Delaware postcard collection

Biographical and Historical Notes

The Delaware postcard collection houses examples of many of the different types of postcards produced from the late nineteenth century to the modern era, including real photo postcards, linen postcards, and photochrome or chrome postcards. It also serves as a visual record of the historic and geographic changes in Delaware over this time period.


Information derived from the collection.

Scope and Content Note

The Delaware postcard collection comprises over two thousand postcards of Delaware and nearby areas, representing well-known Delaware buildings, monuments, views, and small town life, including street scenes and domestic buildings.

The postcards in the collection date primarily from the very end of the nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth, although there are also postcards published into the twenty-first century. Most of the cards in the collection were commercially produced and represent well-known Delaware buildings, monuments, and views, such as the State Capitol in Dover, Wilmington's downtown buildings and historic structures, Rehoboth and other beaches and boardwalks , and the University of Delaware/Delaware College . A number of the cards, though, document small town life in Delaware, including street scenes and domestic buildings. In addition to documenting the built landscape of Delaware as it existed during the last hundred years, some of these images may not exist in any other format.

Along with buildings, the collection also represents aspects of social life in Delaware during the past century. Some of the cards were produced privately and are in fact photographs that have been printed onto postcard paper. These were created by individuals for the consumption of their own small circle of family and friends and were not mass-produced or sold in retail stores. These postcards document many aspects of society including firemen at work, literary societies, and sports teams.

Although most of the cards depict sights in Delaware, the collection also contains images of places outside the State, most notably Longwood Gardens in nearby Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Other cards are simply related to Delaware. These include Delaware buildings built for fairs and expositions, ships that were based in Delaware, and the battleship, the U.S.S. Delaware. Other postcards represent Delaware soldiers during the Mexican Campaign of 1916 .

Postcards are not only visual records. Many of the postcards were in fact mailed and so contain written messages, stamps, and postmarks. The backs of the cards were also printed with information about the publisher, captions describing the image, and ornament. The printed text, along with the stamp and postmark, can help to date and place the manufacture and use of the cards. Alternatively, the captions and written messages contain a wealth of information that can be used to learn about the postcard's image or to illuminate the attitudes and interests of the past.

The University of Delaware Library wishes to acknowledge the many donors who have made it possible to build this collection. It is possible to search the University of Delaware Library's Digital Collections website at ARTstor Commons to see which cards were provided by each individual donor.

Donors include: