign to her nature. For a social climber like Undine, social mobility goes hand in hand with geographic mobility. Her desire for mobility is seen in her early days of wanting to travel while still a midwestern girl, but it culminates in a nomadic existence as she circulates between Europe, especially Paris, and New York. While in Paris, she expresses the same preference for living in hotels. The closest thing Undine has to a place where she feels at home is the Nouveau



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Luxe hotel in Paris, which is mentioned in the novel more often than any other dwelling. This is the France she truly desires rather than the one she marries into with her next husband, Raymond de Chelles, who eventually comes to remind her of Ralph Marvell. Once again, the marquis’s main attraction for Undine is the title that he is able to confer upon her, yet the stability of that identity, being fixed and stationary, is what she cannot stand. Her greatest displeasure arises from her feeling that she is practically imprisoned at Raymond’s ancestral home, St. Désert, the name of which is highly suggestive. She proposes he sell the estate, which has been in his family for generations. Raymond finds the proposition “monstrously, almost fiendishly significant: as if her random word had at last thrust into his hand the clue to their whole unhappy difference.”50 It is as if he has finally grasped Undine’s postcard nature, her need for circulation and its accompanying publicity, as definitive. In the last chapter of The Custom of the Country, we see Undine’s “final” arrival. Having remarried Elmer Moffatt, she finally has “everything she wanted,” although “she still felt, at times, that there were other things she might want if she knew about them.”51 Moffatt is the one character in the novel who is almost as protean as Undine, and they share a set of values, with Moffatt’s wealth enabling Undine to achieve her goals. Despite the vast changes in her life, however, some things never change for Undine—­they just become more expensive. Rather than living at a hotel, as she has done up until now, she and Moffatt purchase a “private hôtel” in Paris. Wharton translates only half of the French phrase to underscore Undine’s continuing transience, despite her now having the money to buy a “home.” Hôtel has the meaning in English of literally a hotel, while hôtel particulier refers to the more domestic town house, a secondary residence one uses while away from one’s principal residence. Meanwhile, Undine and Elmer’s main residence on Fifth Avenue in New York is “an exact copy” of the Pitti Palace of Florence. Even when they are “at home,” that home is a displaced copy of a building that is elsewhere. It is as if they have purchased a more expensive version of a picture postcard of a Florentine landmark. Undine is also able to “upgrade” her main medium of communication because of Moffatt’s money, although the basic nature of her communication does not change. Undine and Moffatt travel so much that “they are

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always coming and going,” and Undine’s final communications consist mostly of telegrams to her son informing him of their new locations: “Paul never knew where they were except when a telegram announced that they were going somewhere else. He did not even know that there was any method of communication between mothers and sons less laconic than that of the electric wire.”52 As a laconic medium, the telegram is similar to a postcard but even more sterile, since the postcard supplements the sparseness of its message with an image. The main advantage of the telegram is that it is faster, and therefore more expensive, but speed is not a practical consideration for Undine. In fact, she had previously disregarded a telegram with news about Ralph’s ill health as not urgent (to disastrous results to her reputation), and when she could have benefited from the telegram’s speed to tell Paul about a dinner party, she did not have “the time to telegraph.”53 Rather, the speed of her telegram adheres to postcard logic. The transmission of postcards is not hampered by the need for careful wording or the need for a response in the way letters or even most telegrams are. This passage of the novel is rightly famous as the moment Wharton reveals to the reader what she really thinks of Undine as a mother. Physical postcards reappear again in this final chapter, this time in Paul’s hands: he “tried to occupy himself with pasting post-­cards into his album.”54 In this instance, the postcard album is a substitute for the family photograph album, which had already become an established feature of early twentieth-­century homes. Rather than images of his family members, who always seem to be in transition because of Undine’s marrying, divorcing, and remarrying, Paul collects mass-­produced images. Indeed, considering his mother’s postcardic nature, this is unfortunately fitting. Even though Wharton does not mention where Paul obtains his postcards, whether they were written on and sent to him by others (implying at least the minimum of personal connection) or simply purchased, the irrelevance of that question is made clear by his process of pasting them into an album, where the backs of the postcards would no longer be visible in any case. The arranging of the album, which Paul fails to accomplish due to his new and strange environment, is a metaphor for his labored attempts to piece together his family identity and therefore his own: “He saw too many people, and they too often disappeared and



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were replaced by others.”55 All he has is postcard people, the surface without the substance. One of those people, Mrs. Heeny, also reappears in the final chapter with the bag of newspaper clippings she always carries. She tells Paul that rather than a photograph or postcard album, “you’d oughter start a scrap-­ book yourself—­you’re plenty old enough. You could make a beauty just about your Ma, with her picture pasted in the front—­and another about Mr. Moffatt and his collections.”56 Mrs. Heeny’s suggestion makes it even clearer that media are made to substitute for an absent or disjointed family. A media technique that became popular beginning in the nineteenth century, scrapbooking enabled newspaper readers to gain control over what might otherwise be an overwhelming surge of information by clipping ephemeral articles and inserting them into bound books. According to Ellen Gruber Garvey, “Nineteenth century readers felt inundated by print matter, as cheap newspapers proliferated and took on increasing importance.”57 She quotes a newspaper article from 1883 claiming that newspapers “contain so many fine sentiments, beautiful descriptions, touching incidents, items of importance, and matters of permanent interest culled from all departments of life.”58 This description highlights the variety of information available as well as its disjointed nature. For Paul to start a scrapbook is for him to take on the adult task of piecing together his familial identity. Yet he instinctively knows that he cannot get the answers he seeks from newspaper clippings: “He wanted to hear about his mother and Mr. Moffatt, and not about their things; and he didn’t quite know how to frame his question.”59 Mrs. Heeny cannot even imagine his question because the whole world of the nouveau riche is based on a postcardic image and surface knowledge, as if what is made public and circulated is all there could be to know. What Paul tries to articulate through his postcard album, Wharton expresses on a larger scale through Paul’s perceptions of Moffatt’s new house. After giving up on his album, Paul finds himself in the library, the room that “attracted him most: there were rows and rows of books, bound in dim browns and old faded reds as rich as velvet: they looked as if they might have had stories in them as splendid as their bindings.”60 Yet when he wants to read one, he discovers that they are locked up in glass cases. It is the same principle as the postcard, which is heightened

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in the postcard album. Books become primarily images whose content is inaccessible, though promised. And rather than a family photograph album, Moffatt appropriates the pasts of others. Humorously, Paul wonders if “the wigged and corseleted heroes on the wall represented Moffatt’s ancestors, and why, if they did, he looked so little like them.”61 Moffatt does this even more overtly by acquiring Raymond de Chelles’s heirloom tapestries. Personal identity, rather than being inherited through bloodlines and social circles and expressed in letters, is now acquired through commodities and expressed according to postcard principles. Whereas Undine in Wharton’s The Custom of the Country represents the worst-­case scenario of the New Woman, the female characters in Anne Douglas Sedgwick’s Franklin Winslow Kane have some degree of hidden depth and are capable of being brought back to traditional forms by men cast from the same mold. Like Wharton, Sedgwick is fascinated by women who are able to use their allure to get what they want, but she is not willing to accept that the future inevitably belongs to them. Her choice of title, the name of a male character, despite the fact that most of the novel’s action is filtered through a feminine point of view, indicates Sedgwick’s desire to realign past and present gender expectations. The point is not lost on the contemporaneous novelist, biographer, and critic Hugh Walpole, who writes that he remembers Franklin “as I do very few characters in modern fiction. The book is Franklin and Franklin is the book.”62 The figure of the New Woman, rather than being invested all in one character in Franklin Winslow Kane, is split, in effect, between two, which also implies that the identity is not intransigent. Sedgwick stands a better chance of rehabilitating the New Woman when she is not a monolithic character. Bostonian heiress Althea Jakes lives an expatriate life in Europe, where she meets and befriends the impoverished but charming Scottish Helen Buchanan. While stylish and blasé Helen is ostensibly the figure for the New Woman, as indicated by her apparent lack of need for close personal relationships, Althea demonstrates an ambivalent desire to be the same kind of modern woman, to produce the effects that Helen produces but without having to change. Helen writes postcards while Althea supposes she could write postcards but secretly desires to receive letters in return. Sedgwick is invested in the exposure of the New Woman as, if not a fraud, at least a curable condition.



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Sedgwick utilizes broken engagements to advance her narrative, in contrast with Wharton’s multiple divorces in The Custom of the Country. Sedgwick’s variation on the traditional courtship plot retains many of the basic elements of that plot. Althea is on the verge of accepting her longtime suitor Franklin Kane, whom she has already rejected several times, until she meets Helen’s cousin, Gerald, who is Helen’s equally charming and impoverished male counterpart.63 Althea falls in love with Gerald, and he decides that marrying her would be advantageous. Unbeknownst to any of the other characters, Helen has been in love with Gerald for years while displaying only nonchalance toward him. Meanwhile, Franklin inherits a fortune and decides to propose to Helen, who accepts him. After Franklin and Helen announce their engagement, Althea realizes from Gerald’s reaction that he is not really in love with her and, in fact, loves Helen. Althea breaks off her engagement with Gerald and reunites with Franklin as a consolation prize, although, in fact, Franklin has developed real feelings for Helen and sacrifices them for Althea. Gerald and Helen marry with Franklin’s blessing (and financial support). Through the final twists of the elaborate plot, the characters are all given a new degree of depth, despite what begins with postcard interactions. Ultimately Helen and Althea prove to be not just indifferent surfaces awaiting the signature, any signature, of marriage. Sedgwick acknowledges the possibilities the postcard represents only in order to reinstate a previous epistolary model. The novel begins with Althea’s jaded views of her time in Europe. Described as “that peculiarly civilised being, the American woman of independent means and discriminating tastes,” she is nevertheless cut off from any stable family or social existence.64 She asks herself what has been the point of her travels over the last twelve or so years and wonders if the study of archaeology in Rome and of pictures in Florence might not be “of much the same nature as her yearly visit to Paris for clothes,” namely, “Was it not something merely superficial?”65 Althea demonstrates the same postcardic mobility and circulation as Undine in The Custom of the Country, but with an introspection that Undine does not have: Althea is aware of her potential lack of substance and is bothered by it. Ironically, she tries to combat this feeling by admiring someone who herself seems to be defined by lack—­Helen Buchanan. When a mysterious

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woman appears in the hotel dining room, Althea becomes wholly preoccupied with reading the stranger’s appearance, trying to figure out what the stranger has that makes her so intriguing. Althea even contrasts Helen’s plain dress with her own elaborate one. The postcard hermeneutic has been activated for Althea. Helen seems to have an indefinable substance, although Althea gathers this only from Helen’s surface. However, her focus on Helen exacerbates Althea’s feeling of lack: “Since seeing her she felt more empty, more aimless than ever. It was an absurd impression and she tried to shake it off with the help of a recent volume of literary criticism.”66 More significantly, “a corrective to this morbid state of mind came to her with the evening post, and in the form of a thick letter bearing the Boston postmark.”67 The writer of the letter is, of course, Franklin Kane, announcing his imminent arrival in Europe. Althea, confronted with the lack she perceives in herself after seeing Helen, welcomes the letter from an unwelcome suitor. Rather than developing her own sense of self, Althea depends on Franklin while holding him at a distance: “Franklin’s absorption in her was part of her own personality; she would hardly have known herself without it; and her relation to him, irksome, even absurd as she sometimes found it, was perhaps the one thing in her life that most nearly linked her to reality; it was a mirage, at all events, of the responsible affections that her life lacked.”68 Franklin writes Althea a thick letter, but Sedgwick represents Althea as incapable of sending him anything more than a postcard in return. Franklin’s letter itself contains “everything that he was doing and thinking, and about everything that interested him,” including technical details of his work as a physicist.69 He and his letter are set in direct opposition to the postcard form and to Althea herself. Whereas she lacks a purpose and anything to communicate, she starts to see the possibility of a purpose in being his purpose, which would provide her a way of avoiding “that engulfing consciousness of nonentity.”70 Despite the substantial content of Franklin’s letter, Althea is still tempted to treat it as if it were a postcard, since the postcard form rather than the letter appeals to her in actuality. “The sight of Franklin’s handwriting on the thick envelope brought her the keenest sense she had ever had of his value,” although she is just as uninterested as ever in what he has actually written.71 What is salient to Althea in Franklin’s communication



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are the very things that a postcard would feature, its visuality and materiality, and the use of those two to convey meaning without words. As she thinks about the possibility of marrying Franklin, she conflates him with his form of communication and then mentally transforms him from letter to postcard. She imagines her ideal lover in postcard terms, as colored “purple and gold” and capable of opening up “large, bright vistas,” as opposed to Franklin, whom she sees as “dun-­coloured,” possibly like the paper he used for his letter, although she hopes dun color might look like gold when “illuminated by joy.”72 Moreover, despite the comprehensive letter Franklin has just written, Althea imagines that falling in love with him would depend on his ability to come in “with the right word, or, if not with the word, with an even more compelling silence!”73 Her fantasy empties Franklin of personal content, reducing him to postcard qualities: material presence and limited but suggestive text. By the end of the passage, Franklin’s letter has visually turned into the open form of the postcard under Althea’s manipulation: “So she wondered, sitting alone in the Paris hotel, open letter in her hand.”74 While Althea has to remake Franklin into a postcard image, the beautiful Helen already exists as such for her when Althea strikes up a friendship: “She had never in all her life met any one in the least like Miss Buchanan. She was at once so open and so impenetrable. She replied to all questions with complete unreserve, but she had never, with all her candour, the air of making confidences.”75 Althea is fascinated by the postcardic qualities of Helen, her ability to be both personal and impersonal at the same time. She considers her to be rare and unique, unlike Althea’s more stolid aunt, Julia, who warns Althea, “You may find yourself disappointed if you trust to depths that are not there.”76 Aunt Julia’s assessment of Helen is, in fact, the complete opposite of Althea’s: “Essentially, she is the most commonplace type of English girl.”77 What Althea considers to be a unique, personal expression, Aunt Julia sees as mass-­produced. Shocked by Aunt Julia’s further suggestion that Helen does not really care for her, Althea broaches the question to Helen of keeping in touch once they both leave Paris. Helen responds, “Oh, my dear, I do so hate writing. I never have anything to say in a letter. Let us exchange post-­ cards, when our doings require it.”78 What has been foreshadowed up until this point in the novel is made explicit. Helen’s preferred mode of

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communication comes as no surprise to anyone but Althea. Finally realizing that Helen’s attachment is not very deep, she responds, “‘Post-­cards!’ Althea could not repress a disconsolate note. ‘How can I tell from post-­ cards what you are thinking and feeling?”79 Still under the impression of depth, Althea fails to see how perfectly postcards suit Helen. She thinks that Helen has more to say but refuses to tell her. Helen, on the other hand, tries to enlighten Althea by answering simply, “You may always take it for granted that I’m doing very little of either.”80 Although Althea is drawn to Helen’s postcardic qualities, and has desired to see Franklin as a postcard, she begins to reveal her desire for the old medium of the letter. Helen subsequently sends Althea three postcards that dramatize the worst of the postcard as new media. One is to postpone her visit to the summer house Althea has rented from Helen’s cousin Gerald. The second, “in answer to a long letter of Althea’s, in which Gerald had been asked to come with her,” is to say Gerald is yachting and he will try to make it in the autumn.81 The third “post-­card from Helen expressed even further vagueness as to the chance of Gerald’s being able to be with them that autumn at Merriston,” which adds to Althea’s feelings of hopelessness over their potential relationship.82 Each of these three postcards expresses absence, mobility, and ambiguity. All are sent in response to Althea’s more substantive missives and desire for the presence of both Helen and Gerald. Althea is torn between her fascination with the new postcard form (and the postcard people who embody it) and her nostalgic attachment to the previous epistolary form, as representative of “real” relationships. Sedgwick deliberately positions Althea as a transitional figure. While Helen is the obvious New Woman in the novel, given her lack of affect and mercenary mind-­set, Althea is self-­conscious about being too old-­ fashioned. She is drawn in many ways to the postcardic New Woman and tries to emulate her, although she struggles to adapt completely to the new social conditions of the twentieth century. Her perceptions, even about the man she is deciding to marry, are secondhand; through Helen, she realizes “suddenly that she did not really like what she had thought she liked, or that she liked what she had hardly before been aware of.”83 “Trained in the school of severe social caution” by her mother, who “typified delicacy, dignity, deliberation, a scrupulous regard for the claims of heredity, and



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a scrupulous avoidance of all uncertain or all too certain types,” Althea has a constantly shifting view of what she wants.84 Even when she discovers that Gerald does not love her after Helen becomes engaged to Franklin, she asks herself, “Could she not emulate Helen? Helen was to marry a man who did not love her. Helen was to marry rationally, with open eyes, a man who was her friend. But Helen did not love the man who did not love her. She was not his thrall. She gained, she did not lose, her freedom.”85 Helen, on the other hand, is ultimately shown to be a New Woman in appearance only. Sedgwick writes the postcard fantasy into the “reality” of the novel. In the end, she gives Helen the hidden depth that Althea has been reading into her all along, although with a different message. Sedgwick’s message, as opposed to the one inferred by Althea, is a conventional fate rather than an esoteric destiny. Unlike Wharton’s Undine, Sedgwick’s Helen looks like a postcard but is in fact a letter, concealing her own love for her cousin Gerald. Unbeknownst to Althea, who receives only her postcards, Helen does send letters to Gerald, prefiguring her genuine, although hidden, attachment to him. It is via letter that Helen informs Gerald of her engagement to Franklin Kane. Franklin “saves” her by telling her that she does not know herself and introduces her to “the you who can think things.”86 After Helen’s engagement to Franklin, she is inspired not “to be the mere passive receiver” of affection.87 Finally, it is Franklin’s long letter to Helen, the whole of which is included in the novel, that convinces her to soften her hard New Woman heart and accept Gerald despite his previous blindness to her love. Althea and Helen each express the belief that “Franklin was gazing at her soul,” discovering a depth she herself did not know she possessed.88 Despite the fact that he lacks anything appealing in his surface, or perhaps because of that lack, Franklin becomes the perfect corrective for the other characters in the novel. He is the only one in the novel who seems, as one character puts it, “to know what love is.”89 Franklin tells Helen that he considers “the power of effort, endurance, and devotion” to be the essential human characteristics, to which she replies, “I’m afraid the inessentials matter most, then, in human intercourse.”90 Their statements mirror the two opposed modes of written personal communication at the turn of the century created by new media discourse. The “old” letter is the mode

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that highlights the individual, requires effort (as well as education), and testifies to devotion. The “new” postcard, in turn, is perceived as mass-­ produced and common, lacking in sentiment and content, yet is supremely attractive. Ultimately, Sedgwick has the letter model triumph, and Franklin is universally appreciated. Although the novel seems to be principally concerned with the choices of its two female protagonists, it is aptly titled Franklin Winslow Kane. The new postcard itself, in mimicking the old letter, was not above capitalizing on the desire for the letter to triumph. Postcards were printed in series, often to group similar subjects for collection, but also sometimes to tell longer continuous stories. A sender could mail these storytelling cards (usually three to six in a series) one by one, and the narrative depicted on the fronts of the cards, both through images and captions, would slowly unfold. This “novelty” in postcard production dramatized the “slowness” of an older medium. The postcard in Figure 18 belongs to a series of four that depict a traditional media narrative, here titled “La Bonne Lettre,” the good letter. The seated woman mourns the absence of a sweetheart, ostensibly the man in the photograph on the table, who has been gone for a year.91 Subsequent cards in the series have her questioning his commitment. In the final postcard image, her maid hands her a letter announcing his imminent arrival. The letter, although printed on the postcard, has set everything right. The sender of these postcards in 1907 used them like sheets of a letter, completely filling up the spaces on their backs and presumably mailing them all under the cover of an envelope, since they are not postmarked; at the same time, each postcard has a separate salutation and closing. The postcard’s success was in part a result of the medium’s ability to hybridize itself. Wharton and Sedgwick as writers were able to do the same. Although very much tied to the traditional values and social structures that feature so prominently in their work, they also belonged to a new generation of public women, and their ambivalence toward the figure of the New Woman represents their own liminal status. As Martha Patterson notes, “Edith Wharton, as a member of the old New York elite, constructs a New Woman who represents a threat to an old order, which, though stifling in its social codes, valued an aesthetic of genuineness as opposed to what she saw as the overwhelming sham of fin-­de-­siècle

f ig u re 1 8 . The first postcard in a narrative series titled “La Bonne Lettre,” produced in Paris and sent in 1907. Each postcard in the series depicts a different scene, culminating in the arrival of a letter announcing the return of the woman’s sweetheart.

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commercialism,” while Sedgwick writes in her letters that though “‘modern women’ [is a] hateful term—­still it does express a real and a rather new attitude.”92 Having been born into upper-­class families, both chose to live the majority of their lives in Europe, wrote on the international theme, made their livings from their writing despite having married “well,” and had to deal with the issue of divorce (Wharton actually divorced her husband while writing The Custom of the Country, and Sedgwick married a man who had been previously divorced). While they were both celebrated in their lifetimes, they also lived under the shadow of Henry James (whom they both knew personally), to whom critics constantly compared them. Critics of their time and shortly thereafter praised Wharton’s and Sedgwick’s novels, yet these (predominantly male) critics had certain expectations of women writers. They expected the female characters in Wharton’s and Sedgwick’s works to adhere to imagined standards of femininity, which were notoriously difficult to define. A strange connection emerged between the way the New Women in their novels communicate and what constitutes “good” women’s fiction writing. The complicated demands placed on female writers were manifested in the desire of critics to see women’s writing as an essentially feminine and “personal” expression, a criterion that did not apply to male writers. While male writers were supposed to reject being influenced by the masses, women writers had no choice other than to write as “themselves.” Just as the letter is thought to carry the writer’s “essence,” in opposition to the postcard, which is mass-­ produced, women writers were expected to avoid representing anything outside their own sphere. The demand that women’s novels be letter-­like began innocuously enough. Critics first praised Wharton and Sedgwick, for example, for writing “high” literature. In The New American Type and Other Essays, contemporary critic Henry Dwight Sedgwick (no relation to Anne Douglas Sedgwick) provides an assessment of Wharton’s work up to 1908. His chapter on Wharton contrasts with the essay that follows it, titled “The Mob Spirit in Literature,” since Wharton’s writing stands out from mass fiction. Sedgwick astutely recognizes literature as a medium with little to distinguish it inherently from other types of media: it is “communication at a distance . . . capable of conveying emotions while they are still warm.



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Books are as serviceable as any other vehicles of emotion.”93 Despite this acknowledgment, he retains a desire for a media hierarchy. He points out media sameness in order to introduce the argument that works of literature need to distinguish themselves from other media, precisely to avoid being lumped in with less elite forms. At one point he expresses a wish for Wharton to write more nonfiction, to combat a tendency in writing that he describes in postcardic terms reminiscent of Howells: “Now, more than ever, we need critics to help us to an appreciation of the pleasures of refinement. Europe is so near, and so easily overrun, that the obvious charms of the obviously beautiful are daily rendered more and more obvious and less and less charming by scores of amiable persons, who interpose themselves and their shadows between us and the beauties of the past.”94 Sedgwick sees Wharton’s patrician outlook, stemming from her actual status and life experience, as an antidote to mass tourism—­specifically, the postcardization of Europe. She has the ability to rescue Europe’s hallowed sites from their now seemingly endless and mindless reproduction. Yet Sedgwick is not entirely pleased with her work in this genre. His main complaint is that she does not put enough of “herself ” into her work. He claims, “It is her personal intimacy with Italy that interests us.”95 What he wants harks back to a previous letter model of travel writing, in which the letter is both unique and personal, intended as an expression of both a singular experience and an essential self. Sedgwick states this in more general terms when he writes, “Our generation, not yet wholly purged of the lingering effects left by the old Romantic individualism, cannot but feel that the more fiction is interpenetrated by the author’s personality the more interesting it is.”96 He categorizes his era as one of transition, recognizing that different modes of writing and reading are beginning to surface but choosing to favor what was done in the past. Interestingly, he continues not with an explication of what the interpenetration of the author’s personality might mean, but rather the assertion that “this assumption involves as a corollary the immense importance of gender.”97 This, in fact, is the end point of his discussion of authorial personality. Somehow, this important category seems to be relevant only to the discussion of writing by women. Ultimately, women writers are responsible for writing “as” women, thus preserving

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the stability of gender relations through literature. In Sedgwick’s view, appropriate feminine writing is a personal expression and avoids any association with mass production, which is concomitant with the sordid world of writing for money. In his analysis of Anne Douglas Sedgwick’s work in the same volume, H. D. Sedgwick becomes overly prescriptive regarding the “corollary” between personal writing and gender: “A woman’s novel should reveal the sex of its creator.”98 He differentiates between a woman’s book that “is really the child of her own feelings, intuitions, and perceptions, of her own experience of life” and one that is “a mere artificial construction made out of other people’s experiences and imaginings.”99 With that, H. D. Sedgwick once again sets up the dichotomy between letter and postcard modes of the novel. The writing of a woman that does not come from her own life experience appears to be mass-­produced, as if written on a postcard featuring images created by other people and then also printed by others. He feels a new woman novelist “has the advantage of a double curiosity, where it can be aroused, both concerning her books and concerning herself. For a man, especially, there is an agreeable tremor of anticipation as he begins a woman’s novel.”100 H. D. Sedgwick not only genders novels by women but also describes the reading of those novels in heterosexually erotic terms. Were he unable to imagine a genuine “feeling” or organic connection between the gender of the writer and the novel, his fantasy would be interrupted. While he is aware that “women, indeed, have for many years demanded to be judged by the standards applied to men,” he maintains that gender is readable in novels because novels must be commensurate with the writers’ true selves.101 This is salient, however, only when the gender of the writer is female. For example, as Sedgwick reveals what makes Wharton’s writing uniquely feminine, it becomes clear that he is not referring principally to her subject matter—­indeed, that is dangerously close to Henry James’s. Although he does allude to the reasoning that Virginia Woolf ’s narrator later employs in A Room of One’s Own, that what once characterized feminine writing was narrowness of personal experience translated into content, he asserts that already “nowadays sundry social exclusions and discriminations have been boldly brushed aside.”102 Instead, he refers to Wharton’s very process of writing: “There was, for instance, in her early



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stories a certain feminine dependence, as a girl on skates for the first time might lay the tip of her finger on a supporting arm.”103 Wharton’s progress as a writer is necessarily read as feminine, although it does not differ significantly from the experience of any other writer. Sedgwick also mentions her “feminine capriciousness . . . a method of deciding upon instinct rather than upon reflection” how to tie different episodes in her novels together.104 With this speculation, it is clear that he is invested in a reading of Wharton’s work as an inherently personal and letter-­like feminine expression. He is least comfortable when he is forced to recognize her writing’s popularity and “its ready-­to-­wear quality” of cleverness, a quality that runs the risk of making her novels appear to be mass-­produced objects.105 The tension between H. D. Sedgwick’s approval of Wharton’s writing as uniquely feminine and his disapproval of its impersonal quality is especially visible in his repeated use of the word “brilliancy.” For Sedgwick, this is the perfect word to categorize Wharton’s work: “Who that is writing to-­day can dispute with Mrs. Wharton the title to the term brilliancy?”106 Brilliancy holds positive connotations of originality and the ability to attract the reader’s attention, yet it is also a surface quality, a decoration, and “one cannot help asking one’s self, diffidently indeed, but pertinaciously: are not the ornaments too clinquant, do not the decorations assert themselves too presumptuously and mar the softer and more harmonious colors of the groundwork?”107 Wharton’s works “glitter,” a quality that is appealing as feminine ornamentation but may also be seen as catering, even if “unconsciously,” to public tastes. Instead of letters that reveal Wharton’s true personality, she writes a flashy postcard, of the kind with actual glitter applied for a competitive edge in a market that values novelty. Although H. D. Sedgwick’s description of Wharton’s “brilliancy” is fairly benign, critic John C. Underwood addresses Sedgwick’s use of the term in his 1914 collection of essays Literature and Insurgency: Ten Studies in Racial Evolution. Underwood calls brilliancy a quality “of the superficial, by the superficial, for the superficial. It is intrinsically alien to the genius of the Anglo-­Saxon world, in particular to that of its male half; and the great mass of the world in general has some reason for looking at it with suspicion.”108 By equating superficiality and brilliancy, Underwood

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implies that Wharton’s work is threatening to him because, despite its lack of authenticity, it remains very attractive. According to Underwood, Wharton wins “lasting respect or a larger reading public among the men” only when “she goes deeper than the superficial brilliancy and cleverness for the sake of cleverness now and then, in her first works as well as in her later ones.”109 Even more than Sedgwick in The New American Type, Underwood is concerned here with literature as a litmus test for national health, which he, like other turn-­of-­the-­century theorists on degeneration, believes depends upon masculinity.110 Effeminate literature is that which fails to transmit “American” cultural values yet is fashionable and popular. Interestingly, in his preface Underwood links, among the ills of modern American society, “the woman-­produced-­read-­and-­catered-­to-­literature of the day and hour in America” with “machine rule,” or mass production.111 The New Woman, in his allegory,“is a still more artificially machine-­ made product.” He chooses to investigate the current state of society through literature because literature “of the better sort” formerly counteracted the tendency to appeal to “the lowest common denominator, expressed in terms of money and what money can buy most directly.” Instead, “to-­day American literature ‘higher up’ finds itself as machine-­ made and soulless a product as every other phase of the American life it has helped to distort and to misrepresent.”112 In other words, not only is contemporary literature mass-­produced, but it also has a hand in mechanizing culture and commodifying relationships (Underwood cites divorce as one example). The change represented by the transition from the personal letter mode to the mass-­produced postcard mode in literature, from a seemingly direct form of personal communication to a more obviously mediated one, is attributed to the New Woman. The association of the New Woman with mass production and a host of societal ills increased the fervor of critics who believed that women could not write well outside (what they deemed to be) the scope of the feminine mind, and therefore these women’s personal experience. While these critics—­seeing the male point of view as universal—­never questioned male writers’ ability to represent women, they assumed that women were uninformed about masculine characters. Arthur Hobson Quinn states this while couching his language in general terms: “The general rule [is] that Miss Sedgwick’s men are not as well drawn as her



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women” and “it cannot be denied that [Wharton’s] women are on the whole better drawn than her men.”113 Even while critics acknowledged or even stressed the influence of Henry James’s writing in Wharton’s and Sedgwick’s work, they never considered it possible for these female writers to access the male psyche even in this purely literary way. That these women could effectively “reproduce” this aspect of James’s writing would unacceptably suggest that there is no real masculine essence, or that if there is, it can be mass-­produced. Likewise, this notion of women’s supposed lack of knowledge of the masculine mind extended into the realm of business, the quintessential male preoccupation at the turn of the century. A 1902 article from London’s Financial Times titled “The Lady Novelist in the City” states this attitude explicitly. The article mocks Mary Kennard’s Golf Lunatic and His Cycling Wife: “When the lady novelist deals with finance she is very funny.” And lest the reader mistake Kennard as an isolated instance, the writer specifies, “The finance of lady writers is always funny, but that Milwaukee deal is a real gem.”114 Comments such as these about Kennard, a novelist whose books sold well despite their lack of critical acclaim, were not limited to popular literature but extended to the work of “serious” women writers as well. Quinn says of Wharton that “she is weakest when she attempts the description of business relations.”115 In his essay on Anne Douglas Sedgwick’s work, H. D. Sedgwick likewise points out that “great novels must have a foundation like that of Roman masonry . . . the most important part is familiarity with business.” For him, “it is this lack which necessarily puts a woman’s work with respect to solidity in the second rank.”116 Two assumptions underlie the “weak point” that he finds in the work of women authors: that women (as opposed to men) can write well only out of personal experience, and that women writers do not have business experience. These assumptions are exposed and discredited by the fact that both Wharton and Sedgwick, as professional writers, did have business experience. As Wharton critic Millicent Bell points out, Wharton “adapted herself with determined toughness to the modern book market . . . pressing her publishers for advertising and promotional effort, insisting on royalties commensurate with her market value, and shifting without any sentimental regrets to new publishers who maximized her earnings,” in

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true New Woman fashion.117 In many ways, The Custom of the Country is a book about business. Undine, the novel’s most modern character, is constantly and unsentimentally making and unmaking the most lucrative marriage deals for herself. On the other hand, Ralph Marvell, one of the novel’s main male protagonists, attempts to go into writing, but his romanticized notions of the gentleman scholar prevent him from navigating the new market successfully. And if Wharton’s descriptions of Mr. Spragg and Elmer Moffatt’s business transactions seem vague, that is precisely because they themselves are shady. Likewise, while Sedgwick was, arguably, even more ambivalent than Wharton in her feelings toward the New Woman, she was more interested in business transactions than she might have cared to admit. Her personal letters reveal some of her interest in the financial rewards of being a professional writer, as well as her business acumen. She wrote to a friend in 1901, at the beginning of her career: “My novel has gone to be type-­written. It makes me quite glum to think of the long time I must wait until I can know if it will be accepted and then until I get some money. I am really quite greedy for some money, for I haven’t had a penny of my own since Christmas.”118 Sedgwick became a prolific and finally a best-­selling author. In a letter dated January 15, 1910, she disclosed that even as she was correcting proofs for Franklin Winslow Kane, she was already looking for an idea for a new novel.119 That next novel, Tante, published in 1912, was among the top ten best-­selling novels of the year in the United States. As for Franklin Winslow Kane, one favorable review in the New York Times rightly identified the monetary aspect of the story as principally responsible for moving the plot along, as well as for the story’s impact on the reader. The reviewer noted the “shock” that “here are four people of gentle breeding, and of unusual fineness of fibre, and yet a man can say to a woman whom he has just asked to be his wife: ‘I couldn’t have thought of marrying you if you hadn’t had money’; and a woman can say to a man: ‘Do you realize that if I marry you it will be because you have money?’”120 For a woman writer, association with the figure of the New Woman could be either empowering or a liability, depending on whether the writer was representing herself or being represented, and the postcard form replicates the same dichotomy. As a mode of communication, the postcard



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revealed anxieties about the New Woman’s liberatory promise, but as a means of circulating images of her, the postcard actually could serve to neutralize the threat. An example of the appropriation of the New Woman’s image takes place in The Custom of the Country through the character of the artist Claud Walsingham Popple, who benefits alongside Undine from reproducing her image. Wharton based Popple on the turn-­of-­the-­ century artist John Singer Sargent.121 Popple/Sargent exploits the desire to subvert the existing social order and turns it into financial gain for himself. What Sargent did for the nouveau riche, Charles Dana Gibson made accessible to the masses. In both artists’ images, the New Woman seemed unobtainable, inspired desire, and could be bought even while appearing to retain independence. Especially for Gibson, the images could be mass-­produced, both through reproduction and through imitation by other artists, such as Howard Chandler Christy, who created the “Christy girl,” almost equally as popular as the Gibson Girl.122 The New Woman’s “masculine” features, potentially so threatening, could be reenvisioned as flirtatious when commodified, such as in the image on the postcard in

f ig u re 1 9 . Beautiful women (especially in novelty poses) were a favorite subject of postcards. Here four women tip their masculine-­style hats invitingly on a postcard sent from Hungary in 1908.

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Figure 19. The women tip their men’s-­style hats in a gesture of invitation while the frosted windows, rather than acting as screens, stimulate the imagination. The inherent confluence of the picture postcard and the New Woman as depicted in the Gibson vein takes on darkly humorous tones in the lyrics of a song by the popular turn-­of-­the-­century team of composers Arthur J. Mills and Bennett Scott. In “The Picture Postcard Girls,” written in 1908, a shy bachelor collects picture postcards: “Smart photos of Musical Comedy Stars, / All over his room he has got; / He’ll gaze on them nightly with rapturous bliss, / For he is in love with the lot.” The contrast between his behavior toward a traditional love interest and his adoration of these mass-­produced women gives the song its comic effect: “Though bashful before a sweet maid,” he is bold with the postcard girls, saying “I love you,” kissing their photographs goodnight, and asking them all to marry him.123 The slippage between the “postcard girls” and the women they represent becomes more disconcerting when money comes into play. Like the New Woman, the postcards require “all his sundry cash he saves the different photos to buy,” and, although they are mass-­produced, the bachelor considers them “as precious as deep-­sea pearls.” By also characterizing the man as living in a top, or back, room “near the sky,” the song paints a rather depressing picture of a poor man being conned. At the same time, he participates in the objectification of the famous British and American stage actresses depicted on the postcards, such as Marie Studholme, Phyllis Dare, and Pauline Chase. Interestingly, the song also cites Camille Clifford as one of the women on the postcards. Although she is by no means the only celebrity associated with Gibson’s images, in 1904, at the beginning of her career, she won a prize of two thousand dollars in a contest to find the living girl who most closely matched the model of the Gibson Girl. According to The Play Pictorial, a theatrical review of the time, she looked “as if she might have stepped right out of one of the well-­known artist’s pictures.”124 The real thing and its representation become virtually indistinguishable. Whether Gibson modeled his images on real women or real women modeled themselves on his images, it became difficult to say. In this context, Clifford’s hit song on the stage from 1906, “Why Do They Call Me a Gibson Girl?,” acquires new meaning.

f ig u re 2 0 . “A tempting presentation.” Based on the expression of the man glimpsed in the mirror, the caption refers more to the female postcard seller than to the postcards she is selling. Published by F. A. Metz Importer and Publisher, Hot Springs, Arkansas, circa 1907.

