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Collecting RPPC Real Photo Postcards: Antique Vintage Photos

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1910-20 RPPC Real Photo Postcard Photo Miss Johnson & Miss Ricketts
1910-20 Real Photo Postcard Photo of Miss Johnson & Miss Ricketts. Handwritten on reverse: "Taken the pass sunday at Woodside Park, me an my intended sister in law Miss Rickett, and Miss Johnson, intended Ricketts" written in old pencil script. (Woodside Park Maryland is in Montgomery County) This is a wonderful Johnson and Ricketts (or Rickett, spelled both ways) family RPPC of an African American woman in her twenties and a younger girl about age 10. It is assumed the older Johnson relative was soon to be married into the Rickett (or Ricketts) family. 

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An Article on Real Photo Postcards-The People’s Photography 
by Marty Weil

In 1903, photographers in every corner of America, shooting all aspects of life, began churning out real photo postcards (RPPCs) at a prolific pace. Thanks in large part to Kodak’s introduction of a folding pocket camera, the No. 3A, millions of RPPCs were created during the first three decades of the 20th century—creating a mosaic of turn-of-the-century life that is unparallel in any other medium. According to Robert Bodgen, author of the Real Photo Postcard Guide, the postcard format dominated photography for the first thirty years of the 20th century. "People of all social statuses and backgrounds took them, collected them, and shared them with each other," said Bogden, in a recent interview on ephemera.

This photographic quilt, rich in information, should not be overlooked by those engaged in genealogy research. For genealogists seeking documentary evidence of a family gathering or local event held between 1903 and 1930, RPPCs might be the best hope. According to the Old House Journal, local entrepreneurs hired traveling photographers to "record area events and the homes of prominent citizens." It is likely, therefore, that there exists RPPCs which contain the images of long sought after ancestors from the early 20th century. Not only were events and people captured on RPPCs, but also important buildings, sites, parades, fires, and floods. Realtors also used them to sell new houses, and RPPCs became expressions of pride in home and community throughout America.

1909 Real Photo Post Card Frank E. & Ophelia Rounds
Rounds: 1909 Real Photo Post Card of the Home of F.E. (Frank E.) & Ophelia Rounds Handwritten on photo: "To: Ellen M. Carrier From: Mrs. Ophelia Rounds, Saturday, March 20, 1909." RPPC on CYKO paper.

1909 RPPC ID'd Home of F.E. & Ophelia Rounds
Close up of F.E. Rounds family Photographer's lawn sign in above photograph. A wonderful Rounds family history piece! Ophelia Tice Rounds born 1854. Father Siles Tice, Mother Mary A Tice. before marriage to Frank, she lived in Cortlandt, Westchester County, NY in 1860 census. In 1910 census, Ophelia and Frank have 2 children, Elsie and Clarence, who is a carpenter with his father. Frank is also listed as Frank Rossner in census, and Frank Rounds.

RPPCs take a little practice in distinguishing from mass-produced, commercially printed postcard of the same era. There are a few tricks in identifying them. RPPCs may or may not have a white border (or a divided back) or other features of a standard postcard. It all depends on the paper the photographer used. And many current RPPCs are merely reproductions of earlier historic photographs. So, how does one know if it the card they’re holding is authentic? Look under a magnifying glass. If it is the real deal, it will show smooth transitions from one tone to another. In other words, the image won’t have the tell-tale 'dots' found in a reproduction.

1910 RPPC Mrs. R.D. Cline, Eagleport, Ohio, Morgan County
Cline: 1913 Real Photo Postcard with Handwritten Note to Mrs. R.D. Cline, OH Addressed to: Mrs. R.D. Cline, Eagleport, Ohio, Morgan County. Postmarked : Oct. 22, 1913, from Amesville, Ohio, Athens County.

1910 RPPC Mrs. R.D. Cline, Eagleport, Ohio, Morgan County.
Inscription: "Oct. 1913, Wednesday. Dear Sister, I guess we can't go to the falls fri. Ben is sick is threatened with typhoid fever. I was over last night to see him and I am on my way over there now: will send your hat tomorrow or next day. Katie. Lots of love to all." 

While there have always been postcard collectors, it was only in the last 20 years or so, according to Bogden, that people have become keenly interested in collecting RPPCs. "There have always been postcard collectors; many of them have local or regional interests; however, up until the last twenty years people interested in the history of photography and photography collectors showed little or no interest in photo postcards. Real photo postcards are still marginal in the photography world, but this seems to be changing. With photography enthusiast showing an increased interest in photo postcards, they are getting into the hands of people who appreciate them as wonderful photographs and as important documents of American life. A number of the collectors I met plan to give their collections to museums, others know their value and protect and preserve them with the intention of passing them on to others who value them as they do."
Marty Weil, a freelance journalist based in Charlotte, NC, is the creative force behind ephemera, a blog that explores the world of old paper. We are proud to have Marty write for Ancestorville. Please visit his wonderful ephemera blog on antique & collectible paper and all the recent trends and topics.

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