University of Calgary

Postcards from the edge

UToday HomeNovember 28, 2011

Special Collections has acquired an album of 156 post cards of actors and actresses collected during 1906-1910 by an English schoolgirl. Images courtesy Libraries and Cultural ResourcesSpecial Collections has acquired an album of 156 post cards of actors and actresses collected during 1906-1910 by an English schoolgirl. Images courtesy Libraries and Cultural ResourcesPicture postcards offer a glimpse into life, captured in time. At the turn of the 20th century, postcards were a relatively new phenomenon, but quickly became a popular method of communication for those away from home. The hobby of collecting postcards, or deltiology, was in vogue.

An album of 156 post cards collected during 1906-1910 has been acquired by Special Collections of Libraries and Cultural Resources through the assistance of the drama department. The album was compiled by English schoolgirl, Elsie Taylor, and includes portraits of 42 individual actresses and 24 individual actors.

Some people liked to collect a particular publisher or photographer, and others, like Elsie, were focused on the actors and actresses of the Edwardian era. Picture postcard collections were also a comment on the social classes in Britain—the more prosperous liked plays and the working class preferred a visit to the music hall. Elsie lived in Hampstead in London, a fairly affluent borough at that time, and was educated at Beresford House School, a boarding school in Eastbourne on England's south coast. Theatre appeared to be one of her great interests.

The postcards were made directly from photographic negatives and were known as real photo postcards. They were generally made by professional photographers like Dover St. Studios or Foulsham & Banfield, who allowed their images to be used by postcard publishers such as Rotary Photo, Philco, J. Beagles, Davidson Bros. and others. Some postcards were also hand coloured using lithographic processes. The images of the actors and actresses became a permanent reminder of a moment or character in the plays of the era, and also served as advertising and promotion for them.

The correspondence on these postcards is an insight into the life of an Edwardian schoolgirl. Sheila Dennis, of Libraries and Cultural Resources, who worked on the research and digitization of this collection, says “Three things came together in this project—the excitement of Edwardian theatre in Britain, the novelty of postcards as a new form of correspondence and the life of British schoolgirl, Elsie Taylor. I often felt like a fascinated voyeur into Elsie’s life at the turn of the 20th century!”

Get more information about the collection.