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The postcard—­encompassing representation, communication, and commodity—­doubles as a figure for the New Woman. As in the postcard image in Figure 20, the New Woman obtains her highest level of agency by being bought. The “tempting presentation” of the female postcard seller is her own, but what is tempting is passive. Undine in The Custom of the Country and (at least initially) Helen Buchanan and Althea Jakes in Franklin Winslow Kane display a similar indeterminacy: their business and personal lives are inextricably fused as they seek to obtain what they want through belonging to another. Their emotional authenticity, as New Women, is always under suspicion though relentlessly desired. Ultimately, the New Woman’s and the postcard’s power to tempt and to threaten comes from their appearance in or, perhaps more accurately, creation by their historical moment and new media discourse. In a period of great societal transition, these liminal forms capitalize on ambiguity. They engage with the conventions of an older age with the promise of both fulfilling and undoing them.

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nly a year after the postcard’s widespread introduction, a British journalist published this criticism in the New York Times: “Every rose has its thorn, and it seems a fresh terror has been added to social existence in England by a novelty intended only to promote convenience and economy.”1 The particular “thorn” the writer referred to was libel. Because of the postcard’s open form, all a libeler had to do would be to write a slanderous message on a postcard and mail it; the message would then, at least in theory, be read by anyone who happened to come across it. This early complaint against the postcard was so widespread that Louis Wolowski, when arguing in 1873 for the postcard’s use in France, included the counterargument that the postcard had indeed been used in England “to make offensive remarks addressed to the recipient.”2 His main response to the danger was to say that it reminded him of the early days of the postal service, “when it happened that people would exchange insults, written openly above the address or on the back of the letter.”3 Wolowski implied both that the problem was not endemic to postcards, since letter envelopes were once used to that end, and that postcard libels would be a passing phase. To a degree, history proved Wolowski correct. However, rather than being random occurrences, as Wolowski suggested, misuses arose from the postcard’s status as a new medium, facilitated by the open form. At the postcard’s inception, because large numbers of people sent and received 117

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postcards, the medium served as a means of publication, although it was ostensibly a means of private communication. Its major features (shortened messages, varied images, low cost) added up to ease of use, and that is precisely what made it so readily available for socially unacceptable purposes. Thus, the postcard fantasy of easy, direct access “went bad” through postcard stalking, and the dream of open, affordable communication “devolved” into public insults even from the moment the postcard was invented. Groups that were already vulnerable, like women and minorities, could benefit from media innovations, but they could also be rendered more vulnerable. The new technology could cause terror in seemingly infinite ways—­for example, through stalking, invasion of privacy, libel, and impersonation—­until something newer took its place. Only after the new medium was no longer new did the public forget that the postcard ever caused unease. As Wendy Hui Kyong Chun observes, “New media fosters means of ‘touching’ others in ways that challenge and buttress traditional separations of ‘them’ and ‘us.’”4 While part of the fantasy of new media is a form of communication so perfect that it is virtually unmediated, this perceived total lack of separation leaves communicators vulnerable to attack. Questions of privacy and security are inherent to new media discourse. New media can offer means of “fighting back,” allowing marginalized groups a new level of access to the center, but such means are entirely appropriable. Both social justice activists and vigilante groups gravitate toward new media, with the result that sometimes the line between these groups is blurred. The older medium of the novel not only dramatizes the dark side of the postcard evident in early newspaper depictions but also often attempts to recuperate the postcard’s power of publicity, if possible. The novel challenges a straightforward narrative of the postcard, in which one person sends an inconsequential but pleasant message to another, even as it presents this narrative as normative. The assumed triviality and benevolence of the postcard turn sinister when the flow of sender to recipient is manipulated. As the postcard creates the illusion of openness and intimacy, the recipient falls prey to its subtle deceptions. Moreover, these deceptions often backfire against the senders themselves. Postcard crimes revolve around questions concerning the recipient and the sender: For whom is



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the postcard really intended? While the postcard was making written postal communication available to a wider range of people than ever before, in E. M. Forster’s 1905 novel Where Angels Fear to Tread it concomitantly exposes postcard recipients to shifty senders, such as a “baby” sending a postcard. While the postcard can quickly and cheaply deliver news of a relative’s arrival, it can also deliver virtually untraceable death threats, as it does in Herbert Flowerdew’s murder mystery The Seventh Post Card. The problem of the postcard and the publicity it afforded had its parallel and, at times, intersecting anxieties within the wider world of Edwardian celebrity, and especially within the increasingly competitive book publishing industry of which Forster and Flowerdew were a part. The postcard effortlessly published not only what people desired to see but also what they desired to remain hidden. This was true of both image and text. Being depicted on a real-­photo postcard could increase one’s fame or be an invasion of one’s privacy. Before the era of the picture postcard, it was not uncommon for the public to have no idea what certain celebrities, especially politicians and writers, looked like.5 Many people, especially women, abhorred the thought of their images being in circulation because then they would no longer have control over them, but such exposure was also a precondition for the new, modern status of celebrity. Furthermore, whether one was a critically acclaimed author like Forster or a best-­selling writer for the masses like Flowerdew, publication of fiction itself became harder to control at the beginning of the twentieth century and required its own savvy maneuvering of publicity. Early instances of postcard terror as reported in contemporary newspapers reveal that postcard publication, while a form of power, increased vulnerability, even for those who supposedly benefited from the publicity. An extreme example is the attempted assassination of Leopold II, king of Belgium, by Italian anarchist Gennaro Rubino on November 15, 1902. After Rubino’s arrest, he was found to be carrying in his pockets picture postcards bearing images of the king as well as two other Belgian royals. According to the New York Times, Rubino “procured the cards so as to be able to recognize the members of the royal family.”6 Images of the royal families of Europe were a staple of the early postcard industry, and collecting these postcards was thought of as a harmless pastime or even one

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that bolstered the current hegemony. Tellingly, according to the Scotsman newspaper, Rubino considered killing Edward VII of England, but “due to the strong feelings of the English people in favour of the monarchy,” he chose instead to target the unpopular Belgian king, whose cruelty in the Congo was already well known.7 Postcard popularity could apparently both increase one’s vulnerability to attack and provide some measure of protection. A more common type of experience with postcard publicity was that of British actress Phyllis Dare. Her image proliferated in postcard form throughout the United Kingdom, and she took her rightful place in Mills and Scott’s popular 1908 song “The Picture Postcard Girls” (discussed in chapter 2). Figure 21 shows Dare posing as one of her many characters in a postcard produced by Davidson Brothers, a publishing company that specialized in series featuring English actresses. In 1908, one newspaper article claimed that Dare was in second place in popularity behind actress Gabrielle Ray because she had 250 different postcard poses on the market to Ray’s 300.8 The number of images counted directly as impact. The postcards circulated Dare’s image and marked her fame but were initially a source of anxiety for the actress. Throughout her autobiography, Dare references receiving postcards from fans with the request that she sign them and send them back; she claims to have “signed anything between seventy-­five thousand to one hundred thousand postcards” within a three-­year span.9 Besides the demands of signing postcards, Dare was terrified when she received one with the following message: “I fell in love with you the first time I ever saw you, and shall determine to win you by fair means or foul.”10 Dare writes how for weeks she avoided walking near alleys where she believed it would be easier for a kidnapper to reach her. Only after the newness of postcard publicity had worn off did the illusion of proximity that the postcard created no longer bother Dare. She later laughed at how she “invariably took the messages written thereon most seriously.”11 She now knew that the admirer who informed her that he was “the proud possessor” of 937 postcards of her posed no real threat to her through that possession. The woman writer during this period, even more than the actress, was vulnerable to the effects of publicity because she was expected to negotiate between domestic and public spheres, as discussed in chapter 2. While she

f ig u re 2 1 . “Miss Phyllis Dare.” One of many poses of popular British actress Phyllis Dare produced by Davidson Brothers, a London publishing company that specialized in postcard series featuring English actresses.

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could still undertake the activity of writing in private, the literary market at the turn of the century would not allow her to remain in private. Women writers were the most public private figures, and no one exemplifies this better than Marie Corelli. Corelli was not only the most popular British woman writer but also the most popular writer of any category at the turn of the twentieth century, although she never earned critical acclaim. She was also notorious for trying to avoid the publicity that her fans demanded of her, refusing to authorize the sale of postcard images of herself. Her 1906 novel The Treasure of Heaven featured her portrait, but Corelli claimed that she had given in only because her publisher demanded it: “By the special request of the Publishers, a portrait of myself, taken in the spring of this year, 1906, forms the frontispiece to the present volume.”12 Ostensibly, courting this kind of publicity was at odds with the work of a serious writer. Corelli stated her objection to the inclusion of her photograph: “I am somewhat reluctant to see it so placed, because it has nothing whatever to do with the story which is told in the following pages, beyond being a faithful likeness of the author.”13 But what seemed to trouble her more than the gratuitous interest in her image were the “various gross, and I think I may say libellous and fictitious misrepresentations of me [that] have been freely and unwarrantably circulated throughout Great Britain, the Colonies, and America, by certain ‘lower’ sections of the pictorial press.”14 At the time, limits were just being put in place on snapshot photographers, or what would be called the paparazzi today. To state it as a variation on Oscar Wilde’s roughly contemporaneous comment, apparently the only thing worse than being depicted was not being depicted well. Corelli seemed unwilling to acknowledge the role of publicity in her success, focusing only on its negative aspects. While she refused to admit that her books might profit financially from including her image, she feared that an unflattering image might “alienate my readers from me.”15 By focusing her attention on her fans, Corelli tried to use her status to control her own publicity. In her preface (dated July 1906), Corelli may have been referring to a lawsuit she initiated that was made public a couple of months earlier in the London Chronicle. She petitioned to halt the sale of picture postcards that depicted painted scenes of her private life in Stratford-­on-­Avon. Figure 22, one of the postcards in the series, shows her in profile, driving on



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the streets of the town. Because the postcards reproduced paintings rather than legally restricted photographs, the discourse became about representational accuracy rather than representational control. Corelli’s lawyer asked the judge to compare the images on the cards with a recent photograph of Corelli (perhaps the very one alluded to in her preface) to “see what a gross libel had been perpetrated on her features.” The defense countered that “if that was a libel, every exhibition of the Royal Academy would be a collection of libels.”16 The painter of the images in the postcards, A. Wall, made the same argument but put it in gendered terms: “If the portraits of Miss Corelli had been flattering nothing would have been heard of the action. . . . Very few ladies would admit . . . that [even] a photo did them justice, and he assumed that Miss Corelli was no exception to the rule.”17 Despite the defense’s attempt to ridicule Corelli’s suit, both her status as a celebrity and the way postcards circulate made the case a serious one. As she expressed in her preface, Corelli feared that the postcards were “calculated to expose her to unjust contempt in relation to her private life and prejudice her in her profession as an authoress.”18

f ig u re 2 2 . “Miss Marie Corelli Passing the Guild Chapel, Stratford-­on-­Avon.” One of the images that led to a lawsuit in 1906 between Corelli and British painter A. Wall. Photograph courtesy of David Gregory, Postcards of the Past.

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By dint of not being photographs, they should have escaped the need for photographic “accuracy,” yet the fantasy of the postcard’s truthfulness was too strong to be ignored. Corelli’s lawsuit brought to the forefront anxieties about the effects of postcard publicity and the way it could blur the line between private and public realms. Celebrities were particularly vulnerable to libel via postcard, pictorial as well as written, both because they were more desirable targets than noncelebrities and because they had more to lose. The same exposure that gave them their status threatened to take it away. The case of a relatively early postcard libel suit between two actresses, Chattell v. Turner (1896), demonstrates celebrities’ awareness of the need to harness the volatile power of publicity. The plaintiff, Chattell, sued Turner for falsely and publicly accusing Chattell of having an affair with Turner’s husband. These libels included Turner’s sending a postcard to Mr. Turner with the words, “You and your woman may expect me down, and I promise you a nice scene at the theatre. I have stood it long enough.”19 The postcard finally convinced Chattell to demand through her solicitors that Turner “write an apology which was to be published in two of the provincial papers.”20 The theatrical language of Turner’s threat to create “a nice scene at the theatre” conflated the private and professional lives of those involved in the case. Turner was conscious of what would benefit her career the most and harm Chattell’s. Correspondingly, Chattell’s choice of recompense, for Turner to publish an apology in two newspapers, showed that Chattell was aware of the power of postcard publicity as well and intended to bring it back under her own control through further publicity. While libel was nothing new at the turn of the twentieth century, Chattell v. Turner demonstrated that any postcard sent through the mail was a potential libel case because of its open form and public circulation. At the heart of the issue of legal liability was the question of whether sending a postcard through the mail constituted publication of the message. Did the sender have one or multiple recipients in mind? The open form, regardless of an address to a specific person, theoretically allowed anyone to read the message. Public opinion during this period leaned heavily toward the belief that reading postcards addressed to others was indeed irresistible. Common caricatures included the nosy postal service worker and the meddling mailman who learns the latest town gossip from



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the postcards he delivers—­these were just the first in a line of imaginary readers. The thorny issue of postcard libels is shown in the awkward juxtaposition of instructions issued by the French post office in 1899: “Employees are forbidden (a) to read postcards, (b) to send, forward, or deliver any postcard bearing written insults or abusive expression.”21 Clearly employees were not supposed to read other people’s mail, yet without reading postcards, how could they censor inappropriate messages? Ironically, the assumption that postal workers might read postcard messages was what gave the charge of libel some legal weight. Law journals are littered with postcard libel cases that took place while the postcard was still considered new media. Invariably, legal arguments contrasted postcards and other forms of communication, usually to the detriment of the postcard. Most rulings were for the plaintiffs in the early decades of the postcard, since, in the words of one judge, “a communication sent by post card instead of by a closed letter would generally be evidence of malice.”22 In the 1901 case of Sadgrove v. Hole, Sadgrove was a subcontractor hired to provide estimates for construction materials for Hole’s company; when Hole disagreed with the numbers Sadgrove provided, he sent two postcards to the builders saying the estimates were wrong. Sadgrove sued Hole on the grounds that the postcards publicly defamed him as a surveyor. According to the plaintiff, damaging statements had previously been made by letter, including some infamous anonymous letters, but the damage was limited because the letters were privileged communications that would have been read by a third party only incidentally. In contrast to letters, which might be intercepted, postcards were made to be intercepted. Telegrams had also come under similar charges of libel publication (such as in the case of Robinson v. Jones in 1879), but “the case of a post card is stronger than that of a telegram, because of the impossibility of imagining a case in which there could be any necessity to substitute a post card for a closed letter.”23 The open format of the telegram could be justified by urgency, but the postcard had no such excuse. Furthermore, the judge in Sadgrove v. Hole feared the ease with which postcards could be used to perpetrate libel: “I decline to be a party to allowing a libeler to extend the sphere of the publication of his libel beyond the necessity or exigency of the case, for the purpose of saving himself a small difference in postage.”24 What was seen as a particular

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and helpful feature of the postcard as a mode of communication, its low cost, was also a liability. In a landmark appeal case in England, the initial verdict in favor of the plaintiff in Sadgrove v. Hole was overturned, and the court found in favor of the defendant. The loophole in the appeal was that the messages did not state the name of the plaintiff, and the name could not be readily inferred from what was written on the postcards, except by the recipients. In theory, the estimates could have been provided by anyone, including the builders themselves, rather than Sadgrove. The postcard’s abbreviated form fostered equivocation between recipient and subject. This ambiguity worked to exonerate Hole but proved tempting to other libelers. The Poster and Post-­Card Collector reported a story about a Frenchman who printed a series of postcards depicting the evils of drunkenness and posted them to known or suspected inebriates.25 The messages of these postcards were clear but also vague enough, since the recipients would have to take the images personally, making connections between themselves and the images. Even though certain actions for slander were taken against the sender, the charges did not stand up in court because of his savvy handling of the postcard form. In other instances, the public nature of the private postcard and its ambiguous addressees led to crimes beyond libel. In one type of case, rather than having one specific addressee but being intended for many, a postcard was addressed to one person but intended for another. The victim failed to recognize that the postcard had fallen into his or her hands intentionally rather than accidentally. An early postcard scam of this kind reported in Godey’s Lady’s Book banked on the assumption that postcards would be read and taken at face value. A con artist in Paris “wrote a number of postal-­card messages, addressed to himself, as if coming from different persons, in which frequent references were made to certain large sums of money that he was shortly to receive. The porter, of course, read all these notes before taking the cards to the tenant’s apartment.”26 When the man asked to borrow money from the porter, the latter readily lent it to him, having it on supposed good authority that the money would soon be repaid. Instead, the man disappeared. The “accidental” manner in which the information on the postcard reached the porter convinced him of its veracity. He never suspected that he himself was the intended



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recipient of the postcards until the scam artist disappeared without a trace. The same was true in another turn-­of-­the-­century postcard scam involving the sale of postcards to American tourists “from” the former prime minister of Britain, William Ewart Gladstone. Gladstone was widely known to correspond personally via postcard with ordinary citizens and to advocate the postcard as an efficient mode of communication. As reported in the New York Times, the scam artists, therefore, had no difficulty creating an addressee “of whom the world has never heard,” writing the briefest of messages, and then forging Gladstone’s signature.27 Ironically, the message read: “Dear Sir: There is [absolutely] no truth in the statement you have kindly brought to my notice. Yours faithfully, W. E. Gladstone.” The falseness here was not in the statement per se but in the supposed sender, who gave the object its commercial value. The newspaper article noted the disappointment of the purchasers when they discovered that their “prized relics” came from a “manufactory of ready-­ made Gladstonian postcards.” The incident also exposed the fantasy of receiving a postcard from Gladstone. Rather than being the imaginary recipients of correspondence from the real Gladstone, the scam’s victims became the real recipients of postcards from a pretend Gladstone. Impossible senders and equivocal recipients of postcards are the norm rather than the exception in E. M. Forster’s first novel, Where Angels Fear to Tread. As in the legal cases that hinged on the differences between postcards and letters, in the world that Forster creates, letters stand for readable, conventional social relations, while postcards threaten this order. Although the dangers of the postcard’s alternate pathways of relating are real, those pathways are attractive precisely because they depart from the norm. Forster maps this contrast geographically and culturally as well. The same divergence seen between letter and postcard communication is present between England and Italy. Italy and Italians are portrayed as an escape from the cultural constraints of England and the English but prove dangerous when characters lack the ability to understand their otherness. Moreover, the subtext of England’s conservatism affects Forster himself as a closeted gay writer, limiting what kinds of stories he is allowed to publish. Forster uses the postcard to signal the irrepressible and unpredictable nature of desire in the presence of stifling conventionality.

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In Where Angels Fear to Tread, the first postcard arrives at a crucial moment halfway through the novel. The plot begins with well-­mannered, upper-­class, and provincial Mrs. Herriton sending her widowed daughter-­ in-­law, Lilia, to Italy, ostensibly for self-­improvement but in reality to keep her from marrying Mr. Kingcroft, a marriage that Mrs. Herriton believes would be beneath her family. Although her eldest son, Lilia’s late husband, has been dead for years, Mrs. Herriton feels that Lilia’s “vulgar” behavior reflects poorly on the family and sets a bad example for Lilia’s daughter, Irma. Lilia travels to Italy under Miss Caroline Abbott’s supposedly sure supervision, but news comes from a tiny town in Monteriano that Lilia is engaged to an Italian, Gino. Mrs. Herriton sends her other son, Philip, whom she keeps under her thumb, to stop the marriage, but he fails—­Gino marries Lilia as soon as he hears that Philip is coming. Although Forster portrays the Herritons as narrow, controlling, and/or hypocritical in varying degrees, he also shows the negative effects of Lilia and Gino’s marriage through the disintegration of Lilia’s life in Italy, from deluded happiness to resentment to death in childbirth. Mrs. Herriton chillingly concludes that the matter has been taken care of and decides to devote no further attention to it. That is when the first of the postcards arrives, addressed to Irma “from” her infant half brother. It is not surprising that this turning point in the novel introduces the new medium of the postcard. Up until this moment, communication in the story, mostly through letters, has been fairly straightforward and intelligible and has served Mrs. Herriton’s purposes. The first letter in the novel is one from Mrs. Herriton to Lilia, prompted by rumors that Lilia told a friend “she liked a Mr. Kingcroft extremely, but that she was not exactly engaged to him.” Mrs. Herriton “wrote at once, begging for information, and pointing out that Lilia must either be engaged or not, since no intermediate state existed.” The letter produces the type of order desired by the sender and is deemed “good” for that reason: “It was a good letter, and flurried Lilia extremely. She left Mr. Kingcroft without even the pressure of a rescue-­party.”28 For Mrs. Herriton, the letter is the harbinger of clear and conventional social relations, of which she herself is a symbol within the novel. In this first instance of letter writing, the letter is contrasted with the more organic “talk” that circulates, although both serve Mrs. Herriton’s purposes, to the letter’s advantage. A tried-­and-­true



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technology, the letter does Mrs. Herriton’s bidding even better than do her servants, whom she dominates as she does everyone around her. When two of Mrs. Herriton’s servants threaten to leave, she has only to write “six letters” inquiring for their replacements in order to be rewarded by the servants’ contrite return. Letters received by Mrs. Herriton also serve her purposes by being socially legible. When Lilia first writes letters from Italy, they are proof to Philip that his idea to send her to Italy has been a success. Philip “declared that she was improving” based on their content.29 In her letters, Lilia raves about the places she visits and seems to be sufficiently content to have forgotten Mr. Kingcroft. After it is revealed that Lilia has fallen in love with Gino, the letters may, at first glance, appear to have been deceitful, but in fact, Lilia’s second letter from Monteriano is what first makes Mrs. Herriton suspicious. After Philip and his sister, Harriet, leave the room, “Mrs. Herriton sat a little longer at the breakfast-­table, re-­reading Lilia’s letter.”30 Clearly this is not because of some great affection for Lilia or pleasure at her writing style; rather, Mrs. Herriton is looking for clues as to the efficacy of her own design. Later, those phrases in the letter that impress themselves on Mrs. Herriton’s memory, “We love this place—­ Caroline is sweeter than ever—­Italians full of simplicity and charm,” will show that she was right to be suspicious.31 What Mrs. Herriton gathers from Lilia’s letter is the only explanation for her intuition that something must be coming with the second post that same day. A letter does indeed arrive from Mrs. Theobald, Lilia’s mother. Mrs. Theobald’s “intolerable . . . crested paper” has long been a marker for Mrs. Herriton of the pretentious nature of Lilia’s origins, and now it announces Lilia’s engagement.32 Despite her anger at the engagement, how Mrs. Herriton learns about it actually bothers her more. She “suddenly broke down over what might seem a small point”: Lilia has announced her engagement to Mrs. Herriton indirectly.33 Not only has the content of the letter violated conventions that are dear to her, but the form of her preferred communication has been violated as well: “How dare she not tell me direct? How dare she write first to Yorkshire! Pray, am I to hear through Mrs. Theobald—­a patronizing, insolent letter like this? Have I no claim at all? Bear witness . . . that for this I’ll never forgive her!”34 This moment reveals Mrs. Herriton’s ultimate devotion to form

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itself. She tears Mrs. Theobald’s letter into pieces, symbolizing the first betrayal of letters in the novel. As Jacques Derrida writes in The Post Card, however, the seemingly stable letter always has this inherent possibility: “A letter, at the moment it is read . . . divides itself, tears itself to pieces, falls into a postcard.”35 Mrs. Herriton is not ready to recognize that letters contain their own undoing, as do all forms of media. This attribute is, instead, relegated to new media and made visible in its discourse. The act of tearing a letter into pieces is repeated symbolically during the trip to Italy that Philip must then undertake to put an end to the engagement and save the family’s honor. In Italy, letters lose their power to work. Italy is seen as the antithesis of the letter in the same way it is seen as the antithesis of British order. The standard technology might exist, but it is not put to use in the same way. The first instance of the letter’s failure in Italy belongs to Philip, in the letter he sends ahead to Caroline Abbott to announce his arrival. At face value, it might not seem to be a failure. Miss Abbott receives the letter and accordingly comes to the train station to meet him, albeit somewhat late. The letter’s real failure is that it communicates something that Philip wants to keep hidden. Philip believes that he is revealing something for the first time when he takes Gino aside and says, “Signor Carella, I will be frank with you. I have come to prevent you marrying Mrs. Herriton.” In fact, Gino says he is unable to comply with Philip’s request (and receive the offered monetary award) “because we are married—­married—­married as soon as I knew you were coming.”36 The letter, aside from announcing Philip’s arrival, clearly announces his intentions despite his efforts to hide them. Moreover, it actually produces an effect opposite to what he had intended: a speedy wedding. The unexpected but severe consequences already prefigure the postcard’s open format and how easily the medium slips from under the sender’s control. In Italy, letters are effectively turned into postcards. Lilia’s letters in Italy are the most tragic of all because they stop working for her, contrary to her expectations. In response to her first letter to Mrs. Herriton after her marriage, “a jaunty account of her happiness,” Lilia receives a letter from Harriet saying that “all future communications should be addressed to the solicitors.”37 Later letters in which she seeks assurances about maintaining her income despite her remarriage are ineffectual. The failure of Lilia’s letters grows even more tragic when



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it becomes clear that her marriage is a failure. After Lilia discovers that Gino has been unfaithful and confronts him, she ends up writing “page after page, analyzing his character, enumerating his inequities, reporting whole conversations, tracing all the causes and the growth of her misery.”38 Only after writing this letter does she realize that it is meant for her daughter, Irma, still living with her grandmother in England. She sends it off, hoping for catharsis, but instead, Mrs. Herriton intercepts it and saves “Irma’s placid childhood” from being destroyed forever.39 Lilia fails twice, first because she expects a nine-­year-­old child to understand and sympathize with her predicament, and second because the letter never even arrives in Irma’s hands. Once again Harriet is called upon to write to Lilia, “forbidding direct communication between mother and daughter, and concluding with formal condolences.”40 In her rage, Lilia tears up Harriet’s letter, an action reminiscent of Mrs. Herriton’s response to the indirect announcement of Lilia’s engagement. Immediately, she begins to write “a very short letter, whose gist was ‘Come and save me,’” to Mr. Kingcroft as a last resort.41 But Gino can read her, even without reading the contents of her letter: “It is not good to see your wife crying when she writes . . . [nor] to see that she is writing to a man. Nor should she shake her fist at you when she leaves the room.”42 Despite the fact that Lilia puts the letter in an envelope, Gino clearly sees its contents written all over her face, as if it were the surface of a postcard. Once again, the letter, whose path is so straight in England, goes astray in this foreign environment. Lilia tries to deliver the letter to the post herself, “but in Italy so many things can be arranged. The postman was a friend of Gino’s, and Mr. Kingcroft never got his letter.”43 Shortly thereafter, Lilia dies in childbirth. The natural course of the letter is anything but natural in Italy. The postcard’s vagaries seem to be more congenial to the Italian soil, and it indeed succeeds where the letter has failed. Unlike the letter Lilia earlier sent to Irma from Monteriano, postcards from Italy make it into Irma’s hands. This is possible because of the categorization of the postcard as an object rather than a communication and because of the use of the image as a distraction. Forster writes, “Irma collected picture post cards, and Mrs. Herriton or Harriet always glanced first at all that came, lest the child should get hold of something vulgar.”44 Because of international

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postcard clubs, a postcard arriving from Italy does not immediately cause alarm, whereas a letter addressed to a nine-­year-­old would surely raise eyebrows. The Herritons view the postcards as items to be added to a collection rather than as a form of communication. Mrs. Herriton and Harriet are much more concerned about the quality of the images on the postcards that Irma receives, believing them to be the only bearers of messages. The censure is not unrealistic for the time; by 1913, treatises such as The Child and the Cinematograph Show and the Picture Post-­Card Evil, by Canon Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley, were widely distributed. Principal targets were “vulgar” comic cards or even what some critics called semipornographic cards (all countries took active measures to prohibit “actual” pornographic cards, although the lines were blurry). Figure 23 shows a good example of the kind of comic postcard Mrs. Herriton would have wanted to keep out of Irma’s reach. Although the scene merely shows three young women who have fallen over while trying to extract from a lake what they have caught on their fishing line, vague sexual undertones can be discerned in the awkwardness of their positions and the catch of a masculine boot. With the uproar over the

f ig u re 2 3 . So-­called comic postcards were a staple of postcard production at the turn of the twentieth century and ranged in degrees of perceived vulgarity and sexual innuendo.



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images featured on the cards, less attention was paid to the messages. Harriet looks at a card addressed to Irma, and “on this occasion the subject seemed perfectly inoffensive—­a lot of ruined factory chimneys—­and Harriet was about to hand it to her niece when her eye was caught by the words on the margin. She gave a shriek and flung the card into the grate.”45 By then, of course, it is too late; Irma manages to get ahold of the postcard, and the postcard gets ahold of her imagination. The message written on the postcard reads, “View of the superb city of Monteriano—­from your lital brother.”46 On the surface (and the postcard’s great advantage here is that it is all surface), there does not seem to be anything inappropriate about the words. Neither the irony between the postcard’s image and its description nor the spelling error merits Harriet’s reaction, which is to box Irma’s ears and tear the postcard into pieces (the latter action reminiscent of her mother’s and Lilia’s earlier actions). The openness and innocuousness of the text masks the true import of the postcard—­that Gino has a child by Lilia with him in Monteriano. The “sender” is the message, or at least the beginning of the real message. What concerns the characters for the rest of the novel is determining what the postcard really says and what kind of person Gino really is. Mrs. Herriton readily comes to her own conclusion—­that Gino is blackmailing her—­ but Forster refuses to clarify Gino’s intentions unequivocally.47 The Herritons had already received news of the baby’s birth via a letter from their solicitors after Lilia’s death. The very hallmark of discretion, the letter allows them to decide to keep the baby’s existence a secret from everyone. Irma’s postcard from Monteriano turns everything upside down. The postcard distresses the Herritons not only because it reveals to Irma the existence of her half brother but also because, through its “innocent” and “candid” nature, it forces them to acknowledge that they have been keeping a secret. With Mrs. Herriton’s prior dexterous management, Philip had only “felt a little displeased, though he could not tell with what” when they had decided not to tell anyone about the baby.48 She had convinced him that not telling was not necessarily keeping a secret. When the postcard blithely and “unintentionally” announces the existence of the baby, the Herritons must acknowledge the discrepancy of attitudes and extract a promise of secrecy from Irma. That in itself leads her to ask more questions.

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Irma ultimately ends up breaking her vow of secrecy after a second postcard from the baby reaches her: “She was proof against a single post card, not against two,” because “a new little brother is a valuable sentimental asset to a schoolgirl, and her school was then passing through an acute phase of baby-­worship.”49 The postcard’s attraction is not the announcement of a blood relative per se but the creation of the fantasy of the little brother. The impossibility of a baby sending postcards is obvious even to a nine-­year-­old, but Irma behaves as if the baby himself has sent them and secretly responds to the last postcard’s entreaty “to send the baby one,” despite the injunction against it. This extreme case reveals the general workings of the postcard: it feeds the dream of impossible, direct communication. The postcard allows the recipient to believe that the sender would write the exactly desired phrases were there more room on the postcard, making the sender into the fulfiller of the recipient’s wishes. This happens independent of the sender’s intentions, because of the form, and is only exacerbated when the sender purposely tries to deceive the recipient. Although a letter can be forged, the postcard, with its short and open text, is better at masking an identity. An entire letter written in the voice of a baby would clearly bear the mark of an adult, while the brevity of a postcard message in a baby’s voice makes it easier to suspend disbelief. Forster, through his use of free indirect discourse, shows how naturally the suspension occurs: “Just as they had got things a little quiet the beastly baby sent another picture post card—­a comic one, not particularly proper.”50 The rest of the novel shows Philip attempting to make sense of the postcards, Gino’s intentions, and Gino himself. By extension, he is also defining himself against his mother’s influence: “Two years before, Philip would have said the motive was to give pleasure. Now he, like his mother, tried to think of something sinister and subtle.”51 Philip goes back and forth between the two possibilities—­that Gino is simply trying to entertain Irma or that he is somehow trying to extort money—­several times. The impossibility of knowing the true intentions behind the postcards, related to their true recipients, is in fact what moves the plot forward to its, and the actual baby’s, final resting place. Mrs. Herriton sends Philip and Harriet back to Italy to follow Caroline, who, out of remorse, has gone to acquire the child. The child dies during Harriet’s attempted kidnap,



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never once having been named. In this case, “the curious duel which is fought over every baby,” whether it belongs to the mother’s or to the father’s family, is actually lost by the baby.52 The tragedy happens because of the way postcards from the baby and the baby himself become conflated. In wondering what Gino’s intentions are in sending the postcards, the Herritons become concerned about Gino’s ability to take care of the baby properly. Philip is convinced by his visit to Gino’s home and his encounter with the materiality of the child that the child belongs with Gino. However, Harriet fails to see the baby as its own physical reality rather than an abstract problem even at the very end and goes temporarily insane upon the child’s death. The slippage between the thing itself and its representation haunts new media. For the postcard, this slippage becomes more complicated with the advent of the “real-­photo” postcard. Multiple companies both in Europe and the United States (most notably Kodak) began producing photographic paper that allowed amateur and professional photographers to transfer negatives directly onto postcard-­size card stock, as well as to send negatives to be professionally developed directly as postcards.53 As the name “real-­photo postcard” suggests, the finished product was a postcard featuring an actual photograph rather than a reproduction of one. This allowed individuals to circumvent the need to send out negatives in order for them to be produced, and it also allowed for faster turnaround for smaller producers and encouraged the documentation of local events. A result was that many images that would have otherwise remained in limited circulation became widely circulated, at times with dangerous effects. This was particularly the case with images of violence. Among the photographs turned into postcards were images of the carnage of international wars, British train wrecks, French executions, and, notably, in the United States, racially motivated lynchings. New media discourse necessitates that new media objects straddle the line between licit and illicit, and lynching postcards are the postcard’s most gruesome examples. Lynching postcards themselves thematized the line of legality and were involved in the attempt to set that line. Although many of these postcards were real-­photo postcards, the fact that some were mass-­produced shows not only their widespread appeal but also how they participated in the legitimation of this form of violence. Ken

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Gonzales-­Day, who researched hundreds of lynchings in California for his book Lynching in the West: 1850–­1935, “was surprised to discover that after presidents and celebrities, postcards and view cards of those lynched or condemned to be legally executed were among the earliest mass-­ produced images in the West.”54 Moreover, these images contributed to the depiction of lynching as inherent to the American West, both domestically and abroad, as a postcard with a German caption in Gonzales-­ Day’s collection demonstrates.55 Although people of all races were lynched, the lynchings of African Americans in the South were particularly brutal and widespread. It is difficult to determine an exact number, but many scholars estimate that at least 3,500 lynchings took place in the United States between 1865 and 1920.56 Most of these were in the South, and most of the victims were black. Unlike in the West, where the narrative was often one of “frontier law” and the absence of authorities, lynchings in the South came as a part of the backlash against the end of slavery. While Jim Crow laws were enacted to keep newly freed blacks “in their place” legally, lynching was the extralegal means by which southern whites terrorized blacks and made spectacularly clear that they were at the mercy of whites. Those who perpetrated lynchings, however, viewed them simply as the meting out of justice. Legal proceedings in courts of law were seen as too slow, requiring too much evidence, or incapable of handing down punishments that were severe enough for the crimes in question. Especially during the era of the postcard as new media, lynching worked through the logic of visibility.57 That so many lynchings were conducted in public, in broad daylight, and photographed appeared to give legitimacy to the definitionally illegal act. As Leon Litwack states in his essay in the landmark photographic study Without Sanctuary, “What was strikingly new and different in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was the sadism and exhibitionism that characterized white violence. . . . To kill the victim was not enough; the execution became public theater, a participatory ritual of torture and death.”58 At times, lynchings were announced in advance, and extra trains were scheduled to transport all the spectators. Entire families, including small children, attended. Newspapers played an ambiguous role in lynchings. In many instances, they were highly complicit in creating a narrative of acceptance around



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lynchings, particularly mass lynchings. Randall Miller identifies a recurring sequence in which newspapers reported a crime in sensationalized fashion, which was followed by “the local community’s almost mad insistence on immediate justice (read vengeance), the inability of the local courts to administer the swift punishment the community demanded, and the coming together of all elements of the white community to do by lynching what the law could not do through normal legal processes.”59 At other times, even when ostensibly condemning lynchings, newspapers might spectacularize them and thus contribute to their terrorizing effects. Photographs were taken to document these events, as well as to provide souvenirs. In 1915, a reporter for The Crisis, the official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, described what he witnessed at the site of a lynching in Tennessee: “Hundreds of kodaks clicked all morning at the scene of the lynching. . . . Picture card photographers installed a portable printing plant at the bridge and reaped a harvest in selling postcards showing a photograph of the lynched negro.”60 Just like the “summary justice” of lynching, the distribution of the images of lynchings via postcard was speedy. Despite the illegality of lynching, many of these postcard images included crowds of identifiable white people, some of whom were eminent citizens, gathered around disfigured black bodies. With few perpetrators ever brought to trial, those who participated in lynchings clearly did so without fear of retribution and, in fact, posed for the photographs. That these postcards were sent through the mail added a level of visibility and contributed to the sense of invulnerability on the part of those who participated in lynchings. The postcards extended the sense of a privileged community as they circulated among like-­minded whites or served as warnings to blacks and those who held different views about lynching. Captions and messages from senders ranged from dates and names to exultations about the acts and the senders’ participation. One particularly gruesome real-­photo postcard from 1916 depicts the charred remains of a black body surrounded by a group of white men with a group of boys in the foreground. The sender writes, “This is the Barbecue we had last night. My pictures [sic] is to left with a cross over it[.] your son, Joe.”61 The sender of this card desires to be associated with the scene and

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signals this in the same way the sender of a touristic postcard showing his or her hotel might mark the window of the room where the sender is staying—­with an X. The 1916 sender’s message and his way of marking his presence on a postcard are both attempts to show the lynching scene as normal, even banal, and to raise the sender’s social capital by announcing his participation. Even though sending lynching postcards through the mail was outlawed by the May 27, 1908, amendment to U.S. postal regulations prohibiting the mailing of “matter of a character tending to incite arson, murder, or assassination,” these postcards could be, and were, easily sent under the cover of envelopes.62 Mailing real-­photo postcards in envelopes was, in fact, not at all uncommon during this time, as many senders wanted to prevent the cards from being damaged in the mail. Even with the ban on violent lynching imagery, postcards continued to be complicit in the oppression of black people in other ways. Depictions of black people were held to different standards than depictions of white people, even with previous bans on “indecent” material like the Comstock law, passed by the U.S. Congress on March 3, 1873. Images that might otherwise be deemed pornographic were often acceptable when they featured black people, because of their supposed “anthropological” value. Moreover, as Wayne Martin Mellinger and others have shown, black people were often depicted on postcards and in other popular culture media of the time as primitive or even bestial.63 Considering the dehumanizing act of lynching, the victims of which were often compared to beasts in order to justify the savagery enacted on their bodies, those depictions mattered. Even “mild” caricatures contributed to the sense of African Americans as “other” and even animal. Figure 24 is among the earliest privately printed official postcards in the United States, as evident from the label on the address side: “Private Mailing Card: Authorized by Act of Congress of May 19, 1898.” On the reverse is an image titled “Way Down South in Dixie” that depicts a scene of a black couple dancing vigorously, with exaggerated motions, to the accompaniment of a banjo and a concertina. The whole crowd is animated, and figures are drawn to represent maximum movement; the women’s unnaturally wild hair is especially noticeable. The couple’s eyes appear eerily blank, almost suggesting possession but at least savagery. The setting also associates them with the animalistic and the primitive.



