Real Photo Postcards

Real Photo Postcards – 1903 – Present

Real Photo Postcard


In 1903 Kodak introduced the No. 3A Folding Pocket Kodak.The camera, designed for postcard-size film, allowed the general public to take photographs and have them printed on postcard backs, usually in the same dimensions (3-1/2″ x 5-1/2″) as standard vintage postcards. Many other cameras were used, some of which used glass photographic plates that produced images that had to be cropped in order to fit the postcard format.

In 1907, Kodak introduced a service called “real photo postcards,” which enabled customers to make a postcard from any picture they took.

While Kodak was the major promoter of photo postcard production, the company used the term “real photo” less frequently than photographers and others in the marketplace from 1903 to ca. 1930.

Old House Journal states that “beginning in 1902 Kodak offered a pre-printed card back that allowed postcards to be made directly from negatives.”  This technology allowed photographers to travel from town to town and document life in the places they visited. Old House Journal continues: “Local entrepreneurs hired them to record area events and the homes of prominent citizens. These postcards documented important buildings and sites, as well as parades, fires, and floods. Realtors used them to sell new housing by writing descriptions and prices on the back. Real photo postcards became expressions of pride in home and community, and were also sold as souvenirs in local drug stores and stationery shops.”

On March 1, 1907, Federal legislation permitted senders, for the first time, to include a message on a portion of the back of a postcard. (Prior to that time, the address only was allowed on one side while the other side could present a photo or artwork.) The front side could then accommodate a full-size real photograph. The popularity of real photo postcards soared nationwide, and many people began collecting the cards in albums. No other single format has provided such a massive photo history of America, particularly of small-town and rural America where photography was often a luxury. Many real photo postcards were unique prints captured by amateur photographers, but others were mass-produced by companies such as the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company in Belfast, Maine. Real photo postcards were sometimes created and sold as mementos at the scene of lynchings;they were also used to document such important events as the Mexican Revolution.

Real photo postcards may or may not have a white border, or a divided back, or other features of postcards, depending on the paper the photographer used.


Real Photo Postcards, How to Identify and Date Real Photo Vintage Postcards


PAPER Dates Notes
AGFA/ANSCO 1930-1940s
ANSCO 1940-1960 2 Stars at top & bottom
ARGO 1905-1920
ARTURA 1910-1924
AZO 1926-1940s Squares in corners
AZO 1904-1918 4 triangles pointed up
AZO 1918-1930 Triangles 2 up, 2 down
AZO 1907-1909 DIAMONDS in corners
AZO 1922-1926 Empty Corners
CYKO 1904-1920s
DEFENDER 1910-1920 Diamond above & below
DEFENDER 1920-1945 Diamond inside
Devolite Peerless 1950-
DOPS 1925-1942
Du Pont 1945-1950s
EKC 1939-1950
EKKP 1904-1950
EKO 1942-1970
KRUXO 1907-1920s
KRUXO 1910-1920s Xs in corners
NOKO 1907-1920s
PMO 1907-1915
SAILBOAT 1905-1908 Sailboat in circle
SOLIO 1903-1920s Diamonds in corners
VELOX 1907-1914 Diamonds in corners
VELOX 1901-1914 Squares in corners
VELOX 1909-1914 Triangles: 4 pointed Up
VITAVA 1925-1934