Here on this website is where tables of linen postcards from Route 66 states are compiled.
Postcards as a communication method began in the 19th century under different postal rules than we know today. Picture postcards came to be around the beginning of the 20th century and various printing and duplication processes were used during the next thirty years or so for publishing color picture postcards.
The era of what we call linen postcards was from about 1930 through the 1940s although many linen postcards were still printed and distributed well into the 1950s. I have seen postmarks on linen postcards from the early 1960s.
The duplication and printing process used to make linen postcards usually featured more intense and saturated inks than had ever been used before. The bright inks could now be printed on a textured cardstock postcard material that had a high rag content and was characterized by a rough "linen-like" front surface texture.
It was during the linen period of postcards that many images of the early motor courts along Route 66 were first captured, printed and distributed.
Click here to see the types of postcards included on this website.
Many collectors' favorite linen postcards were made by the Curt Teich company. The company name was usually printed as the contraction Curteich on the back side of the postcard. The Curt Teich company was known for high quality postcards with intense inks, excellent color alignment and contrast, and often a creative artistic flair. Buildings and scenes appeared more beautiful and colorful than how they were in real life. Daytime skies were always bright blue and the grass was always green. Real desert scenes of gray and tan sprung to surrealistic life with intense oranges, reds, and browns.
A collection of Curt Teich postcards is held at the Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois. A helpful feature about Curt Teich postcards is that the company used a numbering system for their postcards that reveals the original printing year. The format for the number of most Curt Teich color linen postcards begins with a number and letter. The letter is A or B or C which corresponds to the decade of the 1930s or 1940s or 1950s. The preceding number is the last digit of the year of the decade defined by the letter. This year code is followed by a hyphen, the letter H, and the sequential number of initial manufacture. So, for example, if the first number and letter is 5A the postcard would be from 1935. If the number and letter is 4B it would be from 1944. If the number and letter is 1C it would be from 1951. Scroll down the Newberry Library web page to the Curt Teich Company Postcard Dating Guide link and you can view or save a postscript file. Single color Curt Teich postcards that began with the letter D followed by a dash had their own dating system which is explained on the website as well.
Other large companies like Tichnor, Colourpicture, MWM (Midwest Map), and Nationwide made many postcards too. The very best of these postcards reached Curt Teich postcards for quality I think. But many postcards seem to be mediocre in color quality and alignment. Some manufacturers like Kropp seemed to not take full advantage of the potential of the linen postcard process and turned out faded or drab images. (McGarr distributed a number of Kropp postcards and they are unremarkable as well but the McGarr postcards manufactured by others are often very nice.) I have never heard of an absolute technique to date a postcard from any manufacturer other than Curteich solely from the publisher's number printed on the postcard.
I wish to thank Joe Sonderman for his co-operation in making these web pages possible. Joe has an incredible collection of Route 66 postcards of all types and he unselfishly has sorted and posted images of his postcards (and other Route 66 photographs too) on his personal website for all to enjoy. Since my personal linen Route 66 postcard collection includes the easy-to-find material (the more common and least-expensive postcards), without his assistance the substance of this website would not have been possible.
Thanks also go to Steve Rider and Mike Ward who meticulously compared the content of these web pages with their fine collections and pointed out a large number of other postcards to be included either as new or as alternate variations. I would also like to thank a couple of other Route 66 collectors who have taken the time to review these web pages and submit information on other postcards that I had never seen or heard of. We know that this website is not complete so I would like to invite anyone with additional linen Route 66 postcards to provide me with the appropriate information. We are sure that there are some! You can contact me and let me know what you have. This website was originally launched in the Spring of 2008 and I expect more discoveries out there of other linen postcards.
First, it is sometimes difficult to tell if a postcard is a linen or not. Most linen postcards are clearly identifiable as such but some postcards are not quite so obvious: the paper has just a faint texture to it, or the front picture with a border seems more typical of the earlier so-called "white border" postcards, or the manufacturer's number is more typical of a different type of postcard. Sometimes these early linen postcards have been called "Transitional Linens". I have generally included these postcards if they meet the criteria noted above.
In any case, not only are some linen postcards missing but also there are probably errors in the inclusion or documentation of the postcards that I do list. Tell me about all omissions and errors please! Click here to understand the table structure a bit more.
I have posted images of just a few linen Route 66 postcards on this website. They are some of my favorite linen postcards and I did so to whet the appetite of website visitors. The website of Joe Sonderman has more pictures of postcards than I can ever imagine and it would be exhausting to me to duplicate his substantial effort.
Now, to the Tables !