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The figures in the upper right corner appear to be pigs, and the straw scattered across the floor reminds the viewer that this is a barn. The angle of the drawing invites the viewer to be a spectator at this primitive event.64 In contrast to the scene, an emblem in the upper left of the postcard shows a dignified, neoclassical white “lady liberty” figure. She holds a poster with the words “Greeting from picturesque America.” This figure reads as normative and reserves the right to point out what is “picturesque,” a label not normally associated with regular citizens. Even as caricature postcards and postcards of lynchings contributed to the subjugation of African Americans by perpetuating images of them as primitive and animalistic, activists could also use such postcards as evidence of white prejudice and savagery. Black activist Ida B. Wells was the first to reappropriate lynching photographs in her 1892 essay Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases and her 1895 pamphlet A Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States. In the 1892 essay she first called attention to the fact that the people who held to lynch law were the same ones who owned “the telegraph wires,

f ig u re 2 4 . “Way Down South in Dixie.” Postcard printed in the United States by Arthur Livingston after passage of the act of Congress of May 19, 1898, allowing private printing of postcards. The caption in the upper left corner, “Greeting from picturesque America,” implies that the scene was intended for export.

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newspapers, and all other communication with the outside world.”65 Her very writing and publication began the act of reappropriation. She not only included reproductions of lynching photographs but also graphically described the manner in which the crowds treated the victims leading up to the lynchings. By doing this, she activated an alternative hermeneutic, focusing on the injustice and cruelty of those perpetrating the lynchings rather than on the dehumanization of the victims. Lynching postcards could terrorize, but they could also provide evidence. The Chicago Defender, a newspaper founded in 1905 and aimed primarily at African American readers, reprinted a lynching postcard as part of a story on the front page of its October 30, 1915, issue, noting: “We print from the postal card to show you that these things are facts you can’t deny. . . . This lynching was never recorded, although done three weeks ago: no press, no pulpit, black or white, to speak a word.”66 Without the postcard, the lynching would have remained unknown outside the community in which it took place. The postcard could both perpetuate violence through its circulation and bring the lynching to light. New media acts as a natural conduit for vigilante justice through its unregulated status, but it is a double-­edged sword.67 Herbert Flowerdew takes on the implicit dangers of the postcard as a new medium in his 1914 novel The Seventh Post Card.68 Flowerdew was a prolific British author from the end of the nineteenth century until World War I. His work was popular enough at the time for several of his novels, including The Seventh Post Card, to be translated into French, and one of his novels, The Presumption of Stanley Hay, MP, even served as the basis for a film decades after its first publication. Plagued by financial problems, Flowerdew also wrote under the pseudonym Nowell Cay, wrote short stories for publication in newspapers, and found it expedient to serialize his work in magazines. The unusual plot of The Seventh Post Card demonstrates Flowerdew’s ambivalence about participating in the rising mass fiction market. The book shows that he was aware not only of the public’s general fear of the ever-­increasing speed associated with modernity but also of the particular anxiety inherent in new forms of media and publicity. In The Seventh Post Card, a mysterious organization calling itself the “League of Personal Safety,” or L.P.S., terrorizes England’s motor vehicle



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drivers. The League claims that, because of the undue influence of (presumably) wealthy motorists, measures have not been taken to prevent reckless driving and thus protect innocent pedestrians. It vows to take justice into its own hands, executing, without trial, anyone who kills a pedestrian while driving a motor vehicle. The League notifies its victims of its decisions via postcard. Two writers of detective fiction, Sir Julian Daymont and Joanna Somerset, as well as Jack Yemmerde, a young law student who has fallen in love with Joanna, charge themselves with finding and apprehending the members of the League. The plot thickens considerably as, first, Joanna accidentally kills a pedestrian while driving and then Jack’s rich grandfather, who is opposed to Jack and Joanna’s marriage, does the same. Curiously, the L.P.S. is alternately called “the Motor Kuklux” by the general public in the novel. While the Ku Klux Klan in the United States was, for the most part, considered dead (Flowerdew’s novel was published right before its revival, influenced partially by D. W. Griffith’s silent film The Birth of a Nation in 1915), it had left a lasting impression even in England. Images of lynchings, both photographs and sketches, continued to circulate throughout Europe in various forms, including on picture postcards. The phrase Ku Klux had come to be used in reference to any vigilante group, conjuring up associations with terror and secretive, communal retribution. This alternate name for the League of Personal Safety also reveals the influence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story “The Five Orange Pips,” first published in The Strand Magazine in 1891. In this Sherlock Holmes mystery, the uncle of one of the characters had emigrated from England to the United States and there had made his fortune on a plantation in Florida. It is strongly implied that he was complicit with the KKK, and years after his return to England because of his aversion to former slaves and the new rights they possess, he receives a mysterious letter from the secret organization. The letter, bearing an Indian postmark, contains five dried orange pips and has the letters KKK written on the inside of the envelope. Shortly after receiving the missive, the man is found dead. The pattern is repeated at intervals with his inheritors after they receive similar letters. Significant differences exist between Doyle’s story and Flowerdew’s novel despite the clear similarities. Doyle’s story hinges on the regularity

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of the postal service, whereas in Flowerdew’s novel it is the newness of the postcard and mass media that puts recipients in jeopardy.69 More than merely its mode of communication, the postcard in The Seventh Post Card embodies the underlying logic of the League. The parallels that Flowerdew unexpectedly draws between the postcard and the Motor Kuklux include singular messages that are actually meant for everyone and masked senders. Most important, Flowerdew aligns their methods of simplification: both work according to “shortcuts,” ignoring the full story of what may have happened. Flowerdew links the vigilante group’s fantasy of instant and complete justice with the postcard’s simplified form of communication. Ideally, justice should be as swift and simple as sending a postcard, but that belief goes awry when taken literally. In the novel, the fantasy of instantaneous justice turns into its opposite: justice becomes terror, and instantaneous communication borders on impenetrability. Vigilante groups, when taking justice into their own hands, ostensibly simplifying the process by eliminating trials and minimizing the possibility of appeals, actually turn justice into its opposite, something criminal. An added level of irony is that through the principle of simplification, the League comes to resemble the technology it despises: that of the automobile itself. The automobile makes motion and speed so easy to control for the privileged few who have access to it that this motion and speed actually become deadly. When technology’s aim of simplifying life goes beyond a certain limit, it threatens to take lives. In an analogous way, the actions of the League of Personal Safety are the opposite of what the group’s name indicates: they are murderous. The novel begins with each of the most important automobile clubs and associations in London receiving a typewritten letter signed “The League of Personal Safety.” At first, recipients assume the mysterious sender is generally against new technology. The League’s use of the traditional medium of the letter seems to corroborate this. The secretary of the Petrollers club compares the sender to the “crank” who sent “a letter from some Association formed to oppose all modern inventions.”70 What becomes clear is that the League of Personal Safety actually employs technology, especially modern communication media, to bring about its retribution. The reader’s first indicators of this fact are that the initial letter is typewritten, mechanically reproduced, and anonymous.



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Likewise, although the League introduces itself via letter, this particular letter functions as a postcard, the League’s true representative. Although the League of Personal Safety’s warning is dire, it is at odds with its mode of communication. The letter is “not taken seriously by any of its recipients.”71 All who receive it treat it more like a postcard than a letter. Flowerdew goes into detail about how the letter only accidentally reaches Scotland Yard, where the authorities “attached so little importance to it that when later the missive assumed importance the typewritten sheet could not be found”; further, “the secretary of the Royal Auto Club merely dropped his copy into the waste-­paper basket with the morning’s advertisements.”72 This particular letter takes it place next to the postcard with the rest of the junk mail. The League’s first postcard is, indeed, also ignored. The very day after the auto clubs and associations receive the initial letter, an unavoidable accident happens when a bus driver, Mr. Smith, runs over a little girl who has darted into the street without looking. Despite obvious mitigating circumstances, the League considers the girl’s death itself to be proof that the driver is guilty. He is shot dead four days later, and a postcard is found in his pocket “giving him formal notice that the execution has been decided upon and signed ‘L.P.S.’”73 The postcard is postmarked twenty-­four hours prior to the shooting. As with the previous letter, “to all appearances Smith had attached so little importance to it, if he even understood what it meant, that he had put it in his pocket without mentioning to anybody that he had received it.”74 The postcard’s completely apparent message is illegible to the driver. Not until the West End Gazette suggests the connection between the initials L.P.S. and the League of Personal Safety does anyone remember the earlier letter. The postcards that follow, despite being a means of communication, allow the League to function in complete anonymity. Flowerdew reveals what the postcard was always capable of doing. The entire plot of the novel hinges on the fact that the postcard does not divulge its sender. Part of the postcard’s ability to remain untraceable is its shortened form. In an age when handwriting analysis is the newest forensic tool, the postcard is especially difficult to match with a writer because it contains a limited writing sample. The identity of the murderer, or possible murderers, is in question until the very end. The postcard refuses to reveal even the makeup of the organization—­whether it is the work of one person or

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many. Although this is related to the League’s need to continue working undetected, the fact has valence for vigilante dynamics as well. Choosing to refer to itself as a multiple entity, the League implies that it carries collective sentiment and has numerous resources at its disposal. As a collective, it also disperses responsibility for its actions. Although the detectives suspect from the beginning that the League of Personal Safety is in fact just one man, Wilmott Milldane, the question of whether the League consists of one or multiple killers hovers continually over the text. Even after Milldane is apprehended, there is no way of proving that he acted alone, especially since another postcard recipient, Jack’s grandfather, is murdered afterward. The League’s identity, means, and methods all become subsumed in the communication technology the League cleverly prefers—­the postcard. Much of the League’s power comes not only from its success in keeping its own identity a secret but also from its ability to interpellate multiple recipients simultaneously. Although each postcard the League sends is addressed to only one individual, the entire country “gets” the message, which is fully the League’s intention. The accepted view of the postcard, both social and legal, is that a postcard is intended for the addressee, the one to whom it is delivered, and only that person, but that is never truly the case. When the public accepts the postcard’s fantasy of instantaneous and direct communication, each individual assumes that he or she is the intended recipient, and in Flowerdew’s story the effect is collective terror: “Dread of the League had already affected the rate of speed of motor traffic, and . . . even the motor-­buses in the metropolis picked their way along the thoroughfares at reduced speed in fear lest they might inadvertently cause loss of life.”75 The public’s obsession with the case fuels the terror even more, as increasing numbers of individuals take the League’s messages personally. This effect is already inherent in the postcard’s open form, but it is amplified when the League’s postcards are reproduced in the press. Sir Julian finds “in the half-­penny picture papers almost full-­size photographed reproductions of the type-­written letter which had been pinned on the notice-­board of the Roadsters’ Club, together with life-­size photographs of the warning postcards, all hand-­written, and written in the same hand.”76 That they appear in the “half-­penny picture papers” has



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significance beyond the implication that the events are being sensationalized. These papers, by costing a half-­penny, the celebrated cheaper postal rate of the postcard, and by being illustrated, mimic the postcard itself. That the League’s postcards are reproduced in “life-­size photographs” strengthens this point. Inadvertently, the newspapers help circulate the death sentences to everyone so that their fulfillment is just a matter of time in the mind of the public. The impression that the League could be addressing anyone via postcard is magnified by the fact that the message itself is not personal. That the actual pronouncements of capital punishment are sent on postcards is sinisterly fitting—­the deaths caused by the automotive drivers were accidental, and their sentences at first seem incidental. The limited space of the postcard ensures that the sentence will indeed be a sentence. The novel itself never reproduces any of the postcard messages word for word, and this contributes to the sense that the messages contain nothing “special.” It implies that the message is the same every time, with only an almost arbitrary address change, rather than being tailored for each incident. The novel’s first pages enumerate victim after victim, with only the slightest descriptions of who they are and the circumstances around the accidents. Once the fifth person dies after receiving a postcard from the otherwise traceless League, the League takes on “an almost supernatural character in the public mind.”77 Since the League “appears” only via postcards and dead bodies, the postcard itself takes on this association. Jack at one point says of the postcard, “We know now that the postcard means what it says,” and later he declares to his grandfather that he will not “leave the neighbourhood while the threat of the postcard is hanging over you.”78 In these two statements, the postcard itself appears to have agency. The inability of the police or the detectives to find the murderer(s) attributes to the postcard the ability to enact instant justice. To add to the supernatural associations, the killer (or killers) appears to be all-­knowing and to have in-­depth information about each traffic incident almost immediately after it happens. In truth, this power has a very mundane source: the newspapers. It is later discovered that Milldane “used to spend his whole time reading newspapers that came to him from all parts of the country. Sometimes he took cuttings from them . . . about some accident caused by a motor-­car or some case of

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careless driving or exceeding the speed limit.”79 Thus, after Joanna herself injures a pedestrian in an accident, she is safe for all intents and purposes until an account of the event appears in the newspaper, which then makes her subject to assassination by the League. Aside from literally reproducing the League’s postcards, the press also practices a similar logic of simplification. Even while journalists are getting “the story,” their need to compress and quickly deliver it leads to an ironic suppression of other stories. It has already become clear that the League gets its information from publicity, but journalists choose to ignore how their actions will affect the larger context of the news story they are delivering. By publishing news of Joanna’s accident, they are complicit with the League. It is not without irony that the only time Joanna is actually pursued by a stranger in the novel is when “the chief descriptive reporter of the Axis News Agency and one of the most brilliant and successful journalists of the hour,” Gracchus Wells, follows her and Jack, an action that further aligns the League with mass media.80 Jack at first even believes their pursuer to be their main suspect, Milldane, but it turns out to be Wells seeking information for an article. When Jack finds out it is Wells, he is so angry “that he could have shot the man,” just as surely as he would have shot Milldane. The two seem to be equally threatening to Jack as he tries to protect Joanna from the League of Personal Safety. Wells, on the other hand, considers himself and his work as actively opposed to the League: “Publication means light; the suppression of fact means darkness and all its attendant evils.”81 He asserts that Joanna will be protected by the publicity that will surround her after the story breaks, and he does “not admit for a moment that he considered a good newspaper story of more importance than an innocent girl’s safety.”82 If people are constantly watching her, he reasons, the killer will have no opportunity to come near her—­a “theory” to which Jack does not subscribe.83 In Jack’s mind, the mass media fail to protect those who might be targeted by the Motor Kuklux, in the same way the League of Personal Safety fails to induce a sense of safety. Jack continues to make the connection explicit when one of Wells’s newspapers prints a photograph of Joanna that “had been used by her publisher to advertise her latest book.”84 Jack declares that Wells “is as bad as [a Kuklux man],” although Joanna puts on a brave face and says that the photograph in the paper might be good publicity for her books.85 As



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Marie Corelli feared in her real-­life case, the publicity photograph generated for Joanna as a writer takes her image out of her control, exposes her. The celebrity system of the publishing industry helps her to sell books, but it is also what makes her more vulnerable to the League. That Joanna, one of the main characters working against the League, is a writer is no coincidence. Her narrative skills are used as a corrective against the League’s refusal either to consider the mitigating circumstances of the motor accidents or to tell its own story. Joanna is a particularly well-­suited opponent for the League because she had begun her writing career as a typist. The female typist-­turned-­novelist was a common trope at the end of the nineteenth century, when using a typewriter was an appealing metaphor for the creation of mass (i.e., automatic) fiction. Sir Julian Daymont, who had initially hired her as his secretary, “pointed out how much more profitable it is to type a thousand words of one’s own than a thousand words of somebody else’s.”86 The mechanical and efficient nature of Joanna’s work on the typewriter aligns her with the League, but her transition from typist to novelist allows her to balance efficiency with a concern for narrative. Indeed, one of the early twists in the plot is the discovery that Joanna’s typewriter has been used to produce the initial L.P.S. warning letters. Sir Julian recognizes a particularity in the type that appears in the letters, something he has noticed is produced also by Joanna’s typewriter, and this leads him to, if not exactly suspect Joanna, feel the need to confront her and enlist her help. He admits that he thinks her capable of simplifying details for an abstract cause in which she believes when he tells her, “I was very relieved, you will remember, when you discovered for yourself the fundamental flaw in the apparent logic of the Suffragist window-­breakers.”87 Joanna is almost a sort of New Woman, but not quite. Sir Julian, who is himself a writer, particularly a writer of detective novels, is for his own reasons a perfect candidate to pursue the League. In contrast to the Motor Kuklux, which wishes to escape narrative, Daymont submerges himself in it. His taking on of this “real-­life” case conflates his character with that of his famous literary creation, the detective Vergil White. Jack at times even refers to Sir Julian by that name. The satisfying simultaneity of being both writer and character mirrors Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous interest in the George Edalji case. In that

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historic case, Doyle proved the innocence of an Indian parson’s son who was wrongly accused of, among other things, sending offensive anonymous letters and postcards. As a result of Doyle’s investigation and reopening of the case, Edalji was cleared, and the incident led to the creation of England’s Court of Criminal Appeal in 1907. The likeness between Doyle and Flowerdew’s Sir Julian Daymont would have been clearly recognizable to contemporary readers of The Seventh Post Card, and indeed it was invoked in a satirical review of the novel in the humor magazine Punch.88 Just as Doyle made the Edalji case of interest through his rereading of the facts, Daymont renarrativizes the Motor Kuklux as he tries to apprehend it. Finally, Jack, although not a writer, is similar to Joanna in the way he tempers his mechanical inclinations, and he is similar to Sir Julian in his pursuit of justice. Initially, Jack is also suspected of being the sender of the catalytic L.P.S. letter because he had access to Joanna’s typewriter. Joanna remembers that he had been typing something he refused to show her; Jack later reveals that it was a love letter to her. Jack’s particular interest in motorcars sets him in direct opposition to the League, and the novel describes him as having “an almost equal fondness for machinery and animals.”89 He bridges a new technological age with a previous pastoral mode, unlike the Motor Kuklux, which uses technological simplification to attempt an impossible return to simpler times. Likewise, the career of barrister that Jack’s rich and controlling grandfather has chosen for him places him squarely against the Motor Kuklux’s form of vigilante justice. Despite the fact that the profession is not necessarily one of his own choosing, “the idea of proving the innocence of an accused man against overwhelming circumstantial evidence had its appeal for him.”90 His ideal of overcoming circumstantial evidence in the courtroom takes the opposite route from the League’s method of operation and requires engagement in the judicial narrative. Moreover, Jack’s interest is for the defendant rather than for the plaintiff. Any sympathy the League may have garnered through its mistaken pursuit of justice disappears when a plot twist involves Joanna in a car crash while she is driving Jack’s car. The novel itself gives all the necessary, and even excessive, circumstantial evidence. Joanna swerves to avoid a horse-­drawn vehicle full of passengers, the driver of which is clearly in



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the wrong, endangering herself and injuring a pedestrian as she tries to minimize possible casualties. The pedestrian, an old tramp, dies in the hospital, but the exact cause of his death is unclear. One of the doctors is accused of malpractice in the case, but Joanna selflessly testifies in court on his behalf. A definite sense of irony is created by the fact that Joanna, who, along with Sir Julian, had been pursuing the League, is now being pursued by the League. In opposition to the actions taken by the L.P.S. is the burgeoning romance between Jack and Joanna. Their love story provides a direct counterpoint to the erasure of narrative associated with the League and the postcard. While the novel, through the detectives, renarrativizes the League’s actions, Jack and Joanna’s love story is constantly being threatened. Joanna’s accident scares Jack into professing his love for her for the first time, as he fears that she has been seriously injured. The catalyst for the beginning of their relationship is the same as that for the beginning of the League’s pursuit of Joanna. The imminent arrival of the League’s fatal postcard to Joanna threatens to erase indiscriminately all possibility of a future together for the young couple. The mystery of the League of Personal Safety is solved only when Jack and Joanna are free to live happily ever after. Also imperative to this happy ending, however, are the uncovering of Milldane’s story and the recuperation of the postcard. Both processes are begun at the same time through a postcard that unearths the truth about Milldane: “On the day that Sir Julian began his investigations—­the day he went to Ambleham Abbey—­ a post card came here for Mr. Milldane from a niece of his at Bedford, and Sir Julian thought it worthwhile to go and see her.”91 After tracking down the niece through the postcard, Sir Julian learns from her that Milldane had lived most of his life in India, and after finally making his fortune there, he had come back to England and married a young and beautiful wife. Six months after the wedding she had been run over by a car and killed. The niece also mentions that he was never quite the same afterward, and “that the tragedy turned his brain.”92 This story not only ascribes a motive to Milldane’s actions but also bestows a “face” on the League. From the niece, Daymont is also able to get a sample of Milldane’s writing, and he discovers that it matches the writing in the photographed copies of the warning postcards. It turns out that the postcards

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were personal, written in the killer’s own hand, despite Daymont’s misgivings at the beginning of the novel—­they were as personal as Milldane’s reasons for beginning the League of Personal Safety. Flowerdew’s The Seventh Post Card allows earlier fears about the nature of the new postcard to resurface only to put them finally to rest. What was dangerously ambiguous in sender and recipient is now clarified. The novel occupies the strange position of both exposing how easy, even inevitable, terror via postcard is and neutralizing the threat in a manner that reinstates the “normative” function of the postcard. By the same token, The Seventh Post Card offers a serious critique of new mass media forms while being part of their apparatus. What becomes clear as a result of these contradictory forces is their symbiotic nature. The same dynamic holds true for Flowerdew’s career, particularly in the way he disseminated his own writing. Beginning at its earliest stage, his career evidences both the opportunities and the difficulties that would-­be professional writers faced at the turn of the twentieth century. Like postcards, literary texts (then more than ever) traveled between countries and took less expensive forms in order to reach larger audiences. The market for fiction in English in the nineteenth century was a transatlantic one, with England being the largest exporter, to the nations of its Commonwealth as well as to the United States. Moreover, the end of the nineteenth century saw the rise of pulp fiction in both England and the United States. In this increasingly competitive and global field, speed of publication was of the essence. Flowerdew, caught up in the transition, wavered between giving in to the demands as well as the monetary rewards of new mass fiction publication and adherence to the older, more prestigious models of publishing. The almost simultaneous publication of The Seventh Post Card in both England and the United States, but in completely different formats, is a case in point. To stay competitive, publishers were willing to experiment with both the pathways by which they obtained their materials and their forms of distribution. Americans were reading more British books than ever. As Michael Winship shows, from 1828 to 1868, Britain’s exports of books grew by a factor of fifteen (while its imports only tripled in size), and Britain exported mainly to the United States.93 American publishers relied on a steady stream of British fiction to satiate the American reading public’s



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increasingly voracious appetite. The largest publishing houses, such as Boston’s Ticknor and Fields, had agents in London to give them a competitive edge. A note that Ticknor and Fields sent in 1856 to one such agent, Nicholas Trubner, reveals that the publishing house intended for him not only to negotiate with authors but also to discover new works. It ends with, “Will it not be a good plan for you to enquire of publishers occasionally what is talked of as coming out?”94 The note reveals a sense of urgency in publishing at the time: even by the mid-­nineteenth century, speed of publication was essential to maintaining a competitive edge. By the time a review of a new British novel appeared in the United States, another publisher often had already secured the American rights. An example is Aurora Floyd, by best-­selling British author Mary Elizabeth Braddon. First serialized in Temple Bar Magazine from January 1862 to January 1863, Aurora Floyd was published in book form by William Tinsley immediately afterward. A review of the book appeared in the London magazine The Athenaeum on January 31, 1863. The novel was published that same year in the United States—­despite the ongoing Civil War—­ by T. B. Peterson and Brothers in Philadelphia and Harper & Brothers in New York, as well as by the Confederate press West & Johnson in Richmond, Virginia. Henry James’s review of the transatlantic sensation did not appear in The Nation until November 9, 1865. Speed increasingly mattered because of piracy. In the middle of the nineteenth century, a courtesy system was still in effect among publishers internationally, since no formal international copyright laws existed. In 1874 the Lakeside Library, using this loophole, began harmlessly enough by offering for sale cheap paperback reprints of both British and American classics. However, as demand increased, “library” publishers began reprinting not only British classics but also works by contemporary British authors without paying advances, breaking the unspoken agreement concerning foreign publication rights. Lydia Cushman Schurman describes a situation in which Harper & Brothers paid seventeen hundred pounds for George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda only to have the work pirated by a company that sold copies of it for only twenty cents each.95 A British novelist complained of the speed of this kind of piracy: “Within a few days after its completion in England, every prominent work of fiction is sold all over the United States.”96

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The 1890s brought radical change to the world of Anglo-­American publishing through international copyright laws, which were finally passed in 1891, effectively killing library publishing. The vacuum in cheap literature that this created spurred on the magazine revolution spearheaded by Frank Munsey, which captured the part of the literary market previously held by dime novels. Munsey had been experimenting with the magazine form since the 1880s, but in 1893 he dropped the price of his magazine to ten cents, making up the revenues by selling more space in the magazine to advertisers. Most other magazines that contained fiction at the time were priced around twenty-­five cents. By cutting his price by more than half, Munsey greatly increased his magazine’s circulation. In 1896, he launched the first all-­fiction magazine printed on pulp paper, The Argosy. Other publishers, such as Street & Smith, one of the great dime-­novel houses, soon followed suit, and Munsey himself created more competition by introducing additional pulp magazines, such as The Cavalier, experimenting until he felt the market was saturated with that particular form. It was during this time of radical change that Flowerdew began publishing his fiction. His output reflects the same strategy of diversification that was evident among publishers at large. On the one hand, some of his earliest stories were published in newspapers, both in England and abroad. Several short stories credited to Herbert Flowerdew appeared in newspapers in New Zealand and Australia, such as “The Cure of Cantyll,” which was published in the Western Mail in Perth on March 9, 1895. These stories had a resolutely sensational character, along the lines of crime fiction. On the other hand, Flowerdew sought book publication as well, a sign of his aspiration to write “serious” fiction. The first book he published was his experimental work In an Ancient Mirror, which caused some confusion and received mixed reviews when it appeared in 1897. Recognition for Flowerdew came with his second novel, A Celibate’s Wife, in 1898. Aside from receiving favorable press in London periodicals such as the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, Flowerdew’s novel was mentioned in a regular New York Times column called “London Literary Letter.”97 The column’s British author, William L. Alden, may have disapproved of “powerful” novels like Flowerdew’s on the grounds that they were indecent or blasphemous, but he did take



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Flowerdew seriously, comparing his work to Somerset Maugham’s and referring to the “most respectable critics” who had opinions about Flowerdew’s novel that differed from his. However, being taken seriously as a novelist did not ensure financial success.98 Between 1897 and 1914, Flowerdew’s literary output was immense, and he continued to diversify. He published fourteen novels and numerous stories in newspapers, and he also began to publish in magazines. The U.S. literary market became more and more important to him, principally for his crime fiction, which was more accessible to Americans than his other work. In 1907, he entered the world of American pulp magazines in full force with three different stories under both his real name and his pseudonym, Nowell Cay. The use of both names suggests that Flowerdew adopted the pseudonym to avoid glutting the market with stories under his real name rather than for some other reason. These three stories were published in three different magazines owned by Munsey (Munsey’s own attempt to avoid glutting the market): The Argosy, The Scrap-­book, and All-­Story Magazine. From 1910 onward, Flowerdew’s novels themselves took a definite turn toward the more marketable detective story. Part of the convenience of this was that, already conforming to the genre requirements of pulp magazines, Flowerdew was able to serialize two of his novels almost immediately in The Cavalier after their publication in London. At the turn of the century serialization typically brought in more money than bound books, although it was the latter that confirmed a writer’s reputation. Flowerdew’s Villa Mystery appeared in five installments in 1913, and The Seventh Post Card was published under the title “The Motor Ku-­klux” in four installments in 1914. The Seventh Post Card underwent important paratextual changes in its conversion to magazine form. Its new, more sensationalist title was particularly evocative for an American audience and called attention to the violence in the story. Moreover, The Cavalier illustrated the first installment with an image meant to shock: a sinister-­looking goggled motorist running down a well-­dressed man (as if the motorist were part of the Motor Kuklux rather than its purported victim). These changes reveal similarities between publishing practices at the time and the principle that Flowerdew critiques in his novel. Against the backdrop of the importance

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of speed in the publishing world at the turn of the twentieth century, Flowerdew’s exploration of the compelling but dehumanizing force of speed becomes even more salient. The Seventh Post Card, as much as it faults automotive speed and the mass media, also dramatizes the mechanisms and networks that make pulp fiction possible at the turn of the century and is, at best, ambivalent about them. The world of publishing at the turn of the twentieth century, especially the transatlantic exchange between the United States and Britain, allowed writers like Flowerdew to make a living through their writing, but it came at a cost. As Michael Denning points out in his seminal work on pulp fiction, Mechanic Accents, “The tendency of the industry [of popular fiction] was to shift from selling an ‘author,’ who was a free laborer, to selling a ‘character,’ a trademark whose stories could be written by a host of anonymous hack writers and whose celebrity could be protected in court.”99 The alternating anonymity and celebrity typified in the figure of the postcard could be empowering, but it could also prove to be a liability for writers. The postcard as new media both made visible what had previously been unseen and created more opportunities for going unseen. The ambiguity occasioned by widespread circulation in combination with limited writing space and the appropriability of images gave rise to the postcard’s possible nefarious uses, from simple pranks all the way to death threats. New media discourse keeps open the possibilities of what new media can know and do, for better or for worse, whether or not these things actually become reality. All the while, this discourse eclipses old media’s own liberatory and repressive power. The postcard created new pathways of connection that redirected these old possibilities but did so in ways that were not always immediately legible. Figure 25 serves as a microcosm of the postcard’s ambiguity, and I remain curious about the reaction of this card’s recipient. The oddly beautiful and uncertain image on the front, of a small boat either being rescued from choppy waters or setting out in them, is matched by its message. A “Virgil A Byers” writes to “Miss Sena Iverson”: “My dear Miss Sena:—­I expect you wonder who I am, or who this is writing. Well, I am the person you sent those hides to. They pleased me very much. I already had a coyote and rabbit hide, but now have quite a collection. I certainly

f ig u re 2 5 . Artistic postcard of “the better kind” sent in thanks to a virtual stranger.

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thank you many times for them.” Would Miss Sena have been intrigued by this postcard and the stranger who sent it to her, or would she have found the communication rather unsettling coming from an unknown man on the other side of the country? It is impossible to tell, just as Mr. Byers’s true purpose in sending the postcard remains opaque. What does come across is a sense of wonder at the possibilities of the medium and the contact it makes possible. On this wonder hinge both delight and fear.

