Wish you were here....Queensland Postcards

Queensland Postcards set now live on Explorer

To promote Queensland tourism and history, State Library of Queensland has released a curated set of historical 19th and early 20th century Queensland Postcards on our engagement platform Explorer.

Following the success of the Corley Explorer, State Library has launched Explorer, a platform enabling audiences to share their stories and engage with collections from the John Oxley Library. You can contribute by commenting or by uploading photographs to Explorer. This data will be ingested into State Library's catalogue, enhancing our records and growing our collection. You can help us document Queensland's history!

Before photography became widely practiced, postcards gave the best glimpse at what scenery and life was like in locations far away, travelled to by family or friends. The John Oxley Library holds many late 19th and early 20th century postcards from locations around Queensland, giving us an idea of what our communities looked like in their early days of being established. The Postcard Collection consists of over 5000 miscellaneous postcards that have been compiled into 37 albums by theme and location. Themes include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, South Sea Islanders, humour, novelty, politics, ships, World War I, World War II, daily life, travel and nature. Multiple Queensland locations are represented. Only a small percent of postcards from this collection have been digitised. 

History of the Postcard

The worlds first postcard is thought to be created by the Austrian postal authority in 1869. The idea came after an economics professor, Dr. Emanuel Herrmann from Vienna had written an article in a newspaper suggesting there must be a simpler, cheaper and more practical way to send a short message than a letter. His recommendation impressed the Austrian Post who put the idea into practice on 1 October 1869 in the form of the Correspondenz-Karte, a light brown rectangular card, measuring 8.5cm x 12cm with space for the address on the front, and room for a short message on the back. The postcard was born!

The first Australian postcard was issued by New South Wales (1875), followed by Victoria (1876), South Australia (1877), Western Australia (1879), Queensland (1880) and Tasmania (1882). Originally postcards were exclusively sold by Post Offices as they proved to be a good source of revenue. Private makers could not sell their own postcards, they had to submit unstamped cards to the Post Office for the stamp image to be printed. It was not until 1895 that private makers could sell unstamped, pictorial postcards on which the adhesive stamp could be affixed.

In the late 1890s Australian Post Offices introduced pictorial postcards featuring attractive scenes of towns, buildings, rivers, waterfalls, etc, printed on the message (reverse) side together with headings, “With Christmas Greetings”, “With New Year Greetings” and “Greetings From”. The printing filled most of the card area, leaving enough space for short written messages. Some examples of these types of postcards from the John Oxley Library collection feature below.

Australia’s first picture postcard was most likely in 1894, when Tasmania produced one for its International Exhibition of that year.

Official souvenir postcard of the Tasmanian International Exhibition 1894 to 1895, NLA object 15309039, National Library of Australia. http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-153090397

Between 1900 and 1920, picture postcards in Australia became an incredibly popular phenomenon. People could cheaply and easily send messages, without the formality of a letter, and they provided a cheap form of souvenir. Eventually, every event of significance was commemorated in some way with a postcard, and this led to the development of a ‘picture on one side and a message/stamp on the other’ postcard we are familiar with today. They were also a popular form of advertising. 

The commencement of the First World War in 1914 also boosted the popularity of postcards due to a sense of patriotism and the desire to communicate with loved ones. The John Oxley Library has an extensive collection of First World War postcards sent from soldiers at war to loved ones on the home front. An example features below.

More Information on the history of postcards

Christmas greeting card featuring Sutton's Beach, Redcliffe, 1908. J. Murray, negative number 193119, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

New Year postcard showing Queen Street, Brisbane, 1908. Negative number 193117, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

Postcard from the First World War. Australian soldiers construct a roadway while the battle goes on, ca. 1917, 4831 Postcard Collections,  negative number 194869, John Oxley Library.

Sample of Queensland Postcards from Explorer

Below is a small selection of some of the postcards featuring in our Queensland Postcards Explorer set. We want to learn more about Queensland Postcards! Do you recognise these locations or have any more information? Create your own Explorer account and add your story by commenting or uploading a photo of what these scenes look like today. If you have your own Queensland Postcards consider scanning and uploading them to this set or even donating them to the John Oxley Library collection.

North Quay and Milton Reach of the Brisbane River, 4831 Postcard Collection, negative number 194778, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Panoramic view of Townsville showing Castle Hill, ca. 1905, Negative number 194762, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

Curtis Falls at Mount Tamborine, Queensland, ca. 1906, 4831 Postcard Collection, image number 4831-0005-0003, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

Freight train passing the Barron Falls, Atherton Tablelands, Queensland, 4831 Postcard Collection, image number 4831-0005-0111, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Post Office clock tower in Gill Street, Charters Towers, ca. 1906, 4831 Postcard Collection, image number 4831-0005-0115, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

View of Esk township from Mount Glen Rock, Esk, Queensland, 4831 Postcard Collection, image number 4831-0005-0126, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

Spear fishing on the Mulgrave River, North Queensland, 4831 Postcard Collection, image number 4831-0001-0002, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Collage of photographs from Cairns, ca. 1906, 4831 Postcard Collection, negative number 194875, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Fitzroy Bridge over the Fitzroy River, Rockhampton, Queensland, ca. 1908, 4831 Postcard Collection, image number 4831-0005-0173, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

View along Brisbane Street, West Ipswich, Queensland, 4831 Postcard Collection, Image number 4831-0005-0143, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 

Glasshouse Mountains, Sunshine Coast, Queensland, 4831 Postcard Collection, negative number 194877, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. 


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