I'm going through a photo album with photos that appear to range starting from 1915. It includes a lot of postcards, which I thought were stock photos, but now I find one that is identified as family members on the back:

Front of Postcard Back of Postcard

What is this practice and when was it most common? Also, how can I best distinguish actual family photos from stock photos if the backs all look like this one, but have no handwriting?

  • None of the pictures in your album are likely to be stock photos. Postcard paper was simply one of the options when having photographs printed. Remember how you could choose 3x5 or 4x6 and matte or glossy when getting your film developed? Same thing.
    – JPmiaou
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 1:13

1 Answer 1


I have a lot of those. I assume that "printing photos on postcard stock" was a fairly common thing back in the 1900-1930 time frame.

this seems like a relevant link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real_photo_postcard

  • this looks like an interesting books: amazon.com/Folk-Photography-American-Real-Photo-Postcard/dp/…. and amazon.com/Real-Photo-Postcard-Guide-Photography/dp/0815608519/… I'll report back after I've read one or both. Commented May 12, 2019 at 2:11
  • I got a copy of Luc Sante's book "Folk Photography: The American Real Photo Postcard 1905-1930" from the library last night. It's an interesting read, but not that full of information for historians. It's really an art book; with 120 of the 160 pages being pictures of postcards. Nice pictures, though. Commented May 17, 2019 at 14:29
  • Anyway, the "Real Postcard" thing was a huge deal from 1905 to about 1917 (ish), and lingered on until about 1930. Many of the inks and chemicals used in the postcards came from Germany, which explains the decline in interest about 1917. Commented May 17, 2019 at 14:30
  • The divided area on the "front" of the postcard (right half for the address, left half for the writing), means that the card was printed in 1907 or later. [ Note: This does not mean that the photo on the back was taken after 1907; just that it was printed. ] Commented May 24, 2019 at 16:31

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