4 The Voracious Postcard The Craze of Collecting

T

he late nineteenth-­century “postcard craze,” as it was often called in England and the United States, included not only the sending of postcards but also their collection. Newspaper reporting on the phenomenon cited the millions of postcards passing through the post offices of various countries annually and also frequently referred to the numbers and methods of collectors. An article that appeared in the New York Daily Tribune in 1901 connects the two, reporting that “the sending of these cards from Europe is particularly in vogue, and it is there that the practice of collecting and preserving them has grown into a perfect mania.”1 It mentions individuals with collections of postcards numbering in the thousands, focusing in particular on Belle Ward Campbell, an Englishwoman who became internationally famous for starting a worldwide postcard collecting club for women, complete with badges so that members could recognize each other when traveling.2 Theorizing collections brings a new set of concerns to the postcard as new media. At first glance, collections seem necessarily to be connected with the old. Yet, as Susan Stewart writes in On Longing, one of the seminal critical works on the collection: “The collection seeks a form of self-­ enclosure which is possible because of its ahistoricism. The collection replaces history with classification, with order beyond the realm of temporality. In the collection, time is not something to be restored to an origin; rather, all time is made simultaneous or synchronous within the 157

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collection’s world.”3 The annihilation of time, in fact, aligns the collection with new media. Because of the anxiety that the collecting of new media produces, it is often carried out under the guise of archiving.4 While a traditional collection creates a world, a collection of new media threatens/promises to create the world. This world contains not only everything that can be represented but also other means of representation—­ other media. Examining the discourse around the postcard, especially in discussion of its role as a collectible, reveals the postcard’s all-­consuming nature as new media explicitly. It was seen as capable, for better or worse, of representing everything. This representation, however, was not quite static and threatened to escape its bounds. One of the fascinating things about the postcard as collectible is the way its use value as mode of communication haunted it. Even as a postcard collection attempted to catalog the world and thus make it available to the collector, it constantly signaled the desire for the world to speak back, as well as the fear of what would happen if it became autonomous again. In this, the postcard as new media had affinities with the logic of colonialism. The desire of the postcard was represented as a totalizing one. Rudyard Kipling explores the use of the postcard and other modern media to colonize from within in his short story “The Village That Voted the Earth Was Flat.” Bram Stoker’s Dracula takes reverse, or internal, colonization one step further by showing how media can make us susceptible to our own appropriation. Instead of us using it, or even it using us, it becomes us. A poem printed in the magazine The Picture Post Card in 1902 gives a sense of the seemingly limitless optimism that the postcard inspired in its early days as new media. “Cartolyrica” both praises and charges the postcard: Go, little Card, in happy strength, Make all thy Beauty known; From West to East Let many feast On Grace so sweetly grown. There’s nought can bar thee ’neath the sun, In Peace bind ev’ry race in one.5



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The writer of the poem imagines that the postcard has the ability, as well as the duty, to circulate freely throughout the world and unite “ev’ry race in one.” Despite the admission that the card is “little,” the tone of the poem is oddly militaristic, emphasizing the postcard’s “strength” before its “beauty” and insisting that it cannot be stopped. In its civilizing mission, the postcard here gains specifically late nineteenth-­century imperialist connotations. Going from “West to East” may fit the rhyme but it is also the general direction of imperialism. The words “little Card” could easily be replaced by “Britannia” to create a conventional paean to empire. The poem takes the form of an apostrophe to a postcard, but the agent is ambiguous. Does this undertaking fall to the lot of the individual sender, a larger national entity, or something else entirely? Moreover, how exactly is the postcard to carry out its utopic mission of unity? What else might be bound up in this process besides making “all thy Beauty known”? One response that critics have provided to these questions centers on the “colonial postcard,” defined as a postcard that visually depicts colonized peoples, usually photographically, especially if the postcard was produced by or circulated within the metropole. Critics of the colonial postcard, led by Malek Alloula, thus have focused primarily on the visual aspect of the medium.6 Under that rubric, individual postcards from the turn of the twentieth century have provided examples of how colonized peoples were represented by the metropole and how those images may have been used. To see was to know and to possess—­the images “united” colony with metropole. Circulated on postcards, they familiarized the people of colonial powers with their nations’ possessions and allowed them to participate vicariously and symbolically in that possession. Critics have read these postcard images as part of the material reality of colonialism (that they existed in the first place was a sign of domination) but also as one of colonialism’s constituting fabrications. Alloula and critics after him have focused on the ways in which the images represent the fantasies of the colonizers, especially fantasies of a sexual nature. Critics have correctly identified colonial postcard images alternately as part of the Foucauldian power/knowledge complex and as a means of fantasy projection. The Algerian women featured on the postcards analyzed by Alloula remain infinitely available for appropriation. Figure 26 shows a postcard

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with the image of “Belle Fatma chez elle.” She is the same woman who appears, in the same setting, on the postcard “Algérie—­Belle Fatma” in Alloula’s The Colonial Harem, but in a slightly different pose. The postcard in Alloula’s book has a postmark of 1906, while “Belle Fatma” comes from a subsequent series and was sent decades later, in 1933. The “beautiful Fatma” is not an individual but a construct. Tunisian dancer Rachel Bent-­Eny first went by the name “la belle Fatma” when she appeared at the 1878 Exposition Universelle in Paris, and in subsequent years, multiple dancers used that name.7 “Belle Fatma” came to stand for “a generic, undulating, colonized woman,” especially after French authorities sought to increase interest in France’s colonies by offering displays of exotic dancers and, in particular, the so-­called danse du ventre, or belly dance, at the Paris world’s fairs of 1889 and 1900.8 The 1906 postcard takes a colonized woman out of context and imagines both a name and a nationality for her. Here “Belle Fatma” is not dancing, but she retains the exotic and erotic connotations of being on display. The caption for the 1933 postcard further displaces her, especially in time. Saying this is “beautiful Fatma at home” calls attention to her complete availability to the viewer, even in her private space, as noted in other examples by Alloula. It is important to note that the concept of the colonial postcard, as popularized by Alloula, is anachronistic. The names of the collectible postcard series featured in The Colonial Harem do not make any reference to the “colonial”; instead the series are named “Scénes et types,” “Collection Idéale,” and “Collection Régence.” Colonialism has a vested interest in annexing the “other” representationally even as it does so materially. Algeria needs to be seen as part of France, rather than a separate entity, for its subjugation to be legitimate. At the same time, colonialism’s goal of domination requires differentiation and specificity. This is why the British periodical The Picture Postcard could feature both an advertisement establishing “picture postcards as LINKS OF EMPIRE” (a series of photographic postcards produced by Algernon E. Aspinall representing the West Indies) and the following thoughts: “The utility and the chances of sale of such cards as these is undeniable, for by their means the Mother Country knows what is going on in her Colonies, a topographical record is established, and the collector finds the result of their perusal certainly beneficial.”9 The postcard both links the empire together and shows how

f ig u re 2 6 . “Belle Fatma chez elle” (Beautiful Fatma at home) from 1933. This is a reworked image from at least as early as 1906, demonstrating the constructedness of “Fatma.”

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different metropole and colony are, justifying the colony’s exploitation by the metropole. While the critical work on colonial postcards has been invaluable, much insight has been lost because of the failure to consider colonial postcards within the wider context of the postcard medium at the turn of the twentieth century. In his book on Philippine postcards from 1900 to 1920, during the American occupation of the Philippines, Jonathan Best writes that photographs of “food vendors, dry-­goods shops, hemp workers, water carriers, tradespeople, and workers of every variety . . . all found their way onto postcards,” but he mistakenly assumes that “the subject matter went far beyond what the average tourist or local buyer might want.”10 During the postcard’s early days, as was often pointed out even at the time, nothing was too big or too small to be featured on a postcard—­it was not only the famous and the exotic that appeared. Many of the same conventions governed representations of domestic scenes and figures, and colonial ones. Best’s conclusion that “the newly arrived Americans, exuberant with a sense of colonial, manifest destiny, wanted to document and collect everything, and send pictures home to their curious relatives and friends” thus represents only half the story.11 The “colonial” impulse of the postcard is, in fact, inseparable from its condition as new media as well as its status as collectible. Moreover, postcards are a fantastical medium regardless of the images depicted. Alloula is correct in calling postcards of colonial subjects “the reflection of a reflection” but shortsighted in assuming that postcards always attempt to hide the fact that they convey fantasies.12 Alloula ends his book with one final example of the “colonial postcard”: “An Arabian woman with the Yachmak.”13 The woman’s face, all but her eyes, is covered by a veil, yet her breasts are indecently exposed. This very same postcard image is featured in a book titled Fantasy Postcards, published by William Ouellette approximately five years before Alloula’s book. “Fantasy postcards” constituted a recognized genre at the turn of the century—­ one that is difficult to pin down because of what Ouellette terms “unintentional fantasies.”14 Other postcards in his book also repeat certain tropes seen in The Colonial Harem, although with Western women. The point is not to minimize the role postcards played as new media in the colonial apparatus and its system of inequality but rather to recognize



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how colonialism stems from the analogous desire for a personal, collectible, world picture. From the very beginning, the public collected postcards, even when they were plain government-­issued cards without any illustrations. At this early stage, small circles of postcard collectors formed to trade with one another and debate the merits of various cards. The lack of aesthetic value did not seem to be a deterrent, despite complaints such as this from one collector, published in the American magazine The Post Card: “There appears to be great carelessness in the manufacture of our cards. We hope our new Post Master General will give us a new card soon, as the one now in use is anything but handsome; let us have something handsome and pretty.”15 Interest in postcards in the 1880s undoubtedly stemmed from the already established popular pastime of stamp collecting, which was intrinsically linked to national governments. The same year the postcard was first proposed and rejected, the Philatelic Society was founded in London, making stamp collecting an even more legitimate occupation. The 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris merged the souvenir with the new mode of communication, heightening the postcard’s use as well as its collectibility. The official postcard issued to commemorate the Paris fair featured the new Eiffel Tower and provided a means for fairgoers to inscribe themselves onto the event. Illustrated advertising cards—­ souvenir images of different pavilions and other fair sights, handed out by various companies for promotion purposes—­had long existed, but these new “world’s fair souvenirs” were personal. In addition to collecting and possessing postcards, fairgoers could inscribe themselves onto colonial images and send themselves out. The postcard’s invention at the end of the nineteenth century, and the accompanying new media discourse, coincides with the era of high colonialism as well as the peak of what David Cannadine has termed “invented tradition” in Britain.16 During this period, dominant national symbols became inseparable from imperial ones. As a medium, the postcard was the perfect vehicle for the blending of the two orders. The postcard exemplifies the colonial double bind. Under colonialism at the end of the nineteenth century, the dominant culture sought to “civilize” the other, which meant acculturation and absorption under the guise of unification, while maintaining the other’s discreet identity, one inferior to

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the dominant culture. Postcards sought to bridge the distance between different cultures while simultaneously increasing that distance, by making one culture “available” to postcard senders of another culture but also highlighting that culture’s otherness. The postcard’s new media discourse often presented the postcard as metonymic for civilization itself. Articles of the time that described “the picture postcard craze” stated that postcards were now being issued by every “civilized” country. Moreover, the 1901 New York Daily Tribune article mentioned above went further: “To-­day it is safe to say there is no country of the world, under civilized influence, that has not its list of illustrated post cards.”17 Even if a country itself were not civilized, it could still be under the “civilized influence” of a more developed country (either formally or informally colonized), and being displayed on postcards would be counted as a mark of this. One tongue-­in-­cheek item in The Picture Postcard joked, “Of all her once vast colonial empire, Spain now possesses but one solitary colony—­the island of Fernando Po, situated in the Bight of Biafra, opposite the Cameroons, West Africa. Still, there is one consolation left to Spain; remote and barbaric as is the spot, the island possesses picture post-­cards.”18 Moreover, the introduction of the use of postcards to the colonies as well as their depiction on postcards was seen as bringing civilization to remote areas. A 1902 New York Times article, ostensibly reporting on the death of the inventor of the postcard, seemed more interested in the “amusing” means “by which the use of the postcard has been forced upon reluctant governments, that of British India, for instance.”19 According to the article, Europeans who had grown accustomed to the convenience of the new medium began to balk at the Indian government’s backward regulations and took action. Postcards symbolically reordered British identity just as earlier postal innovations physically reordered England’s empire. This was not simply a matter of bringing the post’s “civilizing” influence to far-­flung colonies, but it affected and altered the heart of empire itself. Richard Menke and historians of the postal service in Great Britain have described how the post changed the physical face of London. Menke specifically mentions that postal reformers changed street names and house numbers, reenvisioned London as so many postal districts, and campaigned to cut actual holes into houses for the delivery of letters.20 Postcards, coming toward



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the end of postal reform, also reordered the city symbolically and made it readily available to all. Various industries and companies with their own vested interests played important roles in the way colonies were portrayed vis-­à-­vis not just the “motherland” but other dominant world powers as well. Figure 27 is a postcard from the “Lipton Series.” The back of the postcard adds the information that it was published by C. W. Faulkner & Co. Ltd., London, and that it was printed in England. These would seem to be normal markers of postcard production except for the fact that Lipton is the name of the tea company that probably commissioned the postcard. The image on the front reinforces its advertising function through the blatant repetition of the name Lipton, which appears on the roof of the building and on each bag of tea. However, because no other advertising markers appear, this can also be seen as an ethnographic postcard. The caption “Tea arriving at foot of Aerial Ropeway, Ceylon” is made to stand for the activity of the dark-­skinned natives. It normalizes their relationship to the foreign company. The postcard also normalizes the consumption of Lipton products by colonial powers. Although Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) was a British colony, this postcard was sent within the Unites States, another important market for Lipton. It was sent locally between Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, from a mother to her married daughter. The message has a chatty tone, with the mother asking, “How are you . . . this Beautiful A.M.” and sharing that she “just finished breakfast dishes.” One can imagine she may have had some of the tea produced in Ceylon—­it, and the postcard, has become a part of her daily life. In tracing the growing popularity of the postcard, the New York Daily Tribune article states: “The series idea was a happy discovery for the publishers, and did much to increase the trade. Among the first cards used in this country was the series produced at the World’s Fair in 1893” (the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition).21 Postcards featuring purely “colonial” subjects cannot be read outside the wider postcard network. Because it was seen as essentially collectible, the postcard cataloged and ordered the metropole in much the same way as it did the colonies. The postcard in its new media moment was itself colonial. It sought to subsume everything into its domain and make it available to the postcard

f ig u re 2 7 . “Tea arriving at foot of Aerial Ropeway, Ceylon,” a postcard from the “Lipton Series” published by C. W. Faulkner & Co. Ltd., London, and printed in England. Postcards such as these were often given as prizes by various companies.



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user. The same article, quoting a French periodical, claims that the postcard depicts “everything imaginable and a few other things besides.”22 While individual postcards break the world down into tiny, discrete images, the concept of the postcard is the impossible desire for postcards to represent everything, coupled with the fantasy of the absolute collection. The first world’s fair postcard “series” essentially represented views of an exhibition that was already a collection of representations of places, rather than necessarily an intentional series. The most popular subsequent series were those depicting geographic locations, or “view cards,” without markers of their artificiality. These postcards were meant to be read as the places themselves. Like the stereoscopic cards that preceded them, view cards, as opposed to other kinds of postcards, were considered orderly and educational. Although the power dynamics were vastly different, the postcard conducted this categorization on foreign, colonial, and domestic locations. In an astute critical essay on the postcarding of Paris, Naomi Schor calculates that the chief Parisian postcard producers published around ten thousand views of just the city itself.23 She also notes that while postcards depicting the colonies or “more primitive” regions of France might have focused on their picturesque qualities, views of Paris were more likely to depict what was modern about the city. “Civilized” surveillance played a role in both. Likewise, in her history of the postcard in Mexico, Isabel Fernández Tejedo refers to the systematic postcarding of Mexico City as part of Mexican president Porfirio Díaz’s pseudo-­European program of modernization. Surrounded by his circle of technocratic advisers, known as Los Científicos, Díaz believed that making the city knowable and viewable in the form of the new medium of the postcard fit his image of progress.24 However scientific and modern the postcarding project claimed to be, it was not objective. Schor points out that although it seemed as if Parisian publishers sought to represent everything, not all parts of the city were represented equally. She reasons that if the first, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth arrondissements of Paris were among the well represented, all the others, including “the high-­bourgeois sixteenth and seventeenth as well as the more working-­class eighteenth and nineteenth—­residential areas unlikely to be visited by tourists—­are underrepresented.”25 One such image from the sixteenth arrondissement appears

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on the postcard in Figure 28. It depicts the “Kiosque de la Musique du Ranelagh.” Ostensibly, the empty gazebo draws attention to the cultural advantages enjoyed by the rich, without making the rich themselves available for view. The park where the structure is located also seems surprisingly empty for a public space; only a few figures dot the background. Postcards conceptualized a place not only by its representation on the fronts of the cards but, in an interesting twist, also by the material presence of postcards in that place. Postcards sought to represent districts and towns comprehensively, and the postcards that were sold in those respective places served as representations of the locales as well. An article published in another turn-­of-­the-­century postcard magazine, The Poster and Post-­Card Collector, offers the following advice to postcard sellers: “Before a dealer selects his stock, he should study the neighbourhood in which his shop is situated. Cards which will sell well in Regent St. for 3d and 6d would remain on hand in Whitechapel if offered at 1d each.”26 While the article tantalizingly leaves out the specifics of these examples, it does make an attempt (albeit veiled) to establish a connection between

f ig u re 2 8 . “Paris (XVIe arrt)—­Kiosque de la Musique du Ranelagh.” This postcard produced in Paris provides an example of how all the arrondissements were postcarded, albeit unevenly.



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the class sensibility of a neighborhood and postcards: “There is also a class of card which appeals to people of artistic temperament, which we may term impressionist, which sell by reason of their picturesque and artistic qualities, and a certain proportion of these may be stocked in a good neighbourhood.”27 It notes also that among the only safe subjects are local views and images of the royal family, incidentally the two categories that map out the geographic body and represent the political one.28 Actors, on the other hand, are part of the subjective landscape. The postcard thrives on a reciprocal relationship with the places it depicts: postcards represent the sites that define a neighborhood, but it is also the postcard that defines the neighborhood as a site. Taken together, individual postcards of different but related sites point to a larger narrative—­one necessarily shaped by power. Ellen Handy observes what she calls the “postcard sublime” in the context of the landscapes of the American West produced by photographer William Henry Jackson, who midcareer became the director of one of the biggest publishers of postcards at the turn of the twentieth century, the Detroit Publishing Company. As Handy notes, despite the seeming triviality of the medium and its ephemeral nature, a strange effect takes place when a mass of different postcards of the same subject are considered as a whole: “The sublimity of the postcard genre’s imagining of the world is necessarily a collective phenomenon pertaining to postcards assembled in quantities, rather than a quality residing in individual cards.”29 Even for individual cards the same principle could apply, although not to the same degree. In her analysis of postcards of Amsterdam around 1900, Nancy Stieber sees a desire to make sense of a larger-­than-­life whole in certain postcards that contain multiple images: “These postcards showed Amsterdam fragmented in bits and pieces. But the mix of old and new in the tiny photographs was attempting to create a comprehensible wholeness through the kaleidoscope of images.”30 The postcard sublime is made most visible through the act of collecting. Writers for The Picture Postcard often reiterated the importance of the “topographical” or “view” card, especially for the collector. Editor E. W. Richardson considered view cards the crux of the respectability of the picture postcard and its ultimate value as a collectible. In a letter to Richardson, one reader, E. Watson-­Thomas, showed his agreement by

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saying that a simple postcard album is sufficient for decorative cards, “but for the topographical section, which, after all, is the most important branch of the art, the cabinet is perfect.”31 The cabinet method of display allowed the postcard collector easy access to a city that was both decentralized and artificially unified. Devoting specialized furniture to a postcard collection emphasized its value as well as gave it connotations of stability and completion. Novice postcard collectors were advised to begin their collections with view cards, not only because these were seen as the most reputable kinds of postcards but also because such cards helped to delineate their collections.32 Focusing on collecting only images of London’s public parks, for example, theoretically allowed a collector to obtain all the available cards eventually, thus completing the collection. However, the postcard collection’s lack of closure was inevitable. Because of the competitive nature of the postcard trade in the postcard’s moment as new media, publishers were always looking to introduce novelties and to produce cards that were different. Publishers photographed famous monuments from every imaginable angle, seeking to capture images that had not been seen before. The view postcard thwarted “pure” collectors in their quest to close their collections by refusing to be delimited not only by space but also by time. Postcards were hand-­colored to represent different times of day, despite the objections of many aesthetes to artificial night views, increasing the number of views of a site needed for total completion of a collection. Even more significant was that some of the very first postcards were already “old-­time” postcards. Postcard publishers dug into photographic archives and reprinted images of cities “as they were” decades prior. Rather than helping to “freeze” a world, postcards endlessly expanded it. The postcard also constantly sought to represent more places. For view cards, this came in the form of narrowing the postcard’s focus to increasingly local, increasingly minute detail, as well as expanding the selection of views internationally when that option was available to the publisher. In 1902, The Picture Postcard claimed, “A sign of the times, and one indicating a healthy growth of the movement, is the increasingly large number of local printers and stationers who print and publish their own post-­ cards illustrating their own cities or districts.”33 As Naomi Schor observes about the postcarding of Paris, the postcarding of England was seen as a



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sign of modernity as well as an indication of the popularity of the new medium. The optimism of postcard publishers during this time seemed boundless—­nothing would be left uncharted, with all the colonial connotations that endeavor implied. In 1906, The Picture Postcard Annual and Directory quoted the publishing firm of M. Blum & Degen regarding the final frontier: “We would not venture to say that they have views of Mars or the Shady Planet, although the time might not be far distant when we shall have our sets illustrating the topography of the sidereal system!”34 Many publishers artificially removed people from the images in their view cards, to provide unobstructed, though fabricated, representations of the sites. Yet in order for postcards to catalog a place fully, they needed to include its inhabitants along with its architecture. This type of cataloging was a common impulse in the second half of the nineteenth century, as cultural historians have noted. According to Deborah Poole, before the postcard, the carte de visite and the type photograph “catered to European curiosity about the physical appearance of Africans, South Americans, Asians, and Polynesians, as well as the more familiar, but equally ‘exotic,’ peasants of rural France, Russia, and Spain.”35 By the turn of the century, however, these images were more widely available. The circulation of postcards of the “other” was less about curiosity surrounding the individual types per se and more about the creation of a comprehensive world picture—­it was about possessing the “set,” which also included specimens in one’s own backyard. George Robert Sims, British journalist, author, and social reformer, exemplifies the impulse to observe and document all of London’s characters, as though they were an inherent part of the city’s geography. In his preface to the three-­volume 1902 series Living London, for which he served as editor, Sims claims: “The Life of London in all its phases and aspects has never until now been exhaustively attempted. . . . That purpose is to present for the first time to the English-­speaking public a complete and comprehensive survey of the myriad human atoms which make up this ever-­changing kaleidoscope, the mightiest capital the world has ever seen.”36 Rather than desiring to show or illuminate something never before seen, Sims makes clear that what he considers innovative about his work is its ability to juxtapose and connect disparate elements. His project aligns so closely with the project of the postcard that it is little wonder

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that each reader who subscribed to the Living London series received also a series of postcards. According to The Picture Postcard, these cards included diverse images, with captions such as “Oriental types in London,” “A Lady Pavement Artist,” and “Searching a suspect at the docks.”37 A 1904 article that appeared in the magazine The Post-­Card Connoisseur describes another series of postcards in the same vein titled “Odd corners of London,” which includes the postcard “Behind the Counter of a Post Office.” This card presents a vantage point that shows the backs of the young women working as postal clerks and the faces of the people doing business at the counter. According to the article’s author, the postcard’s appeal is that “the view has therefore the interest of novelty as well as actuality.”38 Once again, just as in the postcarding of London neighborhoods, the desire for novelty feeds into the already present desire for completion, the covering of all angles. This happens to the point where the postcard becomes self-­referential, representing even itself. This postcard image, located within a post office, moves in that direction. Postcards featuring postcard factories, stores, and vendors are the trend’s apogee. In addition to “novelty,” “Behind the Counter of a Post Office” has the coveted quality of “actuality.” Effective postcarding includes not only geography and people but also current climates, fads, and events. The postcard also had a kind of journalistic function when it was new and chronicled the new. Journalism itself entered a new age on both sides of the Atlantic at the turn of the twentieth century.39 The rise of investigative and sensationalist journalism increased the circulation and influence of periodicals, and the press was aligned with the new postcard in multiple ways. On a basic level, magazines, newspapers, and other periodicals regularly gave away postcards to subscribers (Living London modeled itself on newspapers in this respect). The new postcard was also, ostensibly, the subject of new periodicals. The Picture Postcard published news stories related to picture postcards, usually featuring new postcard series or publishers, but the reach of the magazine’s coverage often extended beyond those as well. For example, a 1902 article notes that although “the card collector knows no politics,” the magazine’s writers “cannot refrain from referring to the treaty of alliance between Great Britain and Japan,” since that treaty would be likely to spark new interest in postcard collecting. The article also offhandedly mentions that of all



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the countries of Europe, England must have the most influence on Japan.40 The Picture Postcard constantly reaffirmed the postcard’s national and imperial import, since one of its explicit aims was to show why postcards should be taken seriously. What surfaces time and again is how the postcard, both as artifact and as medium, provides a map of the geographical and cultural landscape of the British Empire even as the postcard was helping to create it. The postcard industry aligned itself with journalism in technique as well. A 1906 trade book titled The Photographic Picture Post-­Card, for Personal Use and for Profit points out that “the faculty of deciding what will be popular, either generally, or in a given time and place, is an instinct—­ the journalistic instinct. It is a natural gift, varying in power in different persons.”41 This “journalistic instinct” is the ability to foretell whether something will interest people before they have had a chance to experience it for themselves. Postcard publishers often saw themselves as producing an alternative form of journalism. A type of novelty postcard introduced in various countries depicted a page of a newspaper, either real or fictional, with images that appeared to be bursting from behind the page, creating a three-­dimensional effect.42 It was as if by being featured on a postcard, and sent individually rather than en masse, the news became “activated” in a way that did not happen with the newspaper alone. Moreover, with innovations in the postcard printing process and the advent of “real-­photo” postcards (described in chapter 3), postcard publishers were able to capture current events more quickly and completely than ever before, mirroring the journalistic rush for “scoops.” The 1906 Picture Postcard Annual and Directory features a story on a London printing studio that worked in tandem with postcard photographers and sellers to release postcards on the same day that an important event occurred. The article gives the following example: “The floods at Bray, Ireland, recently, were a matter of keen local interest, and the London studio received two photographs at eleven in the morning, from which they were ordered to make half-­tone blocks and print off a thousand postcards as quickly as possible. These were on a rail to the photographer by three in the afternoon.”43 The speed with which this process occurred seems to indicate that the postcard was trying to compete with the newspaper, yet after the postcards had been printed, the original photographs

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“were disposed of to two popular morning newspapers.” Newspapers and postcards were symbiotic rather than competitive. Postcards, however, had an advantage: they not only represented what was happening in the world but also created a total world picture that could be personalized by the sender. The postcard merged external events with internal events and made them collectible as well, blurring the line between fantasy and reality. A series that illustrates this well is “Life Model/Song Cards,” introduced by M. Bamforth & Company.44 Each of the postcards in the series featured a stanza of a popular song from a particular category of music; the lyrics were accompanied by a photograph of a model striking an artistic pose. Although the content of these postcards would not seem to warrant much urgency, the publisher claimed, “In fact, I only want an hour’s notice to illustrate any song on the market.”45 The focus on speed seems quite unnecessary except in the context of the postcard’s “personalization.” The subliminal expectation of the postcard at this time was that everything of personal as well as public importance would find its way into postcard form. This postcard fantasy is the mapping out of an emotive interior world as well as a political and physical one. “Song Card” postcards did this by sleight of hand. The image on the postcard in Figure 29 is one of a generic couple that has been matched with the lyrics.46 It is unclear whether the blissful pair are meant to represent the new couple formed after “another” has won the heart of the singer or a happy denouement to the question posed in the song. The important thing is that the sender has just heard the song and now sees it appear “in real life.” A postcard illustrating a popular song would thus need to be available at the time when the song was actually popular. Postcard totality required coverage over time as well as space, along with the belief that one’s personal world did or would eventually correspond completely with the “outside” world. While many indulged unthinkingly in the postcard fantasy of perfect representation, others demonstrated differing levels of awareness of the constructed nature of the postcard, perhaps most clearly seen when the subject itself was colonial.47 The Picture Postcard reprinted a quote from The Indian Social Reformer in its note “A Curious Hindu Character Card”: “A well-­known firm of photographers in Madras sent to native gentlemen



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f ig u re 2 9 . “Would you care if someone told you that another won my heart?” An example of a “Song Card.” Popular lyrics were often matched with stock images.

a picture postcard ‘with best wishes for a pleasant Pongul.’ There are three pictures on the card, representing respectively an ascetic, a religious procession, and a dancing-­girl! Asceticism, religious pomp, and a partiality for dancing girls seem to be the three prominent features of Hindu society which strike a foreigner.”48 Although a higher level of awareness of representation could reasonably be expected from a progressive journal such as The Indian Social Reformer, the quotation appeared in the popular magazine The Picture Postcard for a different reason. For The Picture Postcard, the problem with this postcard was the juxtaposition of three elements on one card, a style that departed from the magazine’s often-­ repeated aesthetic mantra of “One card, one view.” What might have gone completely unnoticed as the stereotypical subjects of three different postcards seems especially striking to the viewer when the images are combined. The proximity of the disparate characters, instead of producing the postcard sublime, makes them seem unbelievable and violates the fantasy of representation. The postcard in its new media moment functioned as a kind of virtual reality, maintaining the tension between play and very real effects. One

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Italian postcard in particular captured the attention of the public for this reason. A patent was granted to “Signor Volpini, of Milan” for a method of creating a postcard that changed colors. A story about the invention was syndicated in English-­language newspapers around the world: “Not only do these coloured picture postcards change under the varying conditions of the atmosphere, but by their changing foretell a change in the weather.”49 On the one hand, the postcard is presented as a pretty novelty, but on the other, it is intended to reflect reality and, indeed, influence the viewer’s perception of it. How the postcard might actually predict the weather (and with what accuracy) interests the writer of the article less than reading it as a sign of the “picture postcard craze.” Part of what allows for the postcard’s slippage of reality is its indexical quality, which comes not only from its association with photography but also from its association with place. In an article that appeared in The Picture Postcard in 1901, Beatrix Cresswell comments on the suitability of postcards for a “place collection”—­that is, a collection of objects that records the places one has visited: “A collection of stones is heavy, and nearly as difficult of identification as one of horseshoes; china is brittle, and photography expensive. So the devotee to Fashion’s latest craze cries not unreasonably, ‘Here is a place collection that costs next to nothing, weighs next to nothing, takes little room, tells its own story—­come look at my picture postcards!’”50 Cresswell considers the postcard to be superior to other objects for practical reasons (space, price, durability) but also because of its seemingly higher indexical quality. Although collecting stones literally allows one to bring back pieces of the places one visits, as Cresswell laments, stones do not point back to the places in an inherent way. Postcards, on the other hand, constitute a self-­referential collection. Each postcard “tells its own story” through the creation of its own world. In an earlier issue of The Picture Postcard, editor E. W. Richardson similarly describes the autonomy of the postcard but puts it in the context of the pleasure of the viewers of a collection rather than that of the collector. In comparing postcard collections with stamp collections, he points out that a postcard collection “affords pleasure not only to its proud possessor, but to every one of his or her friends who has an eye for the beautiful. Whereas, generally speaking, only philatelists can either appreciate



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or enjoy a collection of postage stamps, anyone can appreciate and derive intense pleasure from looking through a book of beautiful views beautifully reproduced.”51 Postcards, through their accessibility, seem to speak for themselves without the need for a human interpreter. Not everyone saw the postcard’s ability to stand alone in such a rosy light. For many, the autonomy of the postcard in its new media discourse came at the cost of the autonomy of the user. The author of a 1908 article published in Scribner’s Magazine describes resenting that friends send “post-­cards in black and white, post-­cards in colors, post-­cards of all the famous pictures, of all the cathedrals, views, mountains, hotels, donkeys, peasants, in all tourist-­Europe” and complains that the postcard “symbolizes the triumph of the commonplace, of the cheap-­and-­easy, the utter capitulation of individuality.”52 The “capitulation of individuality” comes as a result of the new media discourse whereby the new medium does all the “work,” including, in the postcard’s case, the work of personal communication with a friend. The postcard fantasy that all are represented and that anyone can find a postcard that perfectly expresses his or her subjective experience is seen in this light as emptying out the world of meaning. This reversal becomes the center of increasingly dark literature in which new media threaten to turn subject into object. If postcards allowed users to inscribe themselves onto any object (including images of other people), to own them and mark them as theirs, works by Rudyard Kipling and Bram Stoker raised the possibility that the objects could possess them, stand in for them, and even replace them, in turn. This was a fear akin to that of reverse colonization and figured in these authors’ stories in the same way. Among writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Rudyard Kipling is perhaps most closely associated with the colonial tenor of his day.53 Born in 1865 in India to an Anglo-­Indian family, he was sent to England to be educated when he was five years old; he then returned to India at sixteen, and at age twenty-­four he left again to seek his literary fortune. His experiences in India, despite their extreme otherness, are seen as part of Kipling’s own British heritage. Under the logic of empire, whereby what is imperial is national, Kipling can be perceived as almost hyper-­British because of that aspect of his identity. Yet he was always something of an outsider as well. His criticism of colonial officials

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(although not colonialism itself) first put him into conflict with his initial Anglo-­Indian readership. During those early years he claimed an affiliation with a metropolitan audience. After his move to London, however, he quickly satirized conditions there as well. As Ann Parry argues, neither side, it seemed to Kipling, “understood the reality of empire.”54 His ability to encompass disparate realities and present his own view as authoritative was part of what gave rise to his prominence as a writer of the British Empire. His iconic status was firmly established in 1907 when he became the first British writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. The secretary of the Swedish Academy, Carl David af Wirsén, gave a somewhat equivocal speech in Kipling’s honor. He first signaled a dichotomy between “idealist” writers and “writers who seem primarily concerned with mere externals and who have won renown especially for their vivid word-­picturings of the various phases of the strenuous, pulsating life of our own times.”55 For Wirsén, Tennyson exemplified the former and Kipling the latter. Ultimately, of the two, idealism mattered more for the Nobel Prize in Literature, but, Wirsén explained, the academy’s choice rested on the fact that Kipling also displayed idealist characteristics: “However, the gift of observation alone, be it ever so closely true to nature, would not suffice as a qualification in this instance. There is something else by which his poetical gifts are revealed. His marvellous power of imagination enables him to give us not only copies from nature but also visions out of his own inner consciousness.”56 The speech also highlighted Kipling’s well-­known connection to the press, an important part of the Kipling persona, especially as it related to his powers of “observation.” Kipling’s very first job upon his return to India as a teenager was at a newspaper. His first short stories also appeared in the newspapers that subsequently employed him. By 1912, when he published his short story “The Village That Voted the Earth Was Flat,” he had long been an internationally famous literary figure, but in this satire, he highlighted his love–­hate relationship with the press. In the story, three of the four main protagonists, including a narrator who is reminiscent of Kipling himself, are involved in the newspaper business. While motoring through the English countryside, they find themselves ill-­treated by the justice system in the provincial town of Huckley.



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They, along with another fellow sufferer and owner of music halls, Bat Masquerier, decide to enact their revenge using a variety of media outlets. Rather than simply writing a defamatory news story about the miscarriage of justice in Huckley, the group begins what amounts to the postcardization of the village. They write up Huckley from different angles and release these small stories one by one to the public that collects them. The protagonists use “real” representations of people, sights, and events in the town, but they caption everything to give an overall impression of Huckley as a backward and primitive place. What ensues, in essence, is the “reverse colonization” of the town, as the protagonists take over Huckley, “governing” it at a distance. Once the “news” is disseminated, the process becomes self-­perpetuating. From the beginning of the story, Kipling builds in an intentional slippage between modernity and primitivism, usually associated with the metropole and the colonies, respectively. On the one hand, it would seem that the four gentlemen—­Woodhouse, Ollyett, Pallant (a member of Parliament), and the narrator—­are the representatives of modernity and the metropole. They are introduced driving a car (speeding, in fact) and discussing a business proposition related to the newspaper world. But on the other hand, they are treated as “savages” by the justice system in Huckley, especially by the chairman of the bench, Sir Thomas Ingell, also a member of Parliament. Given Sir Thomas’s position as a representative of British authority, it is not a coincidence that Kipling writes of the character’s voice that it “would have justified revolt throughout empires,” and revolt against Sir Thomas’s rule is exactly what happens.57 In that context, the colonial association of Ollyett having “coir-­matting-­coloured hair” becomes salient.58 Similarly, Sir Thomas taunts Bat Masquerier as having a home address in Jerusalem. The fictional village of Huckley represents the quintessential rural heart of England. It is described as “a little pale-­yellow market-­town with a small, Jubilee clock-­tower and a large corn-­exchange,” indicating British agrarian roots and loyalty to the Crown.59 Huckley’s name and proximity to London suggest that a model for the town may have been the village/town of Hockley in Essex, where Kipling had spent some time. Hockley gained recognition in 1889 when it was connected to London by railroad (the story mentions a possible name change for the village, a

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change suggested by a railway company). Kipling treats Huckley as the kind of place that is central to British identity and marginal at the same time. There is something regressive about how stolidly provincial Huckley is, yet the interest, sometimes bordering on horror, of the story comes from precisely that fact. It is the last place that anyone would imagine could be appropriated and taken out of context by “foreigners.” The group’s scheme for revenge involves portraying Huckley as a primitive place, one in which the powers that be—­namely, Sir Thomas—­ are not fit to govern. Woodhouse, Ollyett, and the narrator begin the process through a series of seemingly random articles strategically placed in the newspapers they run. The first, written by the narrator, is a short article about the sighting of a hoopoe, a comparatively rare bird in England, which “had been seen at Huckley and had, ‘of course, been shot by the local sportsmen.’”60 To add to the haphazard feel of the piece, the narrator includes a careless retelling of the ancient Jewish tale of how the hoopoe got its crest from King Solomon. This first article sends the message that the inhabitants of Huckley are known brutes while also providing random and conversational bits of information. The second article, similar to the first, collects seemingly unrelated facts about Huckley merely to provide an impression of the place for the narrator’s newspaper’s “Mobiquity” series (articles about what can be seen on motorbike rides around London). The details about the village that are featured in this article include “the neglected adenoids of the village children,” the “glutinous native drawl,” pregnant cattle, and the “gipsy-­like” and “swart” face of the cattle’s owner (Sir Thomas).61 While some of these details have definite colonial connotations, such as poor health care for children and the mangling of the English language, others, such as the pregnant cattle, are fairly neutral. Simply slandering the village, and by extension Sir Thomas, would be rather straightforward, but the group has the very colonization of Huckley in mind. Ollyett claims that these initial articles have established an “arresting atmosphere” around Huckley. This functions according to postcard production. Various details of the town are isolated (or even invented) and associated with the name of the town, represented, and then made available for commentary. The success of the first short paragraph on the hoopoe is confirmed when the group receives letters from two inhabitants



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of Huckley contradicting the account of the shooting and one letter from the rector commenting on the Jewish fable. The inhabitants’ personal adoption of the information about Huckley, even for the purposes of refutation, is ultimately what allows the colonization of the village. This is so important that, after the hoopoe article, Ollyett, using a false name, writes a letter to the newspaper commenting on Huckley’s possible name change. This satisfactorily leads to a flurry of correspondence from individuals who think the idea preposterous as well as from the rector, who goes into detail about the most likely origins of the town’s current name. It is the combination of the text of the letters and the images provided by the newspapers that leads to the protagonists’ domination of Huckley. Once Huckley is an object of observation, it becomes a mine for competing interests. Central to the group’s goal is what Ollyett calls “the liftable stick, which means the ‘arresting’ quotation of six or seven lines,” which he also refers to as “the secret of power.”62 The group members are counting on everything they write being disseminated by individuals as well as by other papers. Every time another newspaper covers the same story, they take note and look on with satisfaction. Since among them they hold control of several publications, this has been their plan from the beginning, with the pseudonymous newspapers Cake and Bun switching off opportunities to publish articles involving Huckley, and thus giving the illusion of various centers of power. The main thing, however, is for Huckley to be taken apart, dissected, and circulated in various forms. This indeed happens when Ollyett, as editor of the Bun, surprisingly refuses to publish a letter sent by a doctor on the condition of the adenoids of children in Huckley, saying it is of no interest to his readers. The move yields profit when said doctor then submits the letter to a completely unconnected newspaper, which publishes it. The group’s purpose is served even when competing groups, the most obvious of which is the one to which Sir Thomas himself belongs, provide media coverage. Sir Thomas has another newspaper write up an account of Huckley as “a model village,” which only adds fuel to the fire, leading the plotting group members to express that they could not have done a better job themselves. What is considered “liftable” eventually becomes more than a few lines of text. We see this first when Pallant brings a copy of the Bun to a

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parliamentary meeting and raises it for all to see. Earlier, Pallant had asked Ollyett to put in a short paragraph on the possibility of Sir Thomas’s cows having foot-­and-­mouth disease, and Ollyett had reluctantly agreed without knowing why. During the session in the House of Commons, it becomes clear: Pallant brings in the article right after a heated discussion about the prohibition against importing Irish cattle because they might be diseased. Although Kipling himself was firmly against home rule for Ireland, his story aligns the havoc that the newspapermen wreak on Huckley with the Irish people’s lack of self-­determination. The group’s work advances another cliché of colonialism: the assumption that “primitive” people cannot be trusted with objects of cultural value, even if the culture is their own. Ollyett is filled with glee when, during the course of his weekend visits to Huckley for “research,” he discovers “material” that can be used to that effect. First, he learns that a “leper’s window” (a rare architectural feature sometimes found in old English churches) had been covered over when a new lavatory was installed in Huckley’s church. And second, he finds out that a fourteenth-­ century font has been lying forgotten in a sexton’s shed. News of this travesty is first broken in a serious architectural weekly. It produces the expected quotations from learned as well as popular media. At this point, the group has been so successful in the displacement of Huckley’s identity that the public reacts with an air of recognition, “Of course! This is just what Huckley would do!”63 From this primary cultural displacement, a material displacement is just a short step away. Ollyett has already bought the font for the relatively small sum of fifteen pounds, and Woodhouse donates it to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The villagers themselves begin, ironically, to perpetuate their own displacement. The sexton of the village complains that his own wife is selling postcards featuring a photograph of the font during its time in the shed. The appearance of actual postcards merely materializes the postcardization of the village that has already taken place. The narrator, similarly, “rescues” a native dance from obscurity, as any good colonial anthropologist would do. In fact, he intentionally misattributes the dance of another place and time to Huckley. The basis for his article on the village dance comes from William Hone’s Every-­Day Book (a real publication from 1826), but the narrator provides an invented



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name for the dance, the “Gubby.” He comments that the book makes an easy source for his purposes because of its fragmentary nature. Already a miscellany of odd practices from the past, it provides ready fodder for the type of attention he wishes to bestow on Huckley. By writing that the dance is still practiced “in all its poignant purity at Huckley, that last home of significant mediæval survivals,” he both identifies Huckley as backward and invites its appropriation.64 Up until this point in the story, the media men still feel dependent on the “raw” material of the village, which they then work into their desired public image of Huckley. After the invention of the medieval Gubby, this changes dramatically, both figuratively and literally. Ollyett has been impatient for the narrator to publish his piece on the Gubby, because that fiction will serve as the basis for what is to come. Ollyett wants to show the extent of Huckley’s suspension in time by publishing a story reporting that the village is so far removed from modernity that it continues to adhere to the medieval belief that the world is flat. Bat Masquerier sends in his team of music hall entertainers to create the mise-­en-­scène for “The Geoplanarians’ Annual Banquet and Exercises.” While an actual society of flat-­Earth believers exists, Masquerier pays the extraordinary sum of two thousand pounds to fabricate Huckley’s adherence to that philosophy. His group plies the villagers with food and drink, and they “vote unanimously” that the world is flat. To solidify and connect the work they have done up to this point, Masquerier and his group invent the steps to the Gubby, the performance of which they then film and photograph en plein air. For both of these “events,” the conversion into media form is what matters. Throughout the process of the group’s virtual takeover of Huckley, a tension exists between dealing with the village in the abstract and dealing with it concretely. After the initial incident, the only “primary” materials from Huckley that the group members take back to London are the parish history written by the rector and, not coincidentally, picture postcards. The narrator is the first to draw attention to the usefulness of abstraction. While Ollyett visits Huckley every weekend in the initial stages of their plan, the narrator deals with the village “in the abstract” and then is surprised at his success in creating an image of Huckley. Bat Masquerier, likewise, masterminds the Geoplanarians’ banquet at a

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distance. While it seems to be a mere accident that the narrator deals with Huckley abstractly, Masquerier’s choice is intentional: “Local colour is all right after you’ve got your idea. Before that, it’s a mere nuisance.”65 Abstraction helps the group members in their process of isolating details and facts about Huckley and then rearranging and reproducing them out of context. They do this easily with items in the parish history, but postcards are themselves isolated details, always signaling to a greater and ultimately unassemblable whole. When the group returns to Huckley, the village seems small in comparison to what they have created. The different parts enumerated—­“the alcoholic pub; the village green; the Baptist chapel; the church; the sexton’s shed . . .”—­produce less of an impact in situ than they had when dispersed in their various forms. When framed and commented upon, like postcards, they generate an ever-­expanding world. In some ways, it may also be seen as an ever-­contracting world. The public “asked for news about Huckley—­where and what it might be, and how it talked—­it knew how it danced—­and how it thought in its wonderful soul. And then, in all the zealous, merciless press, Huckley was laid out for it to look at, as a drop of pond water is exposed on the sheet of a magic-­lantern show.”66 Once the postcardization has begun, it is difficult to stop because each series is potentially limitless. Every angle, every monument seen in a new light can be made into another postcard. The village of Huckley then can be used to write any message. Masquerier recognizes this when he says, “We couldn’t stop it if we wanted to now. It’s got to burn itself out. I’m not in charge anymore.”67 Reuters covers Huckley news, the real Geoplanarian Society arrives, and in the end, Pallant turns the village into a political issue. In the meantime, the villagers make such a small amount of money from the increased traffic that dealing with it is not worth the trouble. Masquerier, in contrast, sees a 2,500 percent return on his investment. The postcardization of Huckley clearly has effects very similar to those of colonialism itself in its cultural, economic, and political implications. The town literally has been written on—­Sir Thomas’s gates are now stenciled with the words “The Earth is flat,” thanks to Masquerier’s corrosive aniline dye. Yet at the story’s close the narrator and Woodhouse are not pleased with their “revenge.” The onetime victims recognize that the



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postcard fantasy come true is actually a nightmare. The irony is that, by creating “the village that voted the Earth was flat,” they have altered their own world; it has now become flat—­flat as any postcard. However disturbing Kipling’s story is, the text retains its comic certitudes and offers moments of relief. Its media men may be outsiders to the village, but they remain Englishmen, and whatever they do, they are (with the possible exception of Masquerier, whom Ollyett calls “the Absolutely Amoral Soul”) men of conscience. Comic, conscientious, English, they never (as Kipling points out on various occasions) lose their composure. Bram Stoker’s Dracula raises precisely the fear of losing one’s composure, to the point of losing one’s composition.68 It considers whether new media have the capacity to abolish not only the difference between colony and metropole but also the difference between human and media. Moreover, what allows the eradication of the distinction between human and media is the human desire for media. This becomes visible particularly in new media discourse through the language of temptation, obsession, and possession. Another “Cartolyrica” poem in The Picture Postcard speaks to the predicament: Whene’er I take my walks abroad, What charming cards I see; They smile and sigh “Oh, come and buy,” And then I have to flee. Sometimes I flee right past the shop, But oftener flee within; Begin to buy, and cannot stop—­ Oh, is it not a sin?69

While the poem is intended to be humorous, given its placement in a magazine devoted to postcard collecting, the language mirrors that used in certain serious critiques of the time. The first line calls attention to the ubiquity of the postcard. It is seen as being present everywhere, so that encounters with it are inescapable. Postcards “speak” in this poem. Instead of passive objects to be possessed, they seductively (and one might say femininely) “smile and sigh,” leading to the possession of the speaker. The

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poem ends with an acknowledgment of the speaker’s addiction and the questioning of its moral implications. Taken seriously, this is a horror story of sorts. The threat in Dracula at first appears to come from without—­Count Dracula, a vampire from Transylvania, is a foreigner to England and even the human race. Ultimately, however, the threat comes from within—­ and it portends the undoing of England itself. Not only does Dracula use modern telecommunications and essentially mail himself to England, not only does an ideal Englishwoman become a vampire herself, but also the main characters have more in common with the uncanny foreigner than one might expect. From the beginning, when Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania, the novel is obsessed with proving how different the human (and especially English) characters actually are from the vampire. One of the novel’s working titles, changed only weeks before publication, was The Un-­dead—­in other words, the living. This is an important task for the novel because the vampires are already in England—­in fact, every character who has ever sent a postcard or even gone where a postcard might originate is intrinsically related to the vampire. To be an English person abroad in the world of postcards is to be parasitic. The most terrifying aspect of Stoker’s novel is that when Dracula arrives on England’s shore, landing at one of the nation’s most postcardic sites, Whitby, and then travels to the postcard’s production capital, London, there is nothing left for him to do: England has already been emptied of meaning by its modern media. The character of Count Dracula is introduced, or even invented, by the characters as an antidote. He is the embodiment of the already present danger—­reified so that he may be expelled. Dracula enacts a strange battle between modern media and humans: the media that threaten to subsume the world in simulacra may actually flatten out media users as well. The onus of the novel is to differentiate the two, allowing the media users to emerge victorious. Only by simultaneously reclaiming the power of mass media for themselves and humanizing Dracula can the vampire hunters be at rest with their own vampiric tendencies. In her landmark essay “Vampiric Typewriting: Dracula and Its Media,” Jennifer Wicke was the first to draw attention to the fact that “the social force most analogous to Count Dracula’s as depicted in the novel is none



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other than mass culture, the developing technologies of the media in its many forms, as mass transport, tourism, photography and lithography in image production, and mass-­produced narrative.”70 Part of what the burgeoning postcard claimed to do was connect these different forms. While postcards themselves do not appear within the novel, the postcard as new media encompasses Dracula’s contradictory qualities and goes virtually unnoticed as a real threat, as Dracula himself does. The postcard combines text and image (which may take on any appearance), and it travels. Emotive ties between the sender and recipient, as well as advances in technology, allow the postcard to circulate. Its materiality at times can be of the utmost importance, while at other times it seems almost to disappear when the text is being viewed. Most important, the picture postcard seeks to subsume everything in its cataloging tendencies. Dracula always requires the volition of human characters in order to function. The vampire requires permission to enter into any home, and, as a general rule, whenever he comes into direct contact with people, he elicits their consent, only finally blurring the line of free will. We first see this when Dracula politely welcomes Harker into his castle as a guest, inviting him to “enter freely and of your own will.”71 Stoker includes this passage to suggest the inability of vampires to force humans into their lairs, but he adds the following to Dracula’s welcoming speech: “Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring!”72 While these words may seem ironic, considering that Harker comes to write of almost nothing in his journal but that he is imprisoned in Dracula’s castle with no way out, they are a crucial component of how Dracula operates. Dracula’s postcardic colonization requires the circulation of Harker’s identity, if not actually himself. Dracula can use only what he has been given. This is later seen when Dracula has Harker write letters back to England, which are more postcards than letters, since the count makes it clear that he will be reading every word written on “the thinnest foreign post.”73 From there it is a short step to Dracula leaving the castle dressed in Harker’s suit and the expected moment when Harker himself becomes one of Dracula’s minions, his will indistinguishable from Dracula’s. What seems to create the most fear in the characters, particularly in Harker, is the possibility that Harker himself has invented Count Dracula. The reality of the vampire is not established for Harker (or for the other

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characters) until halfway through the novel. When confirmation of Dracula’s existence as an entity outside Harker’s imagination finally comes, Harker writes in his journal, “It seems to have made a new man of me.”74 However, this doubt as to Dracula’s autonomous reality continues throughout the novel, voiced by various characters. The same holds true of vampires in general—­Lucy being no exception. The novel opens with an incursion into the land of another—­but it is Harker’s rather than Dracula’s. Beginning with Stephen Arata’s widely read 1990 essay “The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization,” one long-­standing interpretation of the novel has been that it concerns the “primitive” foreigner who invades the civilized world.75 Arata points out that Dracula differs from other imperial-­invasion narratives of the time in that the vampire does not come to the metropolis of London from another modern, civilized country, but from the backwaters of Transylvania. This dichotomy is suspect in the novel. Rather than a case of reverse colonization, the very conditions that have enabled the British to build a powerful empire seem to be those that allow Dracula to infiltrate. The colonization is self-­inflicted and internal. When Harker presents the reader with the familiar trope of traveling from West to East, from civilization into barbarism, he comments on “the most Western of splendid bridges over the Danube.”76 This reference to a “Western” feat of engineering technology highlights Western superiority as juxtaposed with Eastern backwardness, but the bridge also poses a threat. At the same time that it emblematizes specifically Western skill and enables access to a foreign region, it hints at the possibility of invasion. Harker makes the point again with a negative example: “It is an old tradition that [roads in the Carpathians] are not to be kept in too good order. Of old the Hospadars would not repair them, lest the Turks should think that they were preparing to bring in foreign troops, and so hasten the war which was always really at loading point.”77 Much is made explicitly of the difference between East and West, but, rather than taking part in a battle between opposites, Dracula merges almost seamlessly with London’s modernity and is enabled by Western technology. Harker’s trip rehearses the preconditions of vampirism in postcardic terms. The story begins “innocently” enough in the genre of travel narrative. In his journal, Harker employs recognizable tropes as he chronicles



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his travels into Transylvania. He comments on train schedules, regional foods, the landscape, and the different ethnic groups. He reveals his desire to see the nonmodern as he enters Transylvania, writing, “Count Dracula had directed me to go to the Golden Krone Hotel, which I found, to my great delight, to be thoroughly old-­fashioned, for of course I wanted to see all I could of the ways of the country.”78 Even after he begins to feel fearful about his situation, he continues giving descriptions of food and his surroundings: “The Count himself came forward and took off the cover of a dish, and I fell at once on an excellent roast chicken. This, with some cheese and a salad and a bottle of old Tokay . . . was my supper.”79 In a sense, he goes in search of postcard-­worthy material that he can send back to his fiancée, Mina, specifically framing the picturesque. Yet Harker’s purpose in taking this trip is business rather than pleasure. His journey is an excellent example of the interconnectedness of travel and colonialism. Like any good traveler/colonialist, Harker has done his research ahead of time in London’s British Museum Library, because he believes “that some foreknowledge of the country could hardly fail to have some importance in dealing with a noble of that country.”80 Harker has looked at maps and read descriptions of the different ethnic groups residing in the region not merely because of personal curiosity but because such knowledge may be useful in his business venture. There are even moments, such as during his description of the Slovaks, that could almost be interpreted as Harker’s testing the regional security: “The strangest figures we saw were the Slovaks, who are more barbarian than the rest, with their big cowboy hats, great baggy dirty-­white trousers, white linen shirts, and enormous heavy leather belts, nearly a foot wide, all studded over with brass nails.” He seems to be expressing relief when he continues, “They are, however, I am told, very harmless and rather wanting in natural self-­assertion.”81 When Harker is first addressed in the text, it is as “The Herr Englishman,” and, indeed, he comes to stand for his entire nation. Harker’s research in the British Museum Library has its equivalent in Dracula’s home library, where Harker finds “a vast number of English books, whole shelves full of them, and bound volumes of magazines and newspapers. A table in the centre was littered with English magazines and newspapers, though none of them were of very recent date. The books

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were of the most varied kind—­history, geography, politics, political economy, botany, geology, law—­all relating to England and English life and customs and manners.”82 Ironically, Dracula learns all he can about the British only in order to erase any particularities when he turns them into vampires. What Count Dracula, in his latent state, lacks is a sender: he must subsume a personal identity in order to be circulated. He appears to summon Harker to Transylvania merely so that he, Dracula, may leave it. In this process, Harker is flattened rather than allowed to be the agent (literally) he thinks he is. Dracula clearly sees his new “friend” as a replacement for his books, which are limited in their usefulness, and which he also calls friends: “[These friends], ever since I had the idea of going to London, have given me many, many hours of pleasure. Through them I have come to know your great England; and to know her is to love her.”83 Through Harker, Dracula hopes to learn a living and popular idiom.84 To that end, besides “asking questions on every conceivable subject” (a parallel with his wide-­ranging library), Dracula prioritizes “chatting” with Harker.85 This is the banal message that is necessary to include on the back of a postcard in order to send it through the mail. Interestingly, Dracula himself ultimately desires not to be known. While being known signals mastery for him in Transylvania, not being known, or being undifferentiated from the common Englishman, is what signals mastery for Dracula in England. The novel gives no reason for Dracula’s choice of London out of all the places in the world, but he does tell Harker that he longs “to go through the crowded streets of your mighty London, to be in the midst of the whirl and rush of humanity, to share its life, its change, its death, and all that makes it what it is.”86 If Dracula’s statement is to be believed, what matters most to him is the ability to circulate through the modern metropolis—­rather than stagnating at its periphery—­and absorb all of its qualities. He seems to have chosen London, ironically, because its inhabitants are already primed to be vampires. The indistinctness of the individual in the big city is what calls to Dracula. By becoming more British than the British, and therefore undifferentiated from the British, he can slowly replace them in an act that further flattens humanity. After the novel’s first few chapters, once Dracula departs for London, the reader rarely hears his voice again, even filtered through other



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subjectivities. Interestingly, this seems to be a sign of Dracula’s power: he is able to do exactly what he has said he wants to do. From the beginning, Dracula resembles not only Jonathan Harker but also Harker’s fiancée, Mina. Despite his having spoken only of wanting to reside in London, Dracula makes his first stop in the British Isles at the seaside resort of Whitby. Ostensibly he has chosen Whitby for his arrival in England to attract less attention, but, melodramatically, it is also here where he finds Lucy and Mina, and begins to feed on the former. Mina and Dracula have chosen the same vacation spot. In Mina’s journal, we find a description of Whitby that rivals Harker’s travelogue of Transylvania, including information on the landscape, the history, the monuments, the legends, and even the town’s colorful characters. Moreover, the journal further resembles a postcard when Mina writes the most iconic of postcard phrases: “I wonder where Jonathan is and if he is thinking of me! I wish he were here.”87 Perhaps the oddest parallel between Mina and Dracula is that both show a preference for the graveyard of St. Mary’s Church, which Mina calls “the nicest spot in Whitby.”88 Dracula’s next appearances are all at well-­known tourist destinations. Through an excerpt from the Pall Mall Gazette, we learn that Dracula has visited the Regent’s Park Zoo. The vampire, fittingly, also spends his time wandering the central London artery of Piccadilly. Once again, Londoners, here Mina specifically, and Dracula already seem to have the same tastes: they enjoy the energy of the crowd. Mina and Jonathan head to Piccadilly in the first place because Hyde Park is too desolate: “There were very few people there, and it was sad-­looking and desolate to see so many empty chairs.”89 Moreover, she and Dracula, while people watching, are drawn to observing the same woman. Mina also explicitly enjoys the freedom of not being known by anyone around her. Both Mina and Dracula not only engage in the banal activities of the masses but prefer to be lost in them as well. The conflict of the novel arises not because Londoners and vampires are so different, but because they are so much alike. The subtle but striking affinities between Dracula and Mina become more explicit after her “baptism of blood,” performed when the vampire forces her to drink his blood. On the one hand, this “baptism” transforms Mina into a quasi-­vampire. Dracula informs her, “Now you shall come to my call. When my brain says, ‘Come!’ to you, you shall cross land or sea

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to do my bidding.”90 On the other hand, the band of vampire hunters discovers that if they hypnotize Mina they can, to a limited degree, access Dracula’s thoughts. The count’s telepathic powers ultimately are the cause of his undoing. The timing of the discovery of Mina’s “power” is not a coincidence. It comes right after another surprising realization on Mina’s part: “That poor soul who has wrought all this misery is the saddest case of all. Just think what will be his joy when he too is destroyed in his worser part that his better part may have spiritual immortality.”91 The vampire hunters, in order to be successful, must differentiate the vampire from the man—­ they must humanize him. Mina’s ability, in particular, to see Dracula as a human individual helps her fight off her own vampirism. Mina’s declaration is her epiphany, which had begun when Van Helsing received research from his friend Professor Arminius about what Dracula was like when he was a man. Mina is satisfied that her theory is true at Dracula’s death, when, even though his disintegration happens in “almost the drawing of a breath,” she carefully notices his expression change to “a look of peace, such as I never could have imagined might have rested [on his face].”92 The vampire hunters’ ultimate victory rests on their ability to see Dracula as a unique individual, to try to contain him within his own narrative, rather than allow him to spill over into their own identities. They discover that, even among vampires, Dracula is set apart: “Were another of the Un-­dead, like him, to try to do what he has done, perhaps not all the centuries of the world that have been, or that will be, could aid him. With this one, all the forces of nature that are occult and deep and strong must have worked together in some wondrous way.”93 This is attributed to the personal, human qualities Dracula had when he was alive, and also the mysterious telluric forces of Transylvania. With Dracula dead, thanks to their identification of his uniqueness, they have nothing more to fear. In the process, Dracula has also become identified with Transylvania again rather than with England, which leaves Transylvania free for the taking. Even during the most dangerous part of the hunt, Mina comments on how much she would like to be a tourist there: “To stop and see people, and learn something of their life, and to fill our minds and memories with all the colour and picturesqueness of the whole wild, beautiful country



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and the quaint people!”94 It is little wonder that the novel ends with a view of Castle Dracula on their return trip. The postcard, and control of modern media, has been returned to its sender. Dracula, who has no reflection of his own, is the vampire hunters’ mirror image, and the horror comes not from how dissimilar he is from them but how, being their representation, he actually may succeed in replacing them. Vanquishing him depends on their ability to both differentiate themselves from him and identify him as an individual. However, even if the novel ends with the death of Dracula, it also ends where it begins, implying that Harker and Mina can never truly be free of the vampire. He continues to fill “their minds and memories.” Part of the slippage between human and media with the postcard comes from the way the postcard collapses communication medium, souvenir, and collection into one. At any given moment, the postcard could be performing all these roles simultaneously. All three are means of extending oneself in space and time, but in different ways. The postcard as personal communication medium offers a means of communicating almost without words. The postcard’s image allows one to send off a postcard with nothing more than a signature and yet still convey information about one’s “self.” The souvenir, according to Susan Stewart, creates “a continuous and personal narrative of the past.”95 The postcard souvenir makes the place “about” the sender and writes the recipient into that narrative. Stewart differentiates the collection, which provides a “metaphor” for the collector rather than representing part of him or her, as with the souvenir. The postcard collection comes to stand for the collector’s whole world, rather than just for a particular experience. During its new media moment, the postcard’s value as a medium of communication haunted the other two modes in a way that it did not afterward, when other forms of communication were seen as faster and more efficient. When being used to communicate a personal message, the postcard allowed one to inscribe oneself onto places and events even without any explicit intentionality. Figure 30 shows a commemorative postcard produced for the 1911 coronation of Great Britain’s King George V and Queen Mary. Cards of this kind were published in great numbers for any major event involving the royals. The German publishers of this card, marked “Coronation Souvenir,” ostensibly intended it to be purchased

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as a reminder of the coronation—­if not one’s presence at the event, at least one’s contemporaneity with it. To be a true souvenir, it would also have to be kept by the person who bought it, but this postcard was sent. According to the August postmark on the back, the postcard was sent to Bristol two months after the coronation. The postcard’s message contains no reference to the national event. Instead of reflecting on the changes for the British Empire that the event might entail, the message communicates prosaic details from the life of the sender, in common postcard fashion: “Hilda came home last evening. Had a good thunderstorm here yesterday. I received M’s card alright.” Instead of being seen as a precious object, the card serves as a basic medium of communication, with, perhaps, the possibility of being collected. It is a souvenir in only the loosest sense, but important precisely for the way it blurs the line between communication and souvenir. The blurring of this line happened in other ways as well. Many people purchased postcards specifically as souvenirs for themselves while

f ig u re 3 0 . “Coronation Souvenir, June 1911.” Postcards depicting royalty (here King George V and Queen Mary of England) were considered a staple of the postcard industry at the turn of the twentieth century. Postally used commemorative cards like this one blur the line between souvenir and mundane object.



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traveling, sent them through the post with messages to friends and family, and asked for the cards back from the recipients afterward. For a postcard as souvenir to be truly authentic, to have that crucial souvenir quality, it not only had to be purchased in the place it depicted but also had to be sent from there. A postcard souvenir in this sense both chronicled the purchaser’s journey and documented that person’s relationship with the recipient of the returned postcard. Depending on the angle from which it is viewed, the postcard can perform the functions of collection, souvenir, and communication all at the same time. In a popular song of the period, “Send Me a Picture Postcard,” by Norman Turnbull and Percy Beck, the female singer explains, “I’m collecting picture postcards, / And my album’s nearly full, / Of views of diff ’rent places, / From Cape Town to Cabul. / And tho’ I like receiving cards / From girlfriends now and then, / I must confess I’d rather have / Them sent by nice young men.”96 The lyrics move effortlessly from mention of what appears to be a true collection (that both cities start with C suggests a systematic approach) to the singer’s wish for souvenirs. Yet these souvenirs are not of the places she has visited; rather, they constitute a record of her relationships through the cards she has received. Finally, in addition to the messages on the backs of the postcards, the collection, as well as the song itself, is an invitation for more communication (particularly from potential suitors). While this elision can be taken as a comic novelty, inviting communication was more central to the way people used and collected postcards in the late nineteenth century than one might initially guess. The rage for collecting through international postcard clubs reveals that even for a committed postcard collector, something approximating a relationship was inherent to the thing he or she was collecting. Through the postcard periodicals, where collectors could find the addresses of fellow collectors in other countries with whom they could exchange postcards for collection, collecting was overtly interpersonal. It is important to remember that collectors wanted postcards sent from other countries not primarily because the same cards were not available locally (especially in the case of international postcard production centers, like Berlin) but because they wanted to receive them from individuals through the mail to have the validating, souvenir-­creating postmarks to prove it. Very little

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distinguished postcard collecting in this manner from simply communicating via postcard. For Stewart, the collection “represents the total aestheticization of use value,” and this is precisely what a collection of postcards constantly resists, despite the best efforts of those who wanted postcard collecting taken seriously.97 The postcard as souvenir and collection, because of the postcard’s ever-­present use value as communication, reifies not only the collector’s own identity but also that person’s relationship to another, both promising and threatening to blur those lines. The postcard form was thus uniquely suited to imbue individual identity with colonial overtones: senders inscribed themselves onto the foreign material so that the postcard was both them and not them. More than just a pretty picture, the postcard did something within the metropole as well as without. Ultimately, a postcard collection is a metacollection and makes visible the mechanisms by which the desire to connect is sublimated into the desire to possess. As The Picture Postcard gushed in 1902: What hobby of general interest is there, that does not connect itself in some way with picture post-­cards? Is it “stamp-­collecting?” Without stamps a post-­card could not fulfill its first function. “Photography?” Without the camera and the photographic processes, not half the cards in use could be produced. Is it “crest, or curio collecting?” Are not heraldry, curious costumes, and customs, of the very essence of interesting picture cards! As to old prints, rare books, coins and knick-­knacks of every description whatever, there is nothing to prevent their being represented on post-­cards, and so again be brought under the aegis of our all-­embracing hobby!98

The opposite side of this sanguine outlook, however, is the fear that nothing, including the self, will escape the reach of new media.

postscript

Rewriting the Postcard

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or all the fears and expectations that the postcard as new media would bring an end to distance and distinctions, many historians locate the end of the postcard, or at least the end of its “golden age,” soon after World War I. During the war, soldiers used postcards to send loved ones quick signs of life from the front that could easily pass any government inspection. For those at home, postcards with patriotic (and propagandistic) themes allowed senders to communicate their support for the war effort. According to one view of the end of the postcard, after the war, widespread interest in the form dropped off, possibly as a result of the wartime destruction of the most productive postcard factories in Germany, which had exported cards to countries all around the world. Postcards no longer featured the best artwork, and their printing quality declined. The postcard’s supposedly slow slide into a symbol of banality belies the fact that banality was always the reverse side of the postcard and, indeed, new media as such. One of the claims of the discourse of new media, ultimately, is that the new medium will become the new normal. We desire the perfect medium to erase all traces of itself to maintain the illusion that we are having an unmediated experience. Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin call this concept “immediacy” or transparency.1 Once a medium lays claim to ubiquity because of its uncontestable usefulness, we begin not to see it, or, rather, we see through it. However, “immediacy” can also be translated as banality when it has reached its final end. The medium becomes so 197

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adept at fulfilling its purpose and becoming an everyday staple that we believe there is “nothing to it.” It must then be “remediated” in order to be perceptible again in a form of hypermedia. Calling attention to an older medium through depiction or incorporation in a newer medium reactivates the discourse of newness. While this is an ongoing process in the existence of any medium, a medium ceases to be considered “new media” when it ceases to be an object of imaginary media and gains the illusion of a stable identity. We no longer wonder what a postcard is and what it could do, although these possibilities continue to be endless. We have assigned it an essence in reality, focusing on key features (as I have throughout this book), although we would be hard-­pressed to identify that essence exactly. Even at the height of the postcard’s “newness,” individual postcards often missed some of these features (because they were not mailed, because they contained no messages). This process undoubtedly includes an important linguistic aspect. The stability of the term postcard compensates for the instability of the object. No matter how many transformations a medium undergoes, because change is a necessary constant, once the medium has been labeled as an ontologically “real” object, changes to it appear almost incidental. This happens unevenly and in a nontotalizing fashion, but it represents a shift in discourse about the postcard. What ended, in fact, was not the postcard but only the discourse of the postcard as new media. After World War I, postcard production continued to expand globally and became increasingly commonplace. In the United States, Curt Teich & Company developed its own brand of postcards printed on a linen-­like embossed surface that was widely imitated by other companies from 1931 to the 1950s.2 For some, the so-­called linen cards represent the “golden age” of the postcard. The Curt Teich postcard in Figure 31 shows that the postcard’s function of representing place was more firmly solidified than ever, with increasing geographic coverage. Each letter of the name Hamilton contains a different view of the small Ohio city, and in typical postcard fashion, each of those views was likely available for purchase as its own postcard as well. As an in-­house talk to sales associates for Curt Teich is recorded as saying: “No town is too small for an edition of colorful post cards showing the attractions of the community.”3 The message on the back of this postcard suggests that



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postcards continued to be used for innovative purposes. The sender from Ohio seems connected to the recipient in Iowa through a “birthday club.” She writes that she has received the crochet doilies and “thought you might like to know who got them.” She invites further correspondence by telling the recipient about her doll-­collecting hobby, recounting a connection she made with a fellow collector through the club, and closes by asking, “Are you interested in dolls?” The widely accepted narrative about the end of the postcard’s golden age also sometimes appears alongside a revisionist perspective, as it does in the catalog published to accompany the 1974 exhibition on postcards Wish You Were Here, presented at Hofstra University.4 The catalog includes a traditional account of the rise and fall of the postcard by Lucille Fillin and Walter Fillin, but in another essay, British art historian Richard Morphet strongly refutes that account. For Morphet, “The richness of content of many mid-­century cards is so great that an early assessment that the period from about 1930 to 1960 constitutes another ‘golden age’ is

f ig u re 3 1 . “Greetings from Hamilton, Ohio.” This postcard produced by Curt Teich & Company in the United States displays the company’s trademark bright colors and block lettering.

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inevitable.” He hypothesizes that this misunderstanding comes from the overvaluing of the postcard’s technical aspects: “Perhaps it is because of an arbitrary assumption that virtue in a card resides in high-­quality printing and conventionally interesting subject matter.” He goes on to claim, “In fact it is often precisely the absence of either or both of these factors that makes possible the production of a great card,” because what really matters in a card is “not so much the exact appearance of a subject as something that gives an idea of it as the postcard buyer either would like it to be thought of or does in fact ‘see’ it.”5 What Morphet does not question is the “banality” of postcards from 1930 to 1960, well past the postcard’s moment as new media. Instead, he reenvisions postcards as art: “Banality by itself is banal. But to take something originally banal and use separate banal means to cast it into a new form can give the ensuing product a poetry and an imaginative potential that are far from banal in effect.”6 This, in fact, had been how modernist and avant-­garde artists saw the postcard, even at the beginning of the twentieth century.7 Surrealist Paul Eluard included a selection of “les plus belles cartes postales” in his journal Minotaure, mostly consisting of pornographic postcards.8 After Virginia Woolf’s atmospheric postcards in The Voyage Out came Wallace Stevens’s poem “A Postcard from the Volcano.”9 The banal postcard became the material for their art when they remediated it. These artists capitalized on the shock value produced by the juxtaposition of an ephemeral and quotidian object with the drama of inner life, thus transmuting the postcard into an object of high art.10 For visual artists, this transformation could happen in a literal as well as a symbolic sense. One of the first well-­known instances of the remediation of the postcard into visual high art is Marcel Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q., first conceived in 1919. Duchamp, as part of his work of converting existing objects into objets d’art, often by recontextualizing them in different spaces, turned to the postcard. Taking a mass-­produced postcard of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, he drew a mustache and beard on the famous face and captioned the image “L.H.O.O.Q.,” a pun (when pronounced aloud in French, the letters sound like the sexually suggestive expression Elle a chaud au cul). Duchamp’s slight treatment effectively transformed the postcard into a work of art only slightly less famous than Leonardo’s, with the image, rather than any use function, taking center



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stage. At first sight, few signs distinguish the work as a postcard. However, the postcard does not disappear. Although Duchamp reworked the concept and image in different media, the piece’s origin as a mass-­produced postcard remains important. The postcard simultaneously serves as a symbol of the canonical position of the Mona Lisa, contributes to that work’s banalization through reproduction, and finally provides the shock value necessary for its remediation. The postcard as a form of communication already seems to be a thing of the past (despite its ongoing use). But paying attention to the postcard as a banal medium of the past is part of the process of the postcard’s remediation. No longer seen as a form of communication from the sender to the recipient, the postcard nevertheless retains the vestigial function of personal communication through its status as art. When the sending of postcards is deemed an increasing impossibility, postcards from the past seem to send impossible messages to us all. The postcard then becomes a medium of nostalgia and is reinscribed as an object of desire. As Wolfgang Schivelbusch writes about the transition from travel by horse-­drawn carriage to train travel, “As the new technology terminated the original relationship between the pre-­industrial traveler and his vehicle and its journey, the old technology was seen, nostalgically, as having more ‘soul.’”11 The same can be said about the postcard when it is no longer seen as the “fastest,” or most immediate, form of communication. The “soul” of the postcard hovers enigmatically on the razor’s edge between immediacy and obsolescence. Now you see it, now you don’t. By the end of the twentieth century, postcards from the previous turn of the century often served as “transparent” reminders of a bygone era and were collected as historical documents. Despite all the editing processes known to have gone into the creation of postcards, photographic postcards in particular were seen as providing evidence of “how things were.” Both scholarly publications and popular ones focused on such postcards. Arcadia Publishing, founded in 1993 to capture the niche market for local histories, provides an important example of how lucrative postcards, viewed through this lens, can be.12 The company’s standard practice is to publish relatively short books on small towns and neighborhoods, each containing an introduction and mostly black-­and-­white photographic images with brief captions. Arcadia began its Postcard History

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Series in 1997. Nothing distinguishes the images in these books from the other “purely” photographic images in the company’s other series except the framing device of the postcard. However, the postcard’s use value as a medium of communication haunts these images and troubles the photographs’ status as “transparent” historical documents. Messages from the backs of the postcards, some with questionable historical value, are interspersed at random in the descriptions.13 The postcard framing of this series serves predominantly to increase interest by capitalizing on a sense of nostalgia and alluding to the postcard as a form of imaginary media—­ where the reader receives impossible messages from unknown sources. The movement toward perceiving a medium as transparent does not happen uniformly. The well-­known British photographer and connoisseur of photo-­books Martin Parr reveals and then resists the dichotomy between the postcard as medium and the postcard as object of nostalgia in his book “The Actual Boot”: The Photographic Post Card Boom 1900–­ 1920, published in 1986. Upon first glance, the book seems to be the kind of “straight” history that Arcadia Publishing would begin selling just over a decade later. Parr’s coauthor, Jack Stasiak, offers at the end of his brief introduction what had already become the usual conclusion to a history of photographic postcards: “Why did it end? In 1918, the year the Great War ended, the Post Office doubled the inland rate to 1d. The number of cards sent halved. The telephone was replacing the post card as functional item, and photographs were available in other forms, most especially in newspapers and magazines. As the need for the post card diminished fewer and fewer were produced, the quality began to deteriorate, and the age of the post card came to an end.”14 However, the rest of the book challenges the end of the postcard-­age narrative. What kind of object follows, if the postcard is no longer a “functional item”? In page after page of postcard images, the book includes captions detailing the messages from the backs of the cards alongside captions by the authors. The line between the two becomes blurry at times. One caption reads, “This is in the fishing village of Ferryden near the south lighthouse at the mouth of the river Esk where Montrose is situated. Find the place on your map.”15 No quotation marks or italics set this caption apart as coming from another speaker, but neither does the caption seem fit for scholarly gloss. It refers to geographic information, but the markers are



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colloquial. Moreover, it addresses “the reader,” calling him or her to action. This slippage allows the postcard to be simultaneously a nostalgic object from the past, to be desired and possessed through knowledge, and a current communication interpellating the audience/receiver. Nowhere is this slippage clearer than in the captioning and placement of the postcard that gives the book its title. The image on the card is a photograph of a boot with a burned-­out sole; the boot sits on a stand, and a handwritten description card is propped against it. The description is reprinted as the caption to the left of the image: “The actual boot the lad was wearing on Thursday June 24th at Ringmore when struck by lightning a horse being killed at the same moment, not more than a yard away.” Underneath, in italics, are the words presumably written on the back of the postcard: “I thought you would like this P.C. it’s a real photo taken after the last thunderstorm we had. A narrow escape for the poor boy, was it not?”16 The multilayered captioning has the effect of transforming the image from a historical object to an art object with an active address. Moreover, although the postcard references an apparently newsworthy historical moment, the artifice of the image is highlighted by its appearance in the chapter titled “The Studio” rather than the one titled “Events.” This effect is heightened by the fact that the image of the boot postcard is also reproduced on the cover of the book. The “actual boot” in a decontextualized state recalls René Magritte’s painting The Treachery of Images (La Trahison des images), with its famous statement “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (This is not a pipe). On the final page of the book, the paradoxical end of the postcard as a medium and the concomitant continuation of the postcard as art object is dramatized. In keeping with the end of the postcard narrative as described in the introduction, the final caption in the last chapter, “The Great War,” states, “The scarcity of cards showing peace ceremonies, which took place on almost every street, shows how much in decline post cards were after the war.”17 However, on the opposite page is an image of a man offering postcards for sale and another man contemplating which ones to buy. The men stand out against the white background of the book’s final page. This decontextualized image is cropped from a postcard titled “The Postcard Dealer,” which appears in the first chapter.18 Whereas in the beginning the image reads as transparent history, here it becomes a symbol of

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the relationship between the book’s creators and the reader: the exchange of real postcards. Parr took the aestheticization of the “dead” postcard to the extreme when he published Boring Postcards in 1999.19 This book, which was followed by others of the same type (but focusing on American and German postcards), features British postcards depicting shopping mall parking lots, airports, hotel lobbies, freeways, and so on from roughly the 1950s through the 1970s. Each image occupies one page and is approximately to scale, as if the book were “merely” an actual postcard album, perhaps belonging to Parr himself. To heighten this effect, all of the publication data appear on the inside cover rather than on separate pages. Parr seems to have grouped similar subjects together roughly, but the book includes no table of contents. Parr offers the reader no real interpretive aids, no help in understanding the postcards. Without even a reference to the medium’s exciting beginnings in the early twentieth century, the postcards reproduced are intentionally boring. However, they are boring only until one pays attention to their boringness—­particularly their boringness en masse. Remediation makes them interesting as a genre. Many of the reviewers of Boring Postcards agree. For example, one notes that the postcards “are, in their boringness, strangely beautiful. They are funny, nostalgic, and utterly eccentric. Their banality fascinates. Actually, they’re not boring at all.” Another writes, “Individually each of the postcards more than meet the requirements of the book’s title—­yes, these are ludicrously boring places—­but as whole they make a compelling collection.”20 Another British artist, Tom Phillips, has also considered and exploited the remediation of the postcard, although he has done so in a more painterly way.21 His first significant publication, Tom Phillips: Works, Texts to 1974, also serves as the first retrospective overview of his work. In several places in the book, he refers to postcards as specific sources of inspiration where viewers of the works would not otherwise have known that. In a caption opposite the image of a painting of a car titled Postcard Composition No. 8 from 1970, Phillips writes: “The typology and iconology of the postcard has been an abiding interest, here touched on in a reference to a common postcard topos, the red car (the statistics of the comparative incidence of red cars, in the real world and the postcard world, would indeed be interesting).”22 He also states that for several series of works he



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remade images from “authentic postcard examples,” although the works’ titles do not reflect their genesis.23 For Phillips in these early years, the postcard served as inspiration and primary source through its status as the half-­transparent/half-­mediated object par excellence. Nothing seems so mundane and “real” as a postcard, but nothing is more contrived or fantastical. Basing his works on postcard images allows him to represent visually his belief that there are no truly simple, unmediated, things.24 In highlighting his use of postcards specifically rather than more general photographic images, he draws attention to the layered subjectivities of all media. A “postcard” reads here as an intentional, if naive, composition of reality that can be interrogated further. Phillips dedicates a whole section of Works, Texts to 1974 to a discussion of “the postcard vision.” His tongue-­in-­cheek list of postcard axioms makes claims such as “Fixtures and fittings tend to predominate over the avowed subject matter. A litter bin may be the real subject of a card said to be depicting St. Paul’s, occupying a much larger surface area than that cathedral.”25 He sees the postcard as a constructed medium but no less an actual object: “There is no caption, be it monosyllabic or verbose, that the imagination could invent, that could not be matched for improbability by the caption of an actual postcard.”26 Like Martin Parr before him, Phillips turned his collection of actual postcards into art through his interaction with them in his book The Postcard Century: 2000 Cards and Their Messages.27 In his introduction, he describes the book as “a composite illustrated diary in which nearly two thousand people have made their entries” representing the twentieth century. Nostalgia tinges Phillips’s prose as he forecasts, once again, the death of the postcard: “Firstly, this book celebrates a century throughout whose entire length the postcard has been in popular and current use. It may well happen the twentieth century will be the last as well as the first century of which this will be said. It is hard to imagine that anyone will be sending (let alone collecting and delivering) so physical an object in 2099.”28 Initially, this implies that he views postcards as objects that have reached their destinations and now transparently “contain” messages, rather than a medium that flows and resists such control. However, his subjectivity is equally present in this “diary” through his selection of postcards and his ample commentary on almost every card. He himself

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seems half aware of the dangers of nostalgia and false golden ages, “What I hope to prove in these pages is that the postcard is seamlessly interesting from the beginning of the century to the end. In all its history it has defined life rather than merely mirrored it, giving a more human picture of the world than any other medium.”29 All postcards celebrate the new. Most recently, Phillips made an even larger part of his postcard collection available to all, complete with classifications, in a series of six books published by the Bodleian Library in 2010–­12 to celebrate the library’s 2010 acquisition of Phillips’s archives. Phillips was asked to design a series of books drawing on his collection of more than fifty thousand photographic postcards. Titles include subject themes like Fantasy Travel and Readers.30 These books, which feature images that are almost postcard size, have no commentary. While this particular remediation seems to reinforce the idea of the dead postcard, the postcard as fixed and transparent image rather than mode of communication, the framing of the images as postcards has a curious effect.31 The images read as reproductions of material objects that are elsewhere (especially with their dual status as part of a personal collection and part of an archive) even as the material objects themselves are reproductions. When Walter Benjamin discusses the loss of an object’s “aura” through reproduction in his essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” he stakes a claim that reproduction erases the distance between the work of art and the viewer, thereby erasing a part of the original’s essence. For Benjamin, this loss of essence began with the invention of lithography, followed by the invention of photography, placing the postcard firmly at the beginning of the process he describes.32 However, time, as evidenced by Phillips’s and Parr’s collections, grants an aura to the mass-­produced postcards of the early twentieth century. They are now worthy of being archived, as they are hard to find and other mass-­ produced exemplars of the time have been lost. I would also argue, however, that part of the aura of these postcards comes from their being mass-­reproduced in another medium (art book). In terms of mechanical reproduction, if something is copied, an original elsewhere is implied, even if that original is itself a reproduction. This effect can linger even in the new digital era; even without a material “original,” reproduction can still signal the existence of an infinitely deferrable aura elsewhere.



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The effect is perhaps most pronounced in the ongoing widespread practice of producing art postcards for sale in museum stores.33 These postcards reinforce the iconic status of the works of art in a museum’s collection. Although the postcards can be possessed, they signal the untouchable status of the originals, always behind glass. While the focus here is on the content, the same is true of the medium. When we purchase such images, are we actually purchasing postcards? These reproductions count as postcards through their roughly standard size (although that is also subject to variation), card stock material, depictions of images on one side, and captions surrounded by blank space on the other. However, many of these postcards no longer feature divided backs, implying an expectation that they will not be sent through the mail. That should disqualify these reproductions from being “true” postcards. On the other hand, they are perhaps closer to the postcard’s original format without separate spaces for senders’ messages and recipients’ addresses. The digital remediation of the postcard adds another layer of distance from the “original” object and, in doing so, lends an aura to the previous medium—­now seen as a kind of “original” medium even when it was also a remediation.34 The various kinds of digital and hybrid postcards available in the twenty-­first century add to the supposition of an original postcard, both as medium and as object, in its material form. These hybrid postcards vary widely, with equally various levels of success, but what they all have in common are self-­conscious references to a less efficient and thus somehow more authentic medium: the postcard. Launched in April 2011 by entrepreneur Matt Brezina, the Postagram app allows users to design postcards using photographs from their own mobile phones. The user selects a photo and adds his or her own short message, and the company that created the app, Sincerely, prints out the design and sends it to the intended recipient via the U.S. Postal Service. The title of the Los Angeles Times story on the launch, “Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Wants to Bring Back Paper Postcards,” plays on the old/ new distinction in reporting on what is actually a hybrid form or, more aptly, one of the continuations of a constantly changing medium.35 To “bring back” implies both the obsolescence of the previous medium and its ontological stability. However, even as the article purports that the app will bring back a previous form, thanks to the introduction of new

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technology, these postcards will also be new and improved. Specifically, they will be even more “authentic” than previously mass-­produced postcards: “No more prepackaged photos of Roman arenas, African safaris or Hawaiian luaus.”36 Unlike the postcard of the nineteenth century, and unlike new media in general, these postcards are much slower. Sincerely’s website advertises domestic delivery in three to six business days (a significant difference from the same-­day delivery of nineteenth-­century England), and international delivery usually takes four to six weeks.37 The very slowness of a Postagram postcard signals “old media,” overriding the “new media” components and triggering nostalgia. Despite the mobile phone’s inherent ability to send photos and text instantly, travelers may choose to supplement their communications with Postagram postcards for a more romantic experience. As Marshall McLuhan pointed out early on, old media take on different roles once new(er) media usurp previous ones.38 In Postagram’s case, the postcard now fulfills a niche function that stems from the desire to capitalize on its material form. More than seven years after its launch, Postagram has yet to achieve more than a relatively moderate number of users, although it has spawned competitors, such as the apps SnapShot Postcard and TouchNote. The comments section of a review of these apps posted on Digital Photography Review online helps to reveal that, in fact, these apps are as much in competition with each other as they are with the more traditional postcard. Some commenters lament the absence of certain “features,” like government-­issued stamps or postmarks from foreign countries, since all orders are produced in the United States (even if the sender takes the photograph and places the order while abroad). One commenter compares the entire “user experience” of buying and sending a traditional postcard to the disadvantage of the apps: “I can see using one of these services on occasion, but I must say, no app will come close to the pleasure of seeking a local post card, finding an interesting stamp, sipping a beverage al fresco in some cafe while penning greetings to a friend, far away.” These highly romanticized terms imply that the material postcard has long since developed inefficiency as a desirable characteristic, facilitating the perception of a more “authentic” and less “technological” experience. Another commenter goes one step further: “Isn’t the whole point of a postcard—­if it can be said to have one—­the finding of the old-­fashioned



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ancient looking touristy, but back in the Fifties, type shop that has the racks, dragged out each morning, of faded postcards?”39 It seems as if the old postcard format mostly already suffices for the purposes of nostalgia. The fascinating multimedia platform PostSecret is a much more popular example of a hybrid postcard, and the difference is telling. Conceptualized by Frank Warren, PostSecret features images of postcards made, altered, or simply sent by anonymous strangers, each communicating a secret. The messages vary widely, including everything from the familial (“My family pretends everything is OK. . . . It’s not”) to the salacious (“Shhh . . . don’t tell Santa but ever since I shared an intense look with my professor all I want for Christmas is him . . .”) to the bizarre (“Something about craft stores always makes me have to poop!”).40 This “ongoing community art project” spans several forms: blog, book series, art exhibitions (at no less than the Smithsonian Institution, as well as other traveling exhibitions), and talks by Warren.41 The PostSecret website claims to host the “largest advertisement-­free Blog in the world” with over 700 million visitors. The different forms the images take all refer back to an original object that was sent through the mail as well as an original postcard medium. However, PostSecret itself dematerializes the postcard only to reify it in different media. Part of PostSecret’s appeal is that it dramatizes and capitalizes on what were two of the postcard’s most alarming features when it was considered a new medium: its open format and its potential for anonymity. The website and other media platforms allow the postcard to be viewed not just by those who happen to handle it in the mail or come across its surface, but by a much wider audience. Rather than fearing that strangers will read their mail, senders anticipate that they will. Anonymity plays a big role in this, but it is anonymity with a difference. Instead of seeming nefarious or threatening, PostSecret’s anonymity has been called cathartic and even therapeutic. Perhaps most interesting of all, PostSecret postcards are seen as “honest.” This makes sense only in the context of the postcard’s “vestigial” function as personal communication. These are true messages, perhaps the truest messages—­the rawest emotions and most “unfiltered” thoughts—­traveling from sender to recipient. Through the careful framing and positioning of these postcards as “art,” users benefit from the features of the postcard but work to neutralize its threat.

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Of course, all postcards still circulating maintain the potential to cause the damage once feared. The “problems” of the postcard from its early days were never resolved, yet with the end of the postcard’s status as new media, any discourse surrounding its dangers became incidental. Only on rare occasions do these tendencies become visible again specifically for the postcard. Issues like media privacy remain widely salient but now are discussed mainly in the context of current new media. However, as recently as 2015 the website for the “high-­tech” International Association of Privacy Professionals published an article on a “low-­tech” postcard case.42 The article’s title, “Can a Postcard Constitute an Invasion of Privacy?,” could just as easily have appeared in a late nineteenth-­century legal journal.43 The story relates the case of a Kansas man who received a postcard reminder about his child-­support payments from the Kansas Department of Children and Families. He claimed that receiving the reminder as a postcard rather than in a sealed envelope constituted “an invasion of privacy.” The specter of postal employees reading mail is raised once again. After a brief legal analysis, the article’s author argues that while sending a postcard with this information was not technically illegal, other solutions could have been found to help maintain “consumer trust.” Oddly enough, business postcards such as this child-­support reminder are actually closest to what the postcard’s inventor, Heinrich von Stephan, envisioned. Still, the idea that the use of postcards can violate consumer trust and customer privacy continues to come up for debate, as in another recent postcard case covered by the website Modern Healthcare, which claims to be “the leader in healthcare business news, research & data.” At a time when, according to a survey by the American Health Lawyers Association, roughly 87 percent of health law attorneys believe the health care industry is at greater risk of cyberattacks than other industries, the postcard can still make news.44 The website’s 2016 article “Postcard Triggers Ohio Mental-­Health Privacy Mea Culpa” discusses a postcard sent out to numerous people by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, inviting them to take a survey under the heading “Your Consumer Voice”; the wording of the postcard’s message strongly implied that the recipients were former or current mental health patients.45 One complaint of a breach of privacy from among the ten thousand cards sent was enough to cause the agency to contact federal authorities



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and patients to apologize and to reevaluate its privacy policies. In this case, the breach was attributed to the postcard form alone, rather than to any intentional violation of privacy. The postcard’s colonial connotations have also come to the surface at key moments even in the years since the supposed demise of the medium. Congress passed the legislation that authorized the creation of the Peace Corps in September 1961, and just one month later, the agency suffered its first scandal—­via postcard. Although, ostensibly, the intention of the Peace Corps was, in part, to reverse the impression abroad of Americans as neoimperialists, the message on a postcard written by one of the first Peace Corps volunteers assigned to Nigeria had the opposite effect. Margery Michelmore wrote to a friend in the United States about the living conditions she experienced while housed at Ibadan University: With all the training we had had, we really were not prepared for the squalor and absolutely primitive living conditions rampant both in the city and in the bush. We had no idea what “under-­developed” meant. It really is a revelation and once we got over the initial horrified shock, a really rewarding experience. Everyone except us lives in the street—­cooks in the street, sells in the street and even goes to the bathroom in the street.46

Before she got the chance to mail the postcard, Michelmore lost it somewhere on the university campus, where Nigerian students found it and made photocopies. According to the New York Times, the discovery of the postcard prompted a meeting during which the Ibadan University College Students’ Union “charged that the Peace Corpsmen were ‘America’s international spies.’ It described the corps project in Nigeria as ‘a scheme designed to foster neo-­colonialism’” and demanded the deportation of the volunteers.47 The fervor died down only when one of the Peace Corps volunteers led a hunger strike, prompting the Nigerian students to associate with the volunteers again in the cafeteria. The postcard here figures as powerfully as it did in any short story about the dangers of the postcard at the beginning of the twentieth century, at the height of its new media discourse. The difference resides in the surprise, both that the postcard would be read by anyone other than its intended recipient and that it could wreak such havoc. These fears

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were once very much at the forefront for new postcard users. With the end of the discourse of the postcard as new media, fears of the invasion of privacy transferred to “newer” media such as the telephone (a not unfounded fear, given the famous wiretappings of the Cold War era).48 When Life magazine first covered the story of Michelmore’s postcard, it headlined the article “Much Ado about a Postcard.” The writer’s tone was dismissive of both the seriousness of the Nigerian students’ complaints and the seriousness of the postcard as a medium: “In Nigeria the traveler’s rite of dropping a postcard to a friend back home blew up into an international ado about nothing.”49 The magazine even reprinted the back of the postcard itself almost to scale, as if to show how little the postcard and the incident were. The medium of the postcard was relegated to the status of travel souvenir in this discourse, despite its clear potential for communications of other kinds. Since the medium was considered trivial, the message must also be trivial by association. While the article’s author called the act itself “thoughtless,” the real problem seemed to be that the postcard “fell into the hands of student extremists.” The author conflated “the traveler’s rite” with “the traveler’s right.” It was the privilege of the white Westerner to see and pronounce objective judgments. According to the article, although the Nigerian students were upset with what Michelmore wrote, “no one challenged the truth of her observations.” Just as it had at the turn of the twentieth century, the postcard served as fact through its very innocuousness. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter now function as the vehicles of similar scandals. All of these forms of social media replicate, in different ways and to different degrees, the postcard’s characteristics of open form, combination of image and shortened text, public circulation, and semipersonal message. These characteristics both popularize these media and make them open to reappropriation. Postcard scandals existed primarily because of their reproduction in multiple forms of media. While this is often true for newer media, with more traditional, if not always more reputable, news outlets covering the latest “Twitter storm,” Twitter itself, for example, has the capability of reproducing messages through its share function.50 Even with this new feature, like previous postcard scandals, social media scandals depend on the focused attention that is paid to them, a corollary of new media discourse. The Internet is clearly still



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in its new media phase when critics can write things like “Shaming, it seems, has become a core competency of the Internet, and it’s one that can destroy both lives and livelihoods.”51 Yet, even as the discourse of new media remains relevant for the Internet in a way that has ended for the postcard, the discourse seems to be not quite as totalizing as it may once have been. This is due partially to the development of media studies and media scholars who take a long view of media history and engage in historiography. The methods of media archaeology are becoming more recognizable, if not more commonplace. Werner Herzog’s documentary on the invention, or birth, of the Internet, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, opened to great critical and popular acclaim in 2016.52 Herzog divides his narrative into “chapters” that demonstrate his awareness of the fraught nature of the Internet’s identity, as well as its nonlinear development. For example, the first chapter, “The Early Days,” takes care to investigate alternative histories, crediting both the University of California, Los Angeles, and room 3420 in the Stanford Research Center as the birthplace of the Internet, while also giving credence to the less commonly accepted claims of Ted Nelson. Chapter 6, “The End of the Internet,” comes well before chapter 10, titled “The Future.” As some film critics have lamented, Herzog does not come down on one side or the other when it comes to making pronouncements about the Internet.53 This is precisely because Lo and Behold follows and lays bare the logic of new media discourse itself, reproducing and synthesizing it for viewers in the span of approximately an hour and a half. Herzog focuses more on the people who produce this discourse than on any kind of finished product. That being the case, the intensity and range of attitudes matter more than a final pronouncement on whether the Internet is helpful or harmful. The chapters “The Glory of the Net” and “The Dark Side” necessarily must exist together, with new media discourse as their subject. Past and future blur together in achievements and dangers. These achievements and dangers are reminiscent of those attributed to the postcard during its time as new media: bringing the entire world together but enabling violence and diminishing privacy. The film variously claims that the Internet is both awe-­inspiring and awful now and will be even more so in the future, however impossible it may seem

f ig u re 3 2 . “Contentment.” This image, copyrighted in 1909 by O. C. Walden, is representative of the sentimental picture postcards featuring animals that were in vogue at the turn of the twentieth century.

f ig u re 3 3 . “Beautiful Cat.” This image in the public domain was obtained from the website http://www.publicdomainpictures.net. Images of cats continue to be popularly disseminated as Internet memes, to such an extent that Wikipedia includes an entry titled “Cats and the Internet.”



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for these various imagined futures to coexist. Despite the fascinating dreams of a different kind of connected future and the genuinely horrifying possibilities of what could go wrong in that future, Herzog injects a comic element in his voice-­overs and interviews. The director, who maintains that he barely uses a cell phone, knows to take all the claims of media change with a grain of salt. By engaging in media archaeology, we can temper our inclination both to aggrandize and to vilify new media, two correlated tendencies, in a time of actual media change. Looking at now “old” media and understanding that they elicited the same hopes and trepidations that surround current new media can help us to guard against an overly deterministic view of technology, especially communication technology. Consider one final observation from the end of the nineteenth century: With all the contrivances for increasing our speed of communication, and for enabling us to cram more varied action into a single life, we have less and less time to spare for salutary human intercourse. The post-­card symbolizes the tendency of the modern mind. We have come to find out so many things which ought to be done that we make up our minds to do nothing whatever thoroughly.54

Replace “post-­card” with “Internet” or “social media,” and this statement could have been written in the twenty-­first century.55 The (now) humble postcard teaches us to be wary of such grand pronouncements. The constant innovation in media necessarily causes us to oscillate between dreaming of the possibilities and coming to terms with a new medium’s banality before the cycle begins again almost immediately. Even the banality of the cycle should not be cause for despair. Understanding the cyclical nature of new media discourse allows us not only to recognize what we fear and crave but also to delight in what we love, to enjoy seeing the familiar in new forms. No matter how ordinary the subject (cats being a good Internet example), a new medium surprises us into paying attention. This delight does not need to be oriented only toward the future. Looking at the new in the past can yield the same results and, because of the way the new functions, is as limitless a source.

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Acknowledgments

T

he progress of this book has been one of surprise and delight, from its earliest beginnings as my doctoral thesis at the University of Southern California to its careful handling at the University of Minnesota Press. I cherish the memories of intellectual freedom at USC and mentors who both modeled and supported nontraditional approaches to literature and visual culture. I am especially grateful to the “early adopters” of my postcard project, Hilary Schor and Panivong Norindr. Without their belief in me, postcards might have remained a curiosity of mine rather than becoming a research passion. Their guidance opened up a world of possibility, and Hilary Schor in particular both inspired me and helped me hone my skills as a burgeoning scholar. Panivong Norindr was the first to suggest I propose my project to the University of Minnesota Press, and I am incredibly grateful to humanities editor Danielle Kasprzak for choosing to make my project her own. I also want to thank editorial assistant Anne Carter, copy editor Judy Selhorst, and everyone else who worked behind the scenes to make this book a beautiful reality. I began my career as an assistant professor at Biola University in Los Angeles, which granted me two course releases toward the completion of this book during my time there, and I am indebted to the valiant female faculty writing group created and mentored by Liz Hall during those years. So many of my colleagues provided support, both direct and indirect. Michelle Lee Barnwell and Nancy Yuen mentored me. Joshua 217

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Smith wrote alongside me, and Maria Wang inspired me. Jane Kim, Tania Abouezzeddine, Aurora Matzke, Behzad Varamini, Lisa Swain, Bethany Williamson, Chris Davidson, Stephanie Chan, and Kitty Purgason, in big ways and small, all helped me reach the finish line. My research assistants, Sophia Johnson and Kayle Graham, put their hearts and souls into this project. My mentees and students in the Torrey Honors Institute shared their new media habits and helped me make connections. They kept me learning and laughing, and they gifted me with postcards. I am grateful to other scholars and friends who left their marks on my project and life during this time. Christina Valentine has been my writing partner and partner in crime; she is the embodiment of mischief and kindness. Natasha Duquette, Kristin Irwin, Joe Thackwell, Anneke Stasson, and Charlene Choi filled me with hope on many occasions. Sandy and Scott Kim’s support and friendship have been unflagging over the years. Amanda Lueck Grell graciously continues to look over my work even decades after we were friends and roommates at Kenyon College. My graduate school roommate, Oana Sabo, remains a source of encouragement. Beyond academia, I am grateful to editor Robin Rauzi, who invited me to write an op-­ed piece on postcards for the Los Angeles Times. Thanks to her enthusiasm (as well as her editorial skills), I began receiving e-­mails and postcards from the public asking for this book and spurring me on. I am especially grateful to Helen Kim, who connected me and Robin (and so many others) at one of her artistic gatherings. Her talent for creating community has been one of the most precious gifts I have ever received. The community of women at the Imogen house has been a second family to me, and I especially appreciate Noemi Morales’s constant support. I am also grateful to Amara Ononiwu and the discussion group we created together, the Change Collab—­always a source of inspiration and excitement. My friends Julie Ordonez, Jessica Thomas, Deborah Chi, Anca Lungu, Young Mi Chi, Dolce Wang, and too many others to name all make me better. Finally, none of this would have been possible without my family, my roots, even when we are at postcard distance. I am so grateful for their love and sacrifice from the very beginning.

notes

Introduction 1. “To Our Readers, Apologia Pro Vita Nostra,” The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 1, no. 1 (1900): 1. 2. See, among other works, Michel Foucault, Technologies of the Self, ed. Luther H. Martin, Huck Gutman, and Patrick H. Hutton (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988); Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith (London: Routledge, 2002). 3. Henri de Noussanne, “La Carte Postale illustré,” special issue, Le Monde Illustré, July 13, 1901, 21–­36. Le Monde Illustré was founded in 1857, and its early issues featured the writings of such luminaries as George Sand and Alexandre Dumas. It later commissioned works by leading artists, including Gustave Doré, Honoré Daumier, and Alphonse Mucha. 4. “La Carte Postale Illustrée est tout simplement en train de conquérir le monde. Elle marche à pas de géant; depuis douze ans à peine elle a commencé à faire parler d’elle et voyez déjà où elle en est. Alexandre, Annibal, César, Bonaparte et Lord Kitchener lui-­même n’ont jamais été plus rapides, plus foudroyants dans leurs conquêtes.” Ibid., 23. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own. 5. “Elle est un écho de nos passions, de nos joies, de nos peines, de nos préoccupations dans ce qu’elles ont de général.” “La carte postale est comme l’âme populaire, tendre et mystérieuse.” Ibid., 27. 6. James Joyce, Ulysses (Paris: Shakespeare and Company, 1922). 7. Martin Lister, Jon Dovey, Seth Giddings, Iain Grant, and Kieran Kelly, New Media: A Critical Introduction, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2009), 11–­12. 8. Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001), 23. See also Jessica Pressman, Digital Modernism: Making It New in New Media (New

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York: Oxford University Press, 2014); Mark Goble, Beautiful Circuits: Modernism and the Mediated Life (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010). 9. David Thorburn, Edward Barrett, and Henry Jenkins, “Series Foreword,” in Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition, ed. David Thorburn and Henry Jenkins (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003), x. 10. One way to see how easily it could have been otherwise is to consider the eighteenth-­century novel. Here such antagonism does not exist between the letter and a new medium. The epistolary form popularized by Samuel Richards, among others, emerged as series of “letters” exchanged between different characters. This not only allowed a novel’s readers to experience a sense of the actions taking place in the characters’ lives, the plot, but also gave them a sense of the characters’ interiority through their emotional responses to these events. Although authors adapted and used aspects of the epistolary form to quite different ends, the letter and the novel were not antagonistic, but rather considered mutually beneficial. The epistolary beginnings of the novel, often studied by scholars of eighteenth-­century literature, take on a new significance when viewed through the lens of media change. 11. For a discussion that challenges myths about the origins of digital technologies, including the Internet, see Andrew L. Russell, Open Standards and the Digital Age: History, Ideology, and Networks (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014). 12. Erkki Huhtamo and Jussi Parikka, “Introduction: An Archaeology of Media Archaeology,” in Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications, ed. Erkki Huhtamo and Jussi Parikka (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), 3. For more on media archaeology, see Erkki Huhtamo, “Time Traveling in the Gallery: An Archeological Approach in Media Art,” in Immersed in Technology: Art and Virtual Environments, ed. Mary Anne Moser with Douglas MacLeod (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996), 233–­68; Eric Kluitenberg, Book of Imaginary Media: Excavating the Dream of the Ultimate Communication Medium (Rotterdam: NAi, 2006); Jussi Parikka, What Is Media Archaeology? (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012); Siegfried Zielinski, Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008). 13. Geert Lovink, My First Recession: Critical Internet Cultures in Transition (Rotterdam: NAi, 2004), 11, quoted in Huhtamo and Parikka, “Introduction,” 3. 14. For some of the resonances, see Tung-­Hui Hu’s archaeology of cloud technology, A Prehistory of the Cloud (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2015). 15. One of the seminal books on postcard history is Frank Staff ’s The Picture Postcard and Its Origins (New York: Praeger, 1967). Without theorizing the postcard, Staff provides multiple genealogies by looking at the different media that may have influenced the development of the postcard, but ultimately he privileges the postal route. 16. “Dr. von Stephan,” St. Martin’s-­le-­grand 5 (October 1895): 385–­98. 17. Quoted in ibid., 392. 18. Quoted in ibid.



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19. Cited in Bernhard Siegert, Relays: Literature as an Epoch of the Postal System, trans. Kevin Repp (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999), 148. 20. Cited in Staff, The Picture Postcard and Its Origins, 83. 21. On the kreuzer controversy, see “The Inventor of the Postal Card,” Outlook 50 (1894): 483. 22. “A Short History of the Post Card,” St. Martin’s-­le-­grand 10 (January 1900): 29. 23. The Poster and Post-­Card Collector, no. 11 (November 1903): 284. 24. Heinsberger, untitled article, The Post Card, no. 27 (December 2, 1889): n.p. 25. “La post-­card devait naître en Angleterre, où l’on connaît si bien le prix du temps; time is money, dit le proverbe populaire de cette contrée.” Louis Wolowski, La Carte Postale en diverse pays (Paris, 1873), 6. 26. Siegert, Relays, 288n37. 27. Ibid., 154. For Siegert’s reading of the turn-­of-­the-­twentieth-­century postcard, see ibid., chap. 16. 28. Richard Menke, Telegraphic Realism: Victorian Fiction and Other Information Systems (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2008), 69. 29. Quoted in “Dr. von Stephan,” 392–­93. 30. “Sans doute, la carte-­postale n’a point la prétention de remplacer la lettre close, ni de supprimer la douceur et le besoin des communications intimes; elle sert seulement d’auxiliaire utile et commode à cette nature de relations qui n’exigent ni longs développements, ni aucune espèce de mystère.” Wolowski, La Carte Postale en diverse pays, 7. 31. “La merveilleuse invention de la photographie a fait supposer, au premier abord, que les peintres n’auraient plus rien à faire; or, ils n’ont jamais été plus occupés que depuis l’habitude prise, dans toutes les conditions, de se rapprocher de ceux qu’on aime, ou qu’on est curieux de connaître, alors qu’on peut contempler leurs traits.” Ibid. 32. See Ellen Gruber Garvey, The Adman in the Parlor: Magazines and the Gendering of Consumer Culture, 1880s to 1990s (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996). For a more recent discussion, see Philippa Hubbard, “Trade Cards in 18th-­ Century Consumer Culture: Movement, Circulation, and Exchange in Commercial and Collecting Spaces,” Material Culture Review 74–­75 (Spring 2012): 30–­46. The relationship of the postcard to advertising is a topic worthy of greater exploration, especially given that the postcard continues to be widely used in advertising today. 33. “Anche le cartoline postali illustrate hanno la loro storia, come scrive il Wiener Fremdenblatt. Ne fu inventore un litografo tedesco di nome Miesler (cho cosa non hanno inventato i tedeschi!) al quale altri avrebbero rubato la invenzione.” “Per la storia delle cartoline postali illustrate,” Giornale della libreria, della tipografia e delle arti ed industrie affini 10 (1897): 413. 34. Naomi Schor, “Cartes Postales: Representing Paris 1900,” Critical Inquiry 18, no. 2 (1992): 213.

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35. See Robert W. Rydell, “Souvenirs of Imperialism: World’s Fair Postcards,” in Delivering Views: Distant Cultures in Early Postcards, ed. Christraud M. Geary and Virginia-­Lee Webb (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 1998). 36. For an example, see Lynda Klich and Benjamin Weiss,“Paris,” in The Postcard Age: Selections from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts Publications, 2012). 37. The Post Card, no. 20 (September 30, 1889). 38. On the history of photography, see, for example, Susan Sontag, On Photography (London: Penguin Books, 1977); John Tagg, The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988); Geoffrey Batchen, Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997); Alan Trachtenberg, ed., Classic Essays on Photography (New Haven, Conn.: Leete’s Island Books, 1980). 39. Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992). 40. John Plunkett,“Celebrity and Community: The Poetics of the Carte-­de-­visite,” Journal of Victorian Culture 8, no. 1 (2003): 55–­79. 41. Edwin Banfield, Visiting Cards and Cases (Wiltshire, England: Baros Books, 1989). 42. Quoted in “Dr. von Stephan,” 393. 43. See Patrizia Di Bello, “Elizabeth Thompson and ‘Patsy’ Cornwallis West as Carte-­de-­visite Celebrities,” History of Photography 35, no. 3 (2011): 240–­49. 44. William C. Darrah, Cartes de Visite in Nineteenth Century Photography (Gettysburg: Darrah-­Smith Books, 1981). 45. Minnesota Historical Photo Collectors Group, Joel E. Whitney: Minnesota’s Leading Pioneer Photographer (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Photo Collectors Group, 2001). 46. William C. Darrah, The World of Stereographs (Gettysburg: Darrah-­Smith Books, 1977). 47. Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The Stereoscope and the Stereograph,” The Atlantic Monthly, June 1859, 738–­48. 48. Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Sun-­Painting and Sun-­Sculpture: With a Stereoscopic Trip across the Atlantic,” The Atlantic Monthly, May 1861, 13–­29. 49. Schor, “Cartes Postales,” 212. 50. “A Picture Card Romance: A Tale of Nineteen Postcards and Two Letters,” The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 1, no. 1 (1900): 12. 51. The Post Card, no. 11 (1889): n.p. 52. “Country Postman,” Punch, July 21, 1920, 55. This illustration showed a postman speaking with a woman near her front door, with the caption, “I’m sorry, Ma’am, I seem to have lost your postcard; but it only said Muriel thanked you for the parcel, and so did John, and they were both very well and the children are



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happy and she’ll give your message to Margery. That’ll be your other daughter, I’m thinkin’?” 53. David Harold Bernard, The Post-­Card Code: A Novel and Private Method of Communicating by Post-­Card (Glasgow: Simpkin & Marshall, 1908), 5. 54. For anyone wishing to break this code, it may be helpful to know that the postcard was sent on May 20 to Miss Dara L. Lamb (information appearing on the front of the card). The first few words are almost certainly “Dated May . . . Dear Dara, I am . . .” 55. Constance Johnson and Burges Johnson, The Private Code and Post-­Card Cypher: A Telegraph and Post-­Card Code-­Book for Family Use (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1914), 45. 56. Victoria Eugenie to Alfonso XIII, December 1905, in Correspondencia epistolar de la princesa Victoria Eugenia de Battenberg al rey Alfonso XIII: 1905–­1906, ed. Marino Gómez-­Santos (Madrid: Organismo Autónomo Correos y Telégrafos Patrimonio Nacional, 1993), n.p. 57. Beatrix F. Cresswell, “To My Friend,” The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 3, no. 25 (1902): 110. 58. Schor, “Cartes Postales,” 213. 59. George Watson Cole, Postcards: The World in Miniature; A Plan for Their Systematic Arrangement (privately printed, 1935). 60. “Post-­Card Notes,” Punch, August 19, 1903, 118. The choice of J. P. Morgan, the American banker and art collector, as “purchaser” also reveals anxiety about a new competing colonial power. 61. The Poster and Post-­Card Collector, no. 6 (June 1903): 151. 62. E. W. Richardson, editorial, The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 3, no. 19 (1902): 8. 63. “United States Postal Rates and Regulations,” in The American Almanac, Year Book, Cyclopedia, and Atlas (New York: New York American and Journal, Hearst’s Chicago American and San Francisco Examiner, 1903), 64. 64. “A Post-­Card Anniversary,” The Youth’s Instructor, December 13, 1910, 11, reprinted from Harper’s Weekly, April 23, 1910. 65. “Postcard Rulings,” Publishers’ Weekly, October 19, 1907, 1146. 66. The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 3, no. 23 (1902): 74. 67. Ibid. 68. As the work of media archaeology often shows, the further back we look, the deeper the roots of a medium go. Even in a critical work as early as his seminal study of the eighteenth-­century novel and its sociological and material conditions, Ian Watt includes a short but tantalizing account of the way the letter as medium evolved prior to serving as a basis for the new novel form. The letter had to become new and the penny post instituted before the novel could be established as a new literary form. See Ian Watt, “Private Experience and the Novel,” in The Rise of the

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Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding, 2nd Amer. ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001). For more on epistolarity, see Janet Gurkin Altman, Epistolarity: Approaches to a Form (Athens: Ohio State University Press, 1992). 69. See Amanda Anderson and Joseph Valente, eds., Disciplinarity at the Fin de Siècle (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002). 70. Jacques Derrida, The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 5. 71. Ibid., 8. 72. Malek Alloula, The Colonial Harem, trans. Myrna Godzich and Wlad Godzich (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), 118. 73. See Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (1848; repr., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992); Judith Lichtenberg, ed., Democracy and the Mass Media: A Collection of Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Edward S. Herman and Robert W. McChesney, The Global Media: The New Missionaries of Corporate Capitalism (London: Cassell, 1997); Elliot D. Cohen, Philosophical Issues in Journalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992). 1. The Economic Postcard 1. Cited in The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 3. no. 21 (1902): 38. 2. Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000), 5. 3. See Alloula, The Colonial Harem. 4. Quoted in The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 3, no. 26 (1902): 133. 5. The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 3, no. 20 (1902): 23. 6. Quoted in The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 3, no. 26 (1902): 133. 7. With the increasing democratization of travel, women also eventually began following this route. On British women writers who resisted their exclusion from travel in the eighteenth century, see Elizabeth A. Bohls, Women Travel Writers and the Language of Aesthetics, 1716–­1818 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); on those who continued the resistance later, see Lisa Colletta, The Legacy of the Grand Tour: New Essays on Travel, Literature, and Culture (Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2015). 8. John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice, 3 vols. (London: Smith, Elder, 1851–­53). While familiarity with Ruskin was necessary for one’s status, agreeing with him was not. See the example of Elizabeth Robins Pennell in Lori Brister, “The Precise and the Subjective: The Guidebook Industry and Women’s Travel Writing in Late Nineteenth-­Century Europe and North Africa,” in Women, Travel Writing, and Truth, ed. Clare Broome Saunders (New York: Routledge, 2014), 69–­70.



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9. James Buzard, The Beaten Track: European Tourism, Literature, and the Ways to Culture, 1800–­1918 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992). 10. William Dean Howells, Roman Holidays and Others (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1908); Samuel Gamble Bayne, A Fantasy of Mediterranean Travel (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1909). 11. John William Crowley, The Dean of American Letters: The Late Career of William Dean Howells (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999). 12. It is interesting to note the similarity of the persona of both these works of travel writing to Mark Twain’s narrator in The Innocents Abroad (Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing, 1869). 13. Bayne, A Fantasy of Mediterranean Travel, 97. 14. William Dean Howells, A Modern Instance (Boston: J. R. Osgood, 1882). 15. William Dean Howells, Venetian Life (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1866); William Dean Howells, Italian Journeys (New York: Houghton, Mifflin, 1897). 16. Daniel H. Borus, Writing Realism: Howells, James, and Norris in the Mass Market (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 17. 17. For example, see Donald Pizer, ed., The Cambridge Companion to American Realism and Naturalism: Howells to London (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). 18. William Dean Howells, Criticism and Fiction (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1891). See also Howells’s more personal work My Literary Passions (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1895), published four years after Criticism and Fiction; this volume chronicles the influence of writers from Cervantes to Tennyson on Howells’s understanding of what the new kind of fiction should look like. 19. Howells, Criticism and Fiction, 15. 20. Ibid., 7. 21. Bolter and Grusin, Remediation, 11–­12. 22. Borus, Writing Realism, 19, 14. 23. Nancy Armstrong, Fiction in the Age of Photography: The Legacy of British Realism (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999), 19. 24. Howells, Criticism and Fiction, 11. 25. See Alloula, The Colonial Harem. 26. Howells, Roman Holidays, 106. 27. Ibid., 61. 28. Ibid., 89. 29. Ibid., 49. 30. Ibid. 31. Ibid. 32. Ibid., 1. 33. Ibid. 34. Ibid., 6–­7. 35. Ibid., 50.

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36. Ibid., 20. 37. Ibid., 23. 38. Ibid., 24. 39. Ibid., 29. 40. Michael Pupin, foreword to Derricks of Destiny: An Autobiography, by Samuel Gamble Bayne (New York: Brentano’s, 1924), x. 41. Elbert Hubbard, The Book of Business (East Aurora, N.Y.: Roycrofters, 1913), 144. 42. Elbert Hubbard, The Romance of Business (East Aurora, N.Y.: Roycrofters, 1917). 43. William Cameron Forbes, The Romance of Business (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1921), v. 44. Pupin, foreword, x. 45. Miles Orvell, The Real Thing: Imitation and Authenticity in American Culture, 1880–­1940 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), xv. 46. Bayne, A Fantasy of Mediterranean Travel, 2. 47. Ibid., 1. 48. Ibid., 2. 49. Ibid., 3. 50. Ibid., 3–­4. 51. Ibid., 11. 52. Ibid., 13, 12. 53. Ibid., 11. 54. Ibid. 55. Ibid. 56. Ibid., 12. 57. Ibid., 14. 58. Ibid., 62. 59. Ibid., 66. 60. Ibid. 61. Ibid. 62. Ibid. 63. Ibid., 70. 64. Samuel Gamble Bayne, On an Irish Jaunting-­Car through Donegal and Connemara (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1902); Samuel Gamble Bayne, Quicksteps through Scandinavia, with a Retreat from Moscow (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1908). 65. Bayne, Quicksteps through Scandinavia, 7. 66. “Northern Europe by Verbal Kodak,” New York Times, August 8, 1908. 67. Bayne, A Fantasy of Mediterranean Travel, 74. 68. Ibid., 44. 69. “Table Talk,” American Photography 3, no. 1 (1909): 49.



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70. Devins quotes a long paragraph from Bayne’s Fantasy of Mediterranean Travel in The Classic Mediterranean, published just one year after Bayne’s book. Devins begins his chapter “Algiers and Malta” with an epigraph by Robert Browning and then relates an Arab proverb before continuing with Bayne’s passage, putting Bayne on the same level as these other sources. John Bancroft Devins, The Classic Mediterranean (New York: American Tract Society, 1910), 57. 71. New York: The Metropolis of the Western World (New York: Foster & Reynolds, 1910), 109. 72. King’s How to See New York: A Complete Trustworthy Guidebook (New York: Moses King, 1914). 73. Mary Elizabeth Burt, Literary Landmarks: A Guide to Good Reading for Young People, and Teachers’ Assistant; With a Carefully Selected List of Seven Hundred Books (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1892); Lindsay Swift, Literary Landmarks of Boston: A Visitor’s Guide to Points of Literary Interest in and about Boston (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin 1922). 2. Insincerely Yours 1. Frederic T. Corkett, “The Production and Collection of the Pictorial Postcard,” Journal of the Society of the Arts 54 (1906): 622. 2. Ibid., 631. 3. See Staff, The Picture Postcard and Its Origins. 4. David M. Henkin, The Postal Age: The Emergence of Modern Communications in Nineteenth-­Century America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 80. 5. See Ellen Jordan, “The Christening of the New Woman: May 1894,” Victorian Newsletter, no. 63 (1983): 19–­21. For a sense of the new opportunities for women, see Loralee MacPike, “The New Woman, Childbearing, and the Reconstruction of Gender, 1880–­1900,” NWSA Journal 1, no. 3 (Spring 1989): 368–­97. 6. For evidence of the New Woman’s international presence, see Ann Heilmann and Margaret Beetham, eds., New Woman Hybridities: Femininity, Feminism and International Consumer Culture, 1880–­1930 (New York: Routledge, 2004). 7. Martha Banta characterizes the New Woman of the nineteenth century as one who increasingly negotiated the public sphere. Martha Banta, Imaging American Women (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987). 8. On the way some women reclaimed their press coverage through the creation of scrapbooks, see Ellen Gruber Garvey, Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013). 9. Quoted in ibid., 177, from a clipping in a scrapbook belonging to Elizabeth Boynton in 1869. 10. Sally Ledger, The New Woman: Fiction and Feminism at the Fin de Siècle (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997).

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11. For an exploration of the association between the New Woman and decadence, see Linda Dowling, “The Decadent and the New Woman in the 1890s,” Nineteenth-­Century Fiction 33, no. 4 (March 1979): 434–­53. 12. “Misoneogyny,” Punch, July 20, 1895, 35. 13. Ibid. 14. According to Collins, between 1885 and 1900, at least two hundred cartoons and drawings appeared in Punch depicting the New Woman in athletic clothes. Tracy J. R. Collins, “Athletic Fashion, ‘Punch,’ and the Creation of the New Woman,” Victorian Periodicals Review 43, no. 3 (Fall 2010): 309–­35. 15. Carolyn L. Kitch, The Girl on the Magazine Cover: The Origins of Visual Stereotypes in American Mass Media (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001). 16. Charles Dana Gibson, Drawings (New York: R. H. Russell & Son, 1894). Later, Gibson published a more explicitly titled book of drawings: Eighty Drawings: Including the Weaker Sex, the Story of a Susceptible Bachelor (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1903). 17. Martha Patterson, Beyond the Gibson Girl: Reimagining the American New Woman, 1895–­1915 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005), 4. 18. Kate Thomas, Postal Pleasures: Sex, Scandal, and Victorian Letters (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 2. 19. On Wharton in this context, see Deborah Lindsay Williams, Not in Sisterhood: Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Zona Gale, and the Politics of Female Authorship (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001). 20. Edith Wharton, The Custom of the Country (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), 3. 21. Ibid. 22. Ibid., 5. 23. For an alternately positive theorization of surfaces, see Giuliana Bruno, Surface: Matters of Aesthetics, Materiality, and Media (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014). This theorization comes about primarily through Bruno’s argument “for a shift in our focus away from the optic and toward a haptic materiality” where the surface is necessarily the point of contact. Ibid., 3. 24. Aaron Worth, “Edith Wharton’s Poetics of Telecommunications,” Studies in American Fiction 36, no. 1 (2008): 97. 25. Ibid., 99. 26. Wharton, The Custom of the Country, 52. 27. Ibid., 53. 28. Ibid. 29. Elaine Showalter, “The Custom of the Country: Spragg and the Art of the Deal,” in The Cambridge Companion to Edith Wharton, ed. Millicent Bell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 88. 30. Wharton, The Custom of the Country, 10.



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31. Ibid, 18. 32. Ibid. 33. Ibid., 19. 34. Ibid., 307. 35. Ibid. 36. Ibid. 37. Ibid., 307–­8. 38. Ibid., 221. 39. Ibid., 308. 40. Mark Goble, Beautiful Circuits: Modernism and the Mediated Life (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010). 41. Ella Cheever Thayer, Wired Love: A Romance of Dots and Dashes (New York: W. J. Johnston, 1880). The title page of this book encapsulates the novel as “the old, old story—­in a new, new way.” Also see Charles Barnard, “─ • ─ • ─ ─ •: An Electro-­mechanical Romance,” Scribner’s Monthly Magazine 10, no. 1 (May 1875): 37–­46 (the Morse code characters in this title spell out the name Kate). For another example of eroticism in communication, see W. J. Johnston, “A Centennial-­ Telegraphic Romance,” in Lightning Flashes and Electric Dashes: A Volume of Choice Telegraphic Literature, Humor, Fun, Wit and Wisdom, ed. W. J. Johnston (New York: W. J. Johnston, 1877), 101–­10. 42. Goble, Beautiful Circuits, 55. 43. Wharton, The Custom of the Country, 361. 44. Ibid., 35. 45. Ibid., 198. 46. Ibid., 340. 47. Ibid., 267. 48. Ibid., 15. 49. Ibid., 7. 50. Ibid., 526. 51. Ibid., 591. 52. Ibid., 576. 53. Ibid., 577. 54. Ibid., 578. 55. Ibid. 56. Ibid., 582. 57. Garvey, Writing with Scissors, 3. 58. Quoted in ibid. 59. Wharton, The Custom of the Country, 584. 60. Ibid., 578. 61. Ibid., 579. 62. Hugh Walpole, review of Franklin Winslow Kane, by Anne Douglas Sedgwick, in Anne Douglas Sedgwick; An Interview by Esther Forbes and Appreciations

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by William Lyon Phelps, Dorothy Canfield, Hugh Walpole, and Others, ed. Esther Forbes (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1920), n.p. 63. It would be interesting to analyze Gerald in the light of what some scholars take to be the New Woman’s male counterpart at the end of the nineteenth century: the dandy. 64. Anne Douglas Sedgwick, Franklin Winslow Kane (New York: Century, 1910), 4. 65. Ibid., 4–­5. 66. Ibid., 13. 67. Ibid. 68. Ibid., 15. 69. Ibid., 16. 70. Ibid., 15. 71. Ibid. 72. Ibid., 16–­17. 73. Ibid., 17. 74. Ibid. 75. Ibid., 27. 76. Ibid., 44. 77. Ibid. 78. Ibid., 45. 79. Ibid., 44. 80. Ibid. 81. Ibid., 84. 82. Ibid., 94. 83. Ibid., 35. 84. Ibid., 35–­36. 85. Ibid., 267. 86. Ibid., 171. 87. Ibid., 269. 88. Ibid., 271. 89. Ibid., 321. 90. Ibid., 128–­29. 91. Note that this postcard narrative elevates the letter not only above the postcard on which it is printed but also above the photograph, whose technological power is not able to reassure its heroine of the original’s regard. 92. Patterson, Beyond the Gibson Girl, 13, 49. 93. Henry Dwight Sedgwick, The New American Type and Other Essays (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1908), 32. 94. Ibid., 71. 95. Ibid., 75. 96. Ibid, 58. 97. Ibid.



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98. Ibid., 241. 99. Ibid., 241–­42. 100. Ibid., 209. 101. Ibid., 210. 102. Ibid., 83–­84. 103. Ibid., 60. 104. Ibid., 61. 105. Ibid., 53. 106. Ibid., 96. 107. Ibid., 68. 108. John C. Underwood, Literature and Insurgency: Ten Studies in Racial Evolution (New York: M. Kennerly, 1914), 389–­90. 109. Ibid., 351. 110. The classic text on degeneration from 1895 is Max Simon Nordau, Degeneration (New York: D. Appleton, 1895). See also William Greenslade, Degeneration, Culture, and the Novel, 1880–­1940 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994); Marja Härmänmaa and Christopher Nissen, Decadence, Degeneration, and the End: Studies in the European Fin de Siècle (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). 111. Underwood, Literature and Insurgency, ii, vii. 112. Ibid., viii, ix. 113. Arthur Hobson Quinn, American Fiction: An Historical and Critical Survey (New York: D. Appleton-­Century, 1936), 594, 578. 114. “The Lady Novelist in the City,” Financial Times (London), April 16, 1902, 4. 115. Quinn, American Fiction, 579. 116. Sedgwick, The New American Type, 211, 212. 117. Millicent Bell, “Introduction: A Critical History,” in Bell, The Cambridge Companion to Edith Wharton, 12–­13. 118. Anne Douglas Sedgewick, A Portrait in Letters, ed. Basil de Sélincourt (New York: Houghton, Mifflin, 1936), 22–­23. 119. Ibid., 100. 120. “Miss Sedgwick’s Latest Novel,” New York Times, 28 May 1910. 121. Sargent also appears in the guise of character Paul Morpeth in Wharton’s The House of Mirth, demonstrating the author’s interest in what he represents. 122. Compare the Gibson Girl with the images in Howard Chandler Christy’s The American Girl (New York: Moffat, Yard, 1906). 123. This theme of men developing relationships with media women has recurred historically, from Ovid’s tales of Pygmalion and Galatea to Spike Jonze’s 2013 movie Her. 124. “The Prince of Pilsen: The People in the Piece,” The Play Pictorial 4, no. 23 (1904): 144.

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3. Return to Sender 1. “Post-­Card Libels,” New York Times, November 21, 1871, 4. 2. “Pour faire des observations injurieuses adressées au destinataire.” Wolowski, La Carte Postale en diverse pays, 11. 3. “Où est arrivé qu’on s’adressait mutuellement des propos injurieux, écrits ouvertement sur l’adresse ou le dos de la lettre.” Ibid. 4. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, “Introduction: Somebody Said New Media,” in New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader, 2nd ed., ed. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun and Anna Watkins Fisher, with Thomas Keenan (New York: Routledge, 2016), 5. 5. Michael Diamond, Victorian Sensation: The Spectacular, the Shocking, and the Scandalous in Nineteenth-­Century Britain (London: Anthem Press, 2003), 158. 6. “King of the Belgians Attacked,” New York Times, November 16, 1902, 5. 7. “The Brussels Anarchist,” Scotsman, November 18, 1902, 5. 8. “Picture Postcard Craze,” Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, April 17, 1908, 12. 9. Phyllis Dare, From School to Stage (London: Collier, 1907), 55–­56. 10. Ibid., 56. 11. Ibid. 12. Marie Corelli, The Treasure of Heaven (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1906), vii. 13. Ibid. 14. Ibid., viii. 15. Ibid., vii. 16. “Marie Corelli Brings Suit,” New York Times, May 13, 1906, 10. 17. Ibid. 18. Ibid. 19. “Chattell v. Turner,” in The Times Law Reports, ed. Arthur Russell (London, 1895–­96), 7:361. 20. Ibid. 21. Quoted in Staff, The Picture Postcard and Its Origins, 63. 22. “Sadgrove v. Hole,” in British Ruling Cases (Rochester, N.Y., 1911), 1:459. 23. Ibid., 1:461–­62. 24. Ibid., 1:465. 25. The Poster and Post-­Card Collector, no. 10 (October 1903): 243. This periodical published only six issues under the title The Poster and Post-­Card Collector in 1903. It was, in fact, a continuation of The Poster Collector’s Circular, which similarly published only five issues from January through May 1899. In the magazine’s first issue under the title The Poster and Post-­Card Collector, an editorial explained that the self-­evident popularity of the picture postcard had inspired the publisher to continue with a new focus that nevertheless was clearly linked to the periodical’s previous subject. 26. “A Parisian Swindler,” Godey’s Lady’s Book, August 1873.



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27. “Counterfeit Gladstone Postcards,” New York Times, October 4, 1895, 16. 28. E. M. Forster, Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905; repr., New York: Dover, 1993), 5. 29. Ibid. 30. Ibid., 6–­7. 31. Ibid., 10. 32. Ibid., 7. 33. Ibid., 8. 34. Ibid. 35. “Une lettre, à l’instant même où elle a lieu . . . se divise, se met en morceaux, tombe en carte postale.” Jacques Derrida, La Carte Postale: De Socrate à Freud et au-­delà (Paris: Flammarion, 1980), 90. 36. Ibid., 23–­24. 37. Ibid., 27. 38. Ibid., 41. 39. Ibid. 40. Ibid. 41. Ibid., 42. 42. Ibid. 43. Ibid. 44. Ibid., 49. 45. Ibid. 46. Ibid. 47. For insight into how culturally unrecognizable media play a role in the perception of the untrustworthiness of the “primitive” other, see Matt Cohen, The Networked Wilderness: Communicating in Early New England (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010). 48. Forster, Where Angels Fear to Tread, 44. 49. Ibid., 44, 51. 50. Ibid., 50. 51. Ibid., 51. 52. Ibid., 4. 53. See Robert Bogdan and Todd Weseloh, Real Photo Postcard Guide: The People’s Photography (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2006); Hal Morgan and Andreas Brown, Prairie Fires and Paper Moons: The American Photographic Postcard, 1900–­1920 (Boston: David R. Godine, 1981); P. J. Vanderwood and F. N. Samponaro, Border Fury: A Picture Postcard Record of Mexico’s Revolution and U.S. War Preparedness, 1910–­1917 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1988). 54. Ken Gonzales-­Day, Lynching in the West: 1850–­1935 (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2006), 95. 55. Ibid., 113–­14. 56. See Randall M. Miller,“Lynching in America: Some Context and a Few Comments,” Pennsylvania History 72, no. 3 (Summer 2005): 275.

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57. James Allen, Hilton Als, John Lewis, and Leon F. Litwack, Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America (Santa Fe, N.M.: Twin Palms, 2000). See also Dora Apel, Imagery of Lynching: Black Men, White Women, and the Mob (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2004); Jacqueline Goldsby, A Spectacular Secret: Lynching in American Life and Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006). 58. Leon F. Litwack, “Hellhounds,” in Allen et al., Without Sanctuary, 13. 59. Miller, “Lynching in America,” 280–­81. 60. Quoted in Litwack, “Hellhounds,” 11. 61. Allen et al., Without Sanctuary, plates 25 and 26. 62. Ibid., 95. 63. Wayne Martin Mellinger,“Postcards from the Edge of the Color Line: Images of African Americans in Popular Culture, 1893–­1917,” Symbolic Interaction 15, no. 4 (1992): 413–­33. See also George M. Frederickson and Jacqueline Goldsby, The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate on Afro-­American Character and Destiny, 1817–­ 1914 (New York: Harper & Row, 1971). 64. This recalls anecdotal accounts of occasions on which slave owners would give slaves a “holiday” so that the owners could observe voyeuristically how slaves would celebrate. 65. Ida B. Wells, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases (New York: New York Age Print, 1892). 66. “Father and Three Sons Assassinated for Raising the First Cotton, News Never Reached World from Texas,” Chicago Defender, October 30, 1915, 1, cited in Leigh Raiford, “Photography and the Practices of Critical Black Memory,” in “Photography and Historical Interpretation,” ed. Jennifer Tucker, special issue, History and Theory 48, no. 4 (December 2009): 112–­29. 67. Dora Apel draws a link between lynching photographs and the 2003 images of torture leaked from the prison at Abu Ghraib. She makes clear that photographs of torture do not produce their own undoing. Dora Apel, “Torture Culture: Lynching Photographs and the Images of Abu Ghraib,” Art Journal 64, no 2 (Summer 2005): 88–­100. 68. Herbert Flowerdew, The Seventh Post Card (London: Greening, 1914). 69. See the discussion of “The Five Orange Pips” and the postal service in Siegert, Relays, chap. 15. 70. Flowerdew, The Seventh Post Card, 3. 71. Ibid., 2 72. Ibid. 73. Ibid., 4. 74. Ibid. 75. Ibid., 7. 76. Ibid., 8. 77. Ibid., 6. 78. Ibid., 102.



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79. Ibid., 139. 80. Ibid., 161. 81. Ibid., 164. 82. Ibid. 83. Ibid., 168. 84. Ibid., 169. 85. Ibid. 86. Ibid., 11. 87. Ibid., 20. 88. “Our Booking-­Office,” Punch, February 10, 1915, 19–­20. 89. Flowerdew, The Seventh Post Card, 55. 90. Ibid. 91. Ibid., 139. 92. Ibid., 140. 93. Michael Winship,“The Transatlantic Book Trade and Anglo-­American Literary Culture in the Nineteenth Century,” in Reciprocal Influence: Literary Production, Distribution, and Consumption in America, ed. Steven Fink and Susan S. Williams (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999), 99. 94. Quoted in ibid. 95. Lydia Cushman Schurman, “The Effect of Nineteenth-­Century ‘Libraries’ on the American Book Trade,” in Scorned Literature: Essays on the History and Criticism of Popular Mass-­Produced Fiction in America, ed. Lydia Cushman Schurman and Deidre Johnson (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002), 100. 96. Quoted in ibid., 101, emphasis added. 97. William L. Alden, “London Literary Letter,” New York Times, August 27, 1898. The fact that this column was a regular feature of the New York Times testifies to the importance that Americans placed on the British literary scene. 98. Flowerdew was keenly aware of the vagaries of the literary market and the difficulties it posed for those wishing to make a living from writing. He wrote a long letter to the editor of the British magazine The Academy that was published in the May 1910 issue under the heading “The Price of the Novel.” In the letter, Flowerdew argued against the views of Hall Caine, one of the most popular novelists of the time, who had demanded that the prices of novels be lowered so that more people could purchase his books. The letter provides a hint of the financial difficulties Flowerdew seems to have been experiencing. 99. Michael Denning, Mechanic Accents: Dime Novels and Working-­Class Culture in America (New York: Verso, 1987), 20. 4. The Voracious Postcard 1. “Post Card Fad Increasing,” New York Daily Tribune, July 28, 1901, 9. 2. For more about Belle Ward Campbell’s club, see The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 1, no. 5 (1900): 71; and The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 3, no. 22 (1902): 58.

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3. Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives on the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1992), 151. 4. Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito, Re-­collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2014). See also Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996). 5. “Cartolyrica,” The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 3, no. 21 (1902): 42. 6. Alloula, The Colonial Harem. 7. Annegret Fauser, Musical Encounters at the 1889 Paris World’s Fair (Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press, 2005), 227. 8. Rhonda K. Garelick, Electric Salome: Loie Fuller’s Performance of Modernism (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2009), 68, 71. 9. The Picture Postcard Annual and Directory 7, no. 73 (1906): 79. Starting with issue 25 in 1902, The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art changed its name to The Picture Postcard Annual and Directory. 10. Jonathan Best, Philippine Picture Postcards, 1900–­1920 (Makati: Bookmark, 1994), 44. 11. Ibid. 12. Alloula, The Colonial Harem, 64. 13. Ibid., 126. 14. William Ouellette, Fantasy Postcards (London: Sphere, 1976), 13. 15. The Post Card 1, no. 6 (1889): n.p. 16. David Cannadine, “The Context, Performance and Meaning of Ritual: The British Monarchy and the Invention of Tradition, c. 1820–­1977,” in The Invention of Tradition, ed. Eric Hobswam and Terence Ranger (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 101–­64. 17. “Post Card Fad Increasing,” 9. 18. The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 3, no. 22 (1902): 54. 19. “Inventor of the Postcard Dies,” New York Times, August 3, 1902. According to the article, the Indian government’s concern was similar to that of the German government previously: that not enough people would use the postcard for it to be profitable. In 1877, a military official named Colonel Brine and his friends began sending their own postcards through the mail. When postal authorities told Brine to stop, he replied that he was paying the full letter rate. Legal counsel found him in the right, and he was eventually able to prove the popularity of the postcard and get it officially adopted. 20. Menke, Telegraphic Realism, 40. 21. “Post Card Fad Increasing,” 9. 22. Ibid. 23. Schor, “Cartes Postales,” 217.



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24. Isabel Fernández Tejedo, Recuerdo de México: La tarjeta postal Mexicana, 1882–­1930 (Mexico City: Banobras, 1994), 47. 25. Schor, “Cartes Postales,” 222. 26. The Poster and Post-­Card Collector, no. 8 (August 1903): 192. 27. Ibid., 193. 28. The mutuality between the representation of locales in postcards and the representation of postcards in locales is still evident today—­vendors exhibit in different locations and tend to cater to each, as seen in Schor’s examples: “trays and trays of postcards of New England villages at New England fairs and flea markets; trays and trays of postcards of Paris by arrondissement in Paris.” Schor, “Cartes Postales,” 204. 29. Ellen Handy, “Postcard Sublime: William Henry Jackson’s Western Landscapes,” Visual Resources 17, no. 4 (2001): 421. 30. Nancy Stieber,“Postcards and the Invention of Old Amsterdam around 1900,” in Postcards: Ephemeral Histories of Modernity, ed. David Prochaska and Jordana Mendelson (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010), 37. 31. E. Watson-­Thomas, letter to the editor, The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 3, no. 20 (1902): 26. 32. This advice continues in modern-­day books on postcard collecting: “The soundest advice to beginners is to concentrate on collecting views relating to the areas in which they live and work. From this modest base there will soon emerge a very wide choice of themes to suit individual tastes.” William Dûval and Valerie Monahan, Collecting Postcards in Colour: 1894–­1914 (Poole, England: Blandford Press, 1978), 28, quoted in Schor, “Cartes Postales,” 204. 33. The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 3, no. 19 (1902): 7. 34. The Picture Postcard Annual and Directory 7, no. 73 (1906): 81. 35. Deborah Poole, “An Image of ‘Our Indian’: Type Photographs and Racial Sentiments in Oaxaca, 1920–­1940,” Hispanic American Historical Review 84, no. 1 (2004): 42. 36. George Robert Sims, “Prologue,” in Living London: Its Work and Its Play, Its Humour and Its Pathos, Its Sights and Its Scenes, ed. George Robert Sims (London: Cassell, 1902), 6. 37. The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 3, no. 22 (1902): 54. Compare the nature of this series with the various series of French-­produced postcards titled “Petits Métiers,” meaning “small trades” or “odd jobs.” 38. The Post-­Card Connoisseur: A Monthly Magazine of Announcement and Criticism for Post-­Card Collectors with Descriptions & Specimens, no. 2 (1904): 22. This London magazine published only three issues (March, April, and May 1904). In its second issue, the editors noted that they had purchased The Poster and Post-­Card Collector (which ceased publication in 1903) and would be incorporating it. The transformation of The Poster Collector’s Circular into The Poster and Post-­Card Collector and then The Post-­Card Connoisseur from 1899 to 1904 provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of niche periodical publication at the turn of the century.

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39. See Benedict Anderson’s seminal Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983). In addition, see Ross F. Collins and E. M. Palmegiano, eds., The Rise of Western Journalism 1815–­1914: Essays on the Press in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain and the United States (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2007); Joel H. Wiender, The Americanization of the British Press, 1830s–­1914: Speed in the Age of Transatlantic Journalism (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). 40. The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 3, no. 21 (1902): 40. 41. E. J. Wall and H. Snowden Ward, The Photographic Picture Post-­Card, for Personal Use and for Profit (London: Dawbarn & Ward, 1906), 79. 42. For examples, see Fernández Tejedo, Recuerdo de México, 12, 45. 43. The Picture Postcard Annual and Directory 7, no. 70 (1906): 69. 44. An earlier model for this genre can be seen in the illustrated song slides for magic lantern shows produced in the mid-­1890s by Bamforth, among others. See Malcolm Cook, “Animating the Audience: Singalong Films in Britain in the 1920s,” in The Sounds of the Silents in Britain, ed. Julie Brown and Annette Davison (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013). 45. “Life Model/Song Cards,” The Picture Postcard Annual and Directory 8, no. 80 (1907): 27. 46. The back of this postcard shows that the words and music were copyrighted in 1908 by Charles K. Harris. Harris was a famous American composer of popular music. 47. The British publisher of the “Life Model/Song Cards” series advertised that it received orders “not only from the United States—­where agencies have been recently established—­but from the British colonies, and as far off as Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania,” illustrating that even when representing popular music, the postcard fantasy was colonial. “Life Model/Song Cards,” 27. 48. “A Curious Hindu Character Card,” The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 1, no. 8 (1900): 21. 49. “The Picture Postcard Craze,” Framlingham Weekly News, April 14, 1900, 2. 50. Beatrix Cresswell, “Place Collections,” The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 1, no. 15 (1901): 132. 51. E. W. Richardson, in The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 1, no. 3 (1900): 38. 52. [Elisabeth Woodbridge Morris], “The Point of View,” Scribner’s Magazine 44 (1908): 379. The name of the author of this column is not given in the magazine, but the article was later reprinted under the title “Travelers’ Letters” in Elisabeth Woodbridge Morris’s volume of collected essays Days Out and Other Papers (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1917), 148–­54. 53. One of the most popular and celebrated writers in the history of British literature, Kipling is a vexed figure for literary critics. He is viewed as a major spokesperson for British imperial aspirations and could easily be dismissed as a writer



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of imperialist, and racist, propaganda. Yet such conclusions fail to recognize his nuanced style. During his lifetime, even writers who disliked him on account of his ideology, such as Max Beerbohm, recognized him as a genius. Henry James, T. S. Eliot, and Ernest Hemingway counted themselves among his admirers. As one critic has noted, “One of the perennial questions that swirl about Rudyard Kipling is how readers who vehemently object to his conservative and imperialist politics can nonetheless take deep pleasure in his art, even when that art is underwritten by the very politics they despise.” John McBratney, review of Politics and Awe in Rudyard Kipling’s Fiction, by Peter Havholm, Journal of British Studies 48, no. 2 (2009): 536. 54. Ann Parry, The Poetry of Rudyard Kipling: Rousing the Nation (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1992), 28. 55. C. D. af Wirsén, “Presentation Speech” (1907), in Nobel Lectures: Literature, 1901–­1967, ed. Horst Frenz (Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, 1999), 58. This brings to mind William Dean Howells’s pedant, discussed in chapter 1. 56. Ibid., 61. 57. Rudyard Kipling, “The Village That Voted the Earth Was Flat,” in A Diversity of Creatures (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1925), 149. 58. Ibid. Coconut pulp fibers for coir mats came primarily from India and Sri Lanka, both annexed by the British Empire in the nineteenth century. 59. Ibid. 60. Ibid., 155. 61. Ibid., 156. 62. Ibid. 63. Ibid., 177. 64. Ibid., 164. 65. Ibid., 178. 66. Ibid., 175. 67. Ibid., 189. 68. It appears that Bram Stoker was not the only one to publish writing on vampires in 1897. Kipling wrote a poem titled “The Vampire,” explicitly inspired by a painting of the same title by his cousin, Sir Philip Burne-­Jones (son of Pre-­Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-­Jones). An edition of the poem was published the following year with Burne-­Jones’s painting as the frontispiece, combining image and text. Kipling’s poem, like the painting, depicts a woman who cruelly feeds off the man who loves her. A 1902 New York Times review of the poem and the accompanying image states: “Sir Philip’s illustration is quite as flat, unmoved, and untrue of ring as the verses: it does not represent Kipling’s idea any more than Kipling’s verses represent it. There is no vampire about it.” Yet, the writer continues, what Kipling’s poem has that Burne-­Jones’s painting does not is the terrifyingly vague “suggestion in Kipling’s verse that the man—­some man—­any man, is the victim of the woman—­some woman—­any woman, who uses and abuses him and remains always

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an overrated enigma who ‘never could understand.’” “British Literary Painter,” New York Times, March 20, 1902, 8. The vampire as subject matter appears to be less vampiric than the mass media. 69. Nebo, “Cartolyrica,” The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 3, no. 22 (1902): 58. 70. Jennifer Wicke, “Vampiric Typewriting: Dracula and Its Media,” ELH 59, no. 2 (Summer 1992): 469. 71. Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897; repr., New York: W. W. Norton, 1997), 22. 72. Ibid. 73. Ibid., 37. 74. Ibid., 168. 75. Stephen D. Arata,“The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization,” Victorian Studies 33 (1990): 621–­45. 76. Stoker, Dracula, 9. 77. Ibid., 14–­15. 78. Ibid., 11. 79. Ibid., 23. 80. Ibid., 9–­10. 81. Ibid., 11. 82. Ibid., 25. 83. Ibid. 84. Dracula’s English is for the most part correct, but he has not been able to convert it to a modern state. He takes the phrase “to know her is to love her” from Samuel Rogers’s 1814 poem “Jacqueline,” but, like his knowledge of London, this is a secondhand experience of English culture, from books. 85. Stoker, Dracula, 30. 86. Ibid., 25–­26. 87. Ibid., 69. 88. Ibid., 63. 89. Ibid., 155–­56. 90. Ibid., 252. 91. Ibid., 269. 92. Ibid., 325. 93. Ibid., 278. 94. Ibid., 311. 95. Stewart, On Longing, 140. Stewart refers specifically to the postcard as “that remarkable souvenir” because of its “complex process of captioning and display which repeats [the] transformation of public into private.” Ibid., 138. 96. Norman G. Turnbull and Percy M. C. Beck, lyrics and music, “Send Me a Picture Postcard” (London: B. Feldman, 1909). 97. Stewart, On Longing, 151. 98. The Picture Postcard: A Magazine of Travel, Philately, Art 3, no. 24 (1902): 83.



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Postscript 1. Bolter and Grusin, Remediation. 2. See Jeffrey L. Meikle, Postcard America: Curt Teich and the Imagining of a Nation, 1931–­1950 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015). 3. Quoted in ibid., 44. 4. A writer for the New York Times saw this exhibition as groundbreaking: “The exhibition of picture postcards currently at the Emily Lowe Gallery of Hofstra University, in Hempstead, Long Island, is such a good idea it makes one marvel that nobody ever thought of it before.” Peter Schjeldahl, “Picture Postcards since the 1880’s: Rich and Potent Folk Art,” New York Times, July 7, 1974, 99. See also “Now It’s Art: Postcard Show Hits the Road,” Modern Photography, January 1975, 41. 5. Richard Morphet, introduction to Wish You Were Here: The History of the Picture Postcard—­An Exhibition Organized by the Emily Lowe Gallery (Hempstead, N.Y.: Emily Lowe Gallery, Hofstra University, 1974), n.p. See also, in the same volume, the introductory comments by Lucille and Walter Fillin. 6. Morphet, introduction. 7. See James A. Findlay, ed., Modernism for the Masses: Artist-­Designed Postcards from the Collection of Anthony Guneratne (Fort Lauderdale: Bienes Center for the Literary Arts, 2003). 8. Paul Eluard, “Les Plus Belles Cartes Postales,” Minotaure 3–­4 (December 1933): 85–­100. 9. Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out (London: Duckworth, 1915); Wallace Stevens, “A Postcard from the Volcano,” in Ideas of Order (New York: Alcestis Press, 1935). 10. When the postcard appeared in avant-­garde musical composition, it was even more abstracted. Alban Berg (a student of Arnold Schoenberg, known for his innovations in atonality) composed a five-­part musical piece based on postcard texts by the contemporary Viennese poet Peter Altenberg (ünf Orchesterlieder, nach Ansichtkarten-­Texten von Peter Altenberg). The work premiered on March 31, 1913, in a concert by the Vienna Concert Society that included several other experimental compositions. The performance of Berg’s piece ultimately led to a riot in the concert hall, and the event later came to be known as the Skandalkonzert. 11. Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the Nineteenth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014), 13, originally published as Geschichte der Eisenbahnreise (Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag, 1977). 12. For an analysis of Arcadia’s successful Images of America book series, see Mark Rice, “Arcadian Visions of the Past,” Columbia Journal of American Studies 9 (Fall 2009): 7–­26. 13. For example, on the back of one postcard titled “Lower Broad Street, Augusta Georgia” was written, “We made no mistake in our selection. The charm of this place is upon us. The time going too rapidly. All the spring flowers in blossom while the trees have their feathery green dress. I love it and hate to go home.”

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Joseph M. Lee III, Augusta in Vintage Postcards (Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia, 1997), 17. 14. Martin Parr and Jack Stasiak, “The Actual Boot”: The Photographic Post Card Boom 1900–­1920 (Northampton: A. H. Jolly, 1986), 15. 15. Ibid., 41. 16. Ibid., 29. 17. Ibid., 92. 18. Ibid., 19. 19. Martin Parr’s Boring Postcards (London: Phaidon Press, 1999) focuses on “dead” postcards in the British Isles. For their American and German counterparts, respectively, see Martin Parr, Boring Postcards USA (London: Phaidon Press, 2004); and Martin Parr, Langweilige Postkarten (London: Phaidon Press, 2001). 20. Reviews from Big Issue and Dazed & Confused, quoted on Phaidon Press’s website page for Parr’s Boring Postcards, http://www.phaidon.com. See also Thomas Weski, Martin Parr: Parrworld—­Objects and Postcards (New York: Aperture, 2008); this two-­volume set, the first documentation of Parr’s work in his twenty-­five years of collecting, puts these items on display in a luscious, appropriately thorough, and humorous fashion. 21. See also the work of John Baeder, an American artist associated with the photorealist movement. Baeder is best known for his paintings of roadside diners, often based on postcard images. 22. Tom Phillips, Tom Phillips: Works, Texts to 1974 (Stuttgart: Hansjörg Mayer, 1975), 88. Regarding the use of the color red in postcards, Weski notes: “[John] Hinde established a postcard publishing firm in Dublin in the 1950s, and used to instruct the photographers in his employ to fill their pictures to the brim with color. . . . Sometimes the photographers’ assistants can be seen playing the part of spectators, often wearing red pullovers—­Hinde liked a splash of red to enliven every scene.” Weski, Martin Parr, 6. 23. See Phillips’s studies for Sixteen Appearances of the Union Jack (1974) and Benches (1970–­7 1) in Phillips, Tom Phillips, 138, 141, photographs on 155–­57. 24. See Joe Moran, “Tom Phillips and the Art of the Everyday,” Visual Culture in Britain 3, no. 2 (2002): 17–­32. 25. Phillips, Tom Phillips, 232. 26. Ibid. Phillips does just this in his collaboration with poet Jonathan Williams, Imaginary Postcards (London: Trigram Press, 1975). Only 120 copies of the book were printed because of a disagreement between the two. 27. Tom Phillips, The Postcard Century: 2000 Cards and Their Messages (London: Thames and Hudson, 2000). American artists Ed Ruscha and Walker Evans exemplify similar trends on the other side of the Atlantic. See especially Jeff Rosenheim, Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard (Göttingen: Steidl & Partners, 2009), which was published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same title at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibition, organized by Jeff L. Rosenheim, drew on the nine thousand postcards in the museum’s Walker Evans Archive.



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28. Phillips, The Postcard Century, 5. 29. Ibid. 30. Tom Phillips, Fantasy Travel: Vintage People on Photo Postcards (Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2012); Tom Phillips, Readers: Vintage People on Photo Postcards (Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2010). 31. Also in 2010, Phillips, as a multimedia artist, expanded his repertoire of remediation through the release of his Humument app (complete with oracle function). This trend continued with the 2014 exhibition Illuminated Tweets at the Southbank Centre, which paired Phillips’s tweeted poetry with his visual works. 32. Walter Benjamin,“The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Illuminations (London: Fontana, 1968). 33. It is no coincidence that Derrida’s The Post Card “begins” with such a museum store–­bought postcard. 34. The Getty Conservation Institute first posted the following call on its website in 2006, seeking old photographic papers, film, and negatives from the general public: “Digital photography is replacing traditional photography. And it’s happening so fast that traditional photography, and the knowledge about how to create it, is in danger of disappearing altogether. We need your help.” Specifically, the site advised contributors sending prints not to send “family treasures,” but rather “extra copies and rejects.” See “Photographic Processes Research: How You Can Help,” Getty Conservation Institute, updated October 2015, http://www.getty.edu/ conservation. 35. Jessica Guynn, “Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Wants to Bring Back Paper Postcards,” Los Angeles Times, Technology blog, April 12, 2011, http://latimesblogs.latimes .com. 36. Ibid. 37. See the delivery times on Sincerely’s website: https://sincerely.com/delivery. 38. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994), 194. 39. Comments on Josh Root,“You’ve Got Mail: Five Photo Postcard Apps Tested,” Digital Photography Review, July 4, 2016, https://www.dpreview.com. 40. The quoted messages were all featured in one post, “Sunday Secrets,” PostSecret, December 17, 2016, http://postsecret.com. 41. For more information, see the PostSecret website, http://postsecret.com. 42. The association’s website claims, “The IAPP is the only place you’ll find a comprehensive body of resources, knowledge and experts to help you navigate the complex landscape of today’s data-­driven world.”“Become a Member,” International Association of Privacy Professionals, accessed May 15, 2018, https://iapp.org. The organization self-­consciously positions itself as contemporary and technologically savvy. 43. Jeffrey Hatakeda, “Can a Postcard Constitute an Invasion of Privacy?,” International Association of Privacy Professionals, November 23, 2015, https://iapp.org.

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44. Maria Castellucci, “Nearly 90% of Healthcare Lawyers Say Industry Is at Greater Risk of Data Breaches Than Others,” Modern Healthcare, October 14, 2016, http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article. 45. Joseph Conn, “Postcard Triggers Ohio Mental-­Health Privacy Mea Culpa,” Modern Healthcare, May 11, 2016, http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article. 46. Reprinted in “Much Ado about a Postcard,” Life, October 27, 1961, 84. 47. “Peace Corps Girl Stirs Anger in Nigeria Alleging ‘Squalor,’” New York Times, October 16, 1961, 10. 48. Patrick Fitzgerald and Mark Leopold, Stranger on the Line: The Secret History of Phone Tapping (London: Bodley Head, 1987). 49. “Much Ado about a Postcard,” 84. 50. I initially wrote this postscript before the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency and his subsequent decision to use Twitter as a means of communicating directly with the American public. An analysis of the implications of this choice (including the legal implications) is too complex to be included here, but any such analysis should be illuminated by what I have set forth as the characteristics of new media discourse. 51. Laura Hudson, “Why You Should Think Twice Before Shaming Anyone on Social Media,” Wired, July 24, 2013, https://www.wired.com/2013/07/ap_argshaming. 52. Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, directed by Werner Herzog (Los Angeles: Saville Productions, 2016). 53. See Peter Bradshaw, “Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, Review—­Herzog’s Sombre Look at the Digital Revolution,” The Guardian, October 22, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com. 54. James Runciman, Side Lights (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1893), 2. 55. For an example of a comparable recent take on new media, see Nathan Jurgenson, “The Facebook Eye,” The Atlantic, January 13, 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com.

index

advertising: of books, 70, 111; (trade) cards, 12, 41, 163; in magazines, 152, 160; on postcards, 7, 12, 13f1, 165, 221n32 albums: carte de visite, 18; in The Custom of the Country, 96–98; photograph, 41; postcard, 41, 204; in “Send Me a Picture Postcard,” 195 Alden, William L., 152–53 Alfonso XIII (king of Spain), 27 Alger, Horatio, Jr., 60 Alloula, Malek: The Colonial Harem, 33–34, 40, 159–60, 162 All-Story Magazine (pulp magazine), 153 apps (postcard), 207–8 Arata, Stephen, 188 Arcadia Publishing, 201–2 Archer, Frederick Scott, 17 African Americans (postcard representations of), 138–39, 139f24 Argosy, The (pulp magazine), 152–53 Armstrong, Nancy, 48 Atlantic Monthly, The, 19, 46

Aurora Floyd (Braddon), 151 Austen, Jane, 47 authenticity: in Bayne, 46, 59, 61–66; “culture of,” 61; in Howells, 61, 71; in popular writing, 44, 67; postcard threat to, 29, 40, 61; and travel 40, 42–44; in Wharton, 110. See also New Woman; nostalgia; souvenir banality (and new media), 36, 47, 197, 200–201, 204, 215 Barnard, Charles: “An Electromechanical Romance,” 92 Barrett, Edward, 4 Bayne, Samuel Gamble: as businessman 34–35, 45–46, 60–61, 69, 72; Derricks of Destiny, 60–61; A Fantasy of Mediterranean Travel, 35, 45, 61– 69, 71; On an Irish Jaunting-Car through Donegal and Connemara, 68; Quicksteps through Scandinavia, 68 Beck, Percy: “Send Me a Picture Postcard,” 195 Bell, Millicent, 111

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“Belle Fatma,” 160, 161f26 Benjamin, Walter: “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” 206 Bent-Eny, Rachel (dancer), 160 Best, Jonathan, 161 Birth of a Nation, The (Griffith), 141 Bolter, Jay David, 40, 47, 61, 197 Borus, Daniel, 47–48 Braddon, Mary Elizabeth, 151 Brezina, Matt, 207 Burke, Edmund, 47 Buzard, James, 44 Caird, Mona, 80 calling cards, 17–18, 92–93 Campbell, Belle Ward, 157. See also clubs (postcard exchange) Cannadine, David, 163 captions: artistic, 200, 202–205; authoritative 40, 53f12, 67; ethnographic, 18, 33, 51, 160, 165, 172; standard formulas, 16, 69, 71; use of 66, 104, 115f20; 139f24, 240n95; in “The Village that Voted the Earth Was Flat,” 179. See also colonial postcards: captions; lynching postcards: captions carte de visite, 5, 17–20, 22, 41, 171 cartolyrica, 158, 168 categorization: carte de visite, 18; in A Fantasy of Mediterranean Travel, 63, 65; postcards 18, 29, 49–51, 75, 131, 167, 169; stereographs, 19 Cavalier, The (pulp magazine), 152 Cay, Nowell. See Flowerdew, Herbert celebrity: dangers of 119–20, 122– 24, 147, 154; homes, 72; postcard representation of, 120 Cervantes, Miguel de, 58, 225n18 Charlton, John P., 9

Chase, Pauline (actress), 114 Chattell v. Turner. See libel lawsuits Chicago Defender, 140 Child and the Cinematograph Show and the Picture Post-Card Evil, The (Rawnsley), 132 Christy, Howard Chandler, 113. See also Gibson Girl Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong, 118 circulation: in The Custom of the Country, 85, 93, 95; dangers of, 119, 121, 154; in Dracula, 187; in Franklin Kane, 99; and social media, 212; value in postcards, 9, 41. See also lynching postcards: circulation Clifford, Camille (actress), 114. See also Gibson Girl cloud technology, 6 clubs (postcard exchange), 20–21, 22f4, 41, 132, 157, 195 code: for calling cards, 17; Morse 23, 24f5, 92; on postcards 23–27. See also language of stamps Cole, George Watson, 29 collectible (postcard): relation to communication, 20–21, 158, 193–96; value as, 20–21, 29–30, 36, 41, 85, 104, 163, 169, 176 collecting: cult of, 5, 20; in The Custom of the Country, 96–98; in A Fantasy of Mediterranean Travel, 63; images of royal families, 119; in “The Village that Voted the Earth Was Flat,” 179– 82; in Where Angels Fear to Tread, 131–32 collection (colonial): 14, 34, 158, 160, 162–63, 165, 182 collection (postcard as art), 204–7 collection (traditional vs. postcard), 158, 167, 170, 172, 174, 193, 196. See also postcard sublime



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collectors (postcard) 20, 41–42, 75, 114, 120, 157, 163, 170, 176, 195, 199, 237n32 Collins, Tracy, 81 Colonial Harem, The (Alloula), 33, 160, 162 colonialism: in Dracula, 189; logic of, 34, 36, 158; and postal service, 164; relation to postcard, 158, 162– 63, 167, 171, 173, 196, 211, 238n47; in “The Village that Voted the Earth Was Flat,” 179–84. See also collection (colonial); colonization (reverse); Kipling: and colonial background; postcardization colonial postcards: captions, 51; images, 159, 162, 165, 174–75; use of, 159–60, 162–63, 165. See also colonialism: relation to postcard colonization (reverse), 158, 177, 179–84, 187–88 comic postcards, 132, 132f23, 134 communication (postcard): business, 6–7, 76, 210; personal, 1, 8, 26, 35, 51, 75–76, 90, 103, 107, 177, 193, 201, 209. See also letters: vs. postcards; collectible (postcard): relation to communication Comstock law, 138 copyright laws (international), 151– 52 Corelli, Marie: in code book, 23; lawsuit, 122–24, 147; The Treasure of Heaven, 122 Corkett, Frederic T., 75 courtship plot. See marriage plot Crary, Jonathan, 17 craze (the picture postcard), 55, 157, 164, 176. See also fad (postcard) Cresswell, Beatrix F., 28, 176 cultural capital, 40, 42, 63–64, 71–73, 86, 94

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Daniel Deronda (Eliot), 151 Dare, Phyllis (actress), 114, 120, 121f21 Darrah, William, 18 Da Vinci, Leonardo, 200 Denning, Michael, 154 Derrida, Jacques: The Post Card, 33, 130, 243n33 Devins, John Bancroft, 71 dialectic of new media, 3, 33, 35–37, 40, 47, 80 Díaz, Porfirio, 167 discourse (new media), 5–6, 32, 35, 37, 73, 75, 80, 103, 116, 118, 135, 154, 163–64, 177, 185, 211–13, 215, 244n50 Disdéri, André, 17–18 Don Quixote (Cervantes), 58 Doyle, Arthur Conan: “The Five Orange Pips,” 141–42; George Edalji case, 147–48 Duchamp, Marcel, 36, 200–201 education, and new media, 18, 29, 167 Edward VII (king of Great Britain), 120 Egerton, George, 80 Eiffel Tower, 14, 163 Eliot, George, 151 Eluard, Paul, 200 Facebook. See social media fad (postcard), 5, 21, 63, 172 fantasy postcards, 162 Fillin, Lucille, 199 Fillin, Walter, 199 “Five Orange Pips, The” (Doyle), 141– 42 Flowerdew, Herbert: A Celibate’s Wife, 152; “The Cure of Cantyll,” 152; In an Ancient Mirror, 152; The Presumption of Stanley Hay, MP, 140–50; relation to mass fiction

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market, 119, 150, 152–54, 235n98; The Seventh Post Card, 36, 119, 140–50, 153–54; Villa Mystery, 153 Forbes, William Cameron, 61 Forster, E. M.: Where Angels Fear to Tread, 35–36, 119, 127–35 Foucault, Michel, 1, 159 Garvey, Ellen Gruber, 97 gender and writing. See women writers (expectations of) George V (king of Great Britain), 193, 194f30 Gibson, Dana, 81, 113 Gibson Girl, 81–83, 113–14 Gladstone, William, 8, 127 Goble, Mark, 92 golden age (of postcards), 15, 197–200, 206 Gonzales-Day, Ken, 135–36 government adoption of postcards: Austria, 7, 34; Belgium, 7; Britain, 7–8; British India, 164, 236n19; Denmark, 7; France, 9, 117; Germany, 6–7, 12, 34, 236n19; the Netherlands, 7; Norway, 7, Sweden, 7; Switzerland, 7; United States, 9–10 government-issued card. See postal card government regulation of postcards: ban of harmful postcards, 31; divided back, 20; inspection during World War I, 197; private printing, 10, 15, 77; requirements in 1903, 30; stamp placement, 24; taxation in 1907, 31. See also lynching postcards: prohibition Grand, Sarah, 78–79 grand tour, 43, 224n7. See also travel Griffith, D. W., 141 Grusin, Richard, 40, 47, 61, 197

“Gruss aus” postcards, 12, 49, 50f9, 50f10 Habert, Pierre: Le Miroir de vertu et chemin de bien viure, 77 handwriting: in The Custom of the Country, 90–92; in Franklin Winslow Kane, 100; in postcard design, 49, 203; in The Seventh Post Card, 143 Handy, Ellen, 169 Harper & Brothers, 67–68, 151 Henkin, David, 78 Herrmann, Emanuel, 7 Herzog, Werner, 211 Hill, Rowland, 78 Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 19–20 Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 70 Howells, William Dean: Criticism and Fiction, 47–48; Italian Journeys, 46; A Modern Instance, 46; and photography, 48–49, 62, 70–71; reputation, 45, 69, 71–72; Roman Holidays and Others, 34–35, 45–46, 51, 53–60, 62, 67, 70–71; Venetian Life, 46, 69–70. See also realism Hubbard, Elbert, 60 Huhtamo, Erkki, 5 hypermediacy/immediacy, 40, 47–48, 61, 62 imaginary media, 198, 202 immediacy. See hypermediacy/ immediacy Instagram. See social media Internet, 212–13, 214f33, 215, 220n11 intimacy: in new media, 3, 89; perception of in postcards, 26, 31–32, 90, 92, 118 invented tradition, 163 Irving, Henry, 72



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Irving, Washington: The Conquest of Granada, 58; Tales of the Alhambra, 58 Jackson, William Henry, 169 James, Henry, 106, 108, 111, 151, 239n53 Jenkins, Henry, 4 Johnson, Burges, 23 Johnson, Constance, 23 Jordon, Ellen, 78 Joyce, James: Ulysses, 2–3 Kennard, Mary, 111 Kimball, Richard B., 60 Kipling, Rudyard: and colonial background, 177–78, 238n53; Nobel Prize in Literature, 178; “The Vampire,” 239n68; “The Village That Voted the Earth Was Flat,” 36, 158, 178–85 Ku Klux Klan (KKK), 141 Lakeside Library, 151 language of stamps, 24–26 Ledger, Sally, 80 Leopold II (king of Belgium), 119 letters: art of writing, 77; in The Custom of the Country, 90–92, 96; in Dracula, 187; in “The Five Orange Pips,” 141–42; in Franklin Winslow Kane, 98, 100–104; and libel, 117, 125; as metaphor for personal writing, 106–10; vs. postcards, 4, 6–8, 9–11, 27–28, 32, 35, 39, 75, 77, 83, 125; postcards mimicking 89, 89f16, 105f18; in The Seventh Post Card, 142–44, 147–48; in “The Village that Voted the Earth Was Flat,” 180–81; in Where Angels Fear to Tread, 127–34 libel (postcard): threat of, 23, 117–18, 124–26; in Ulysses, 2

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libel lawsuits: case of drunkenness postcards, 126; Chattell v. Turner, 124; Robinson v. Jones, 125; Sadgrove v. Hole, 125–26. See also Corelli, Marie: lawsuit; letters: and libel library publishing, 151–52 linen cards, 198 Lipman, Hyman, 9 Lipman postal cards, 9–10 Litwack, Leon, 136 Livy, 43 Lo and Behold (Herzog), 213 Lovink, Geert, 5 lynching postcards: captions, 137; circulation, 137–38; images, 135– 36, 139–41; logic of visibility, 136; prohibition, 137–38. See also newspapers: role in lynchings Magritte, René, 203 marriage plot: in The Custom of the Country, 83–84, 99, 112; in Franklin Winslow Kane, 83, 99; new media, 92; subversions of, 80–81, 83; transatlantic, 76 Mary (of Teck, queen of Great Britain), 193 mass fiction: attitudes towards, 49, 106–7 dime novels, 152; pulp fiction, 32, 43–44, 150, 152–54; typist as symbol for, 147. See also Flowerdew, Herbert; Munsey, Frank; and individual pulp magazine titles mass media: competition among, 32; criticism of, 44; in The Custom of the Country, 88; in Dracula, 186, 240n68; in The Seventh Post Card, 142, 146, 150, 154 mass production, of images: of lynchings, 135–36; price, 15; rejection of, 54; of women, 113–14

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mass production, as metaphor: in The Custom of the Country, 90, 96; in Franklin Winslow Kane, 101; and the New Woman, 35, 83, 110; and women writers, 106, 108–11 mass production, of postcards, 55, 104, 200–201, 206, 208 Maugham, W. Somerset, 153 McLuhan, Marshall, 5, 208 media archaeology, 5, 213, 215, 223n68 media specificity, 6, 11, 37 Mellinger, Wayne Martin, 138 Menke, Richard, 10, 164 Michelmore, Margery, 211–12 Miesler, Johannes (printer), 12 Miller, Randall, 137 Mills, Arthur J., 114, 120 Monde Illustré, Le, 2, 219n3 Morgan, J. P., 29, 223n60 Morphet, Richard, 199–200 Munsey, Frank, 152–53 Native Americans, postcard representations of, 18. See also colonial postcards newspapers: in The Custom of the Country, 93, 97; in Dracula, 189; fiction publication, 140, 152–53; relation to postcards, 172–74, 202; role in lynchings, 136–37, 140; in The Seventh Post Card, 145–46; in “The Village that Voted the World Was Flat,” 178–82 New Woman: confluence with postcards, 35, 76–77, 112, 114, 116; in The Custom of the Country, 35, 76, 83–84, 92, 94, 98; as discursive phenomenon, 80; in Franklin Winslow Kane, 35, 76, 83–84, 98, 102–3; origin of term, 78; in popular press, 79–81, 228n14; as public woman, 79–80, 104, 227n7; in

The Seventh Post Card, 147. See also Gibson Girl; mass production, as metaphor: and the New Woman nostalgia, object of: 36–37, 102, 201–2, 205–9 novels (epistolary), 32, 83, 99, 220n10, 223n68. See also letters novelty, in postcards, 12, 29, 39, 54, 57, 68, 104, 109, 113f19, 117, 172–73, 176 Orvell, Miles, 61 Ouellette, William, 162 Ouida (Marie Louise de la Ramée), 78 Parikka, Jussi, 5 Parr, Martin, 36, 202–6 Parry, Ann, 178 Patterson, Martha, 82, 104 Peace Corps, 211–12 penny post, 8, 78, 223n68 Phillips, Tom, 36, 204–6, 243n31 photography: advancement of 5, 17; digital, 207–8, 243n34; illicit, 122– 23; images on postcards, 1, 12, 15, 40, 49, 51, 53, 70, 114, 159–60, 162, 169–70, 174; invention of 11, 16– 17, 206; lynching, 136–41, 234n67; and realism, 40–41, 48, 51, 201; relationship to postcard, 39–41, 176, 196, 202; in The Seventh Post Card, 144–47, 149; in “The Village that Voted the Earth Was Flat,” 182–83. See also carte de visite; Howells, William Dean: and photography; Parr, Martin; Phillips, Tom; realphoto postcards; stereographs phrase books (postcard), 21 “Picture Card Romance: A Tale of Nineteen Postcards and Two Letters,” 21



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Picture Postcard, The (journal), 1, 28, 30–33, 160, 164, 169–70, 172–76, 185, 196 Plutarch, 43 Poole, Deborah, 171 pornographic postcards, 2, 31, 132, 138, 162, 200 postal card, 12, 13f1, 14–15, 24f5, 163. See also Lipman postal cards postal innovation/reform, 5, 78, 164. See also Comstock law; government regulation of postcards; penny post postal workers: 23, 31, 124–25, 172, 210, 222n52 postcard, main features: materiality, 27, 90, 101, 187; open format 6, 8, 11, 22–24, 27, 34–35, 85, 92, 101, 117, 124, 130, 134, 144, 209, 212; price, 6–10, 15–16, 41, 118, 126, 145, 176; shortened message, 6, 8–11, 17, 21, 27–28, 58, 75, 77, 89, 101, 118, 126, 134, 143, 145, 154, 207, 212 postcard as publication, 118–19, 124 postcardization, 28–29, 107, 179, 182, 184 postcard seller, figure of, 45, 55–56, 59, 64, 115f20, 116, 172, 203–4 postcard series, 14–15, 49, 51, 53, 104, 105f18, 120, 121f21, 122, 126, 160, 165, 166f27, 167, 171–72, 174, 237n37 postcard sublime, the, 169, 175 PostSecret, 209 Prescott, William H., 58 privacy, invasion of, 7, 23, 27, 34, 76, 118–19, 122, 160, 210–13. See also code promiscuity (social), 9, 21–23, 76–78 publishers, postcard: Algernon E. Aspinall, 160; Curt Teich & Company, 198; C. W. Faulkner & Co. Ltd., 165; Davidson Brothers, 120; Detroit Publishing Company, 169; M. Bamforth & Company, 174; M. Blum & Degen, 171; Raphael Tuck and

251

Company, 75; Valentine and Sons Publishing Company, 16 publishing, transatlantic, 151–54 pulp fiction. See mass fiction: pulp fiction Punch, 23, 29, 80–81, 148, 228n14 Pupin, Michael, 60 Quinn, Arthur Hobson, 110–11 Rawnsley, Canon Hardwicke Drummond, 132 Ray, Gabrielle (actress), 120 realism, 46–49, 55, 58, 70 real-photo postcards, 22, 62, 119, 135–38, 173–74. See also lynching postcards remediation, 40, 47–48, 67, 200–201, 204–7 Richardson, E.W., 169, 176. See also Picture Postcard, The (journal) romance of business, 60–61 Royal Society of Arts, 75–76 Rubino, Gennaro (anarchist), 119 Ruskin, John: The Stones of Venice, 43 Sadgrove v. Hole. See libel lawsuits Sargent, John Singer, 113, 231n121 scam (postcard): 126–27 “Scènes et types,” 51, 69, 160 Schivelbusch, Wolfgang, 201 Schor, Naomi, 14, 20, 29, 167, 170 Schreiner, Olive, 80 Schurman, Lydia Cushman, 151 Scott, Bennett, 114, 120 Scrap-book, The (pulp magazine), 153 Sedgwick, Anne Douglas: as business woman, 111–12; contemporary criticism of, 108, 110–12; Franklin Winslow Kane, 35, 76, 83–84, 98– 104; Tante, 112

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Sedgwick, Henry Dwight (literary critic), 106–9, 111 “Send Me a Picture Postcard” (Turnbull and Beck), 195 sentimentality: in literature, 46–47, 49, 55, 58–59; in postcards 18, 19f3, 30, 49, 58, 61, 214f32 Showalter, Elaine, 87 Siegert, Bernard, 10 Sims, Robert George, 171–72 social class (media use): lower class, 8, 44; postcards as bridge, 8; upper class, 8, 17, 27, 76, 87–88, 167–69. See also promiscuity (social) social media, 1, 6, 37, 212, 215, 243n31, 244n50 song cards, 174, 175f29, 238n47 souvenir: postcard as, 36, 64–66, 163, 193–96, 212, 240n95; travel, 18, 64–66, 212; World’s Fair postcard, 14–15, 163 speed: association with new media, 16, 140, 215; of publication, 137, 150–51, 154, 173–74; in The Seventh Post Card, 142, 144, 146; telegram, 96; in “The Village that Voted the Earth Was Flat,” 179 stamps: 6, 21, 26f8, 30, 163, 176–77, 196, 208. See also government regulation of postcards: stamp placement; language of stamps Stasiak, Jack, 203 stationary, 88, 95, 101, 129 Stieber, Nancy, 169 stereograph, 17–20, 167. See also travel: virtual Stevens, Wallace, 200 Stewart, Susan: On Longing, 157, 193, 196 Stoker, Bram: Dracula, 36, 158, 177, 185– 93 Street & Smith, 152 Studholme, Marie (actress), 114

T. B. Peterson and Brothers, 151 Tejedo, Isabel Fernández, 167 telegram, 10–11, 75, 92, 96, 125 telephone, 2, 60, 86, 88, 93, 202, 212 Thayer, Ella Cheever: Wired Love, 92 Thomas, Kate, 83 Thomas Cook & Son, 41 Thorburn, David, 4, Thornwell, Emily: The Lady’s Guide to Perfect Gentility, 77 Ticknor and Fields, 151 Tinsley, William, 151 travel: postcard use during, 1, 40– 42, 63–64, 72, 195; traveler/tourist distinction, 40, 42–43, 45, 49, 55, 58, 72–73; virtual, 19–20, 42, 51, 68–69; writing, 43–45, 49, 58, 67, 72, 107. See also Bayne, Samuel Gamble; Howells, William Dean; Sedgwick, Anne Douglas; souvenir: travel; Wharton, Edith Turnbull, Norman: “Send Me a Picture Postcard,” 195 Twitter. See social media Ulysses (Joyce), 2 Underwood, John C., 109–10 Universal Postal Union, 5, 10 Victoria Eugenie (queen of Spain), 27 von Philipsborn, Karl Ludwig Richard, 6–7 von Stephan, Heinrich, 6–7, 10, 12, 16–17, 210 Warren, Frank, 209 Wells, Ida B., 139–40 Weston, Edward, 48 Wharton, Edith: “brilliancy,” 109–10; contemporary criticism of, 106–13; The Custom of the Country, 35, 76, 83–99, 104, 106



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Whitney, Joel E. (photographer), 18 Wicke, Jennifer, 186 Wilde, Oscar, 122 Winship, Michael, 150 Wirsén, Carl David af, 178 Wolowski, Louis: La Carte Postale en diverse pays, 9, 11–12, 117 women (postcard representations of ), 18, 65, 113f19, 114, 115f20, 132f23, 138– 39, 139f24, 172, 175. See also Alloula,

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Marek; Colonial Harem, The; Corelli, Marie: lawsuit; Dare, Phyllis; Gibson Girl women writers (expectations of), 35, 106–11 Woolf, Virginia: A Room of One’s Own, 108; The Voyage Out, 200 Worth, Aaron, 86 World’s Fairs: 5, 14–15, 160, 163, 165, 167. See also souvenir: World’s Fair postcard

m o n i c a c u r e is visiting professor of American studies at Alexandru Ioan Cuza University in Iasi, Romania.