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Post Cards--Another Old Medium Vanishes?

I can't recall the last time I sent or received a postcard. I haven't the foggiest notion how much postage one would put on a postcard.

Local historian Jerry McCoy has put together a guide to the D.C. Public Library's collection of more than 2,000 postcards depicting bits of Washington history from 1898 to the present, with a heavy emphasis on the 1920s through the 40s. These are the funky postcards you still see for sale at flea markets and on eBay, quick, creatively designed glimpses of life in those times. Drugstores, photo studios, sports teams, schools, museums, and theaters published postcards to promote themselves, as of course did various tourist spots, hotels and government agencies.

Check out this list of D.C. restaurants whose postcards are included in the collection:

Also Café
Alex Stuart's
Alfio's la Trattoria
Allies' Inn
Balalaika
Blackie's House of Beef
Blue Mirror
Bonat French-American Café
Café Burgundy
Cannon's
Casino Royal
Cathay
China Doll
Chinese Lantern
Colony Lounge
Crown
Duke Zeibert's
Flagship
France's
Golden Parrot
Good Earth
Gung Ho
Gusti's
Hall's
Hammel's
Harvey's
Herzog's
Hogate's
Hot Shoppes
Linda
Mayfair
Napoleon's
Naylor's
New Smorgasbord
O'Donnell's
Old New Orleans
Olmstead
Pierre
Purple Tree Lounge
Reeves Coffe Shop
Restaurant 823
Restaurant Longchamps
Restaurant Madrillon
Rib Room
Roma
Ruby Foo's Den
Schneider's
Seafare Restaurant and Lounge
Scholl's
Silver Fox
Surf Room Lounge
Syriana
Tai Tung
Tally Ho
Ted Lewis
Thompson's Cafeteria
Tokyo Sukiyaki
Torino Italian Restaurant
Touchdown Club
Water Gate Inn

What medium will preserve the images and memories of today's hot eateries and local hangouts? And what could possibly replace the funkiest of all postcard genres, the motel postcard? Web pages, most likely, though their survival as historic documents is not at all assured.

By Marc Fisher |  April 2, 2007; 8:10 AM ET
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My girlfriend is fanatical about sending postcards to friends when we are on a trip--she even pre-print address labels on the computer and takes them with us. Then we have to spend a substantial amount of time on the trip searching for, of course, the perfect postcards to send. What the hell--it's a harmless (and inexpensive) obsession she has.

Posted by: Jack | April 2, 2007 8:59 AM

I agree! It's fun to buy postcards and send them. Problem is, when you sit down to write something, you're not quite sure what to write. The food is delicious, the weather is wonderful, etc.

Posted by: FredCo | April 2, 2007 9:24 AM

No more motel postcards? What will we use as bookmarks in those Gideon Bibles?

Posted by: Mike Licht | April 2, 2007 9:56 AM

Postcards last sent: from a vacation in Colorado a couple years ago

Postcards last received: last week from Realtors telling me of home sales in the neighborhood

Posted by: dirrtysw | April 2, 2007 11:04 AM

Check out Postcrossing.com : a social networking project of sorts that gets strangers around the world to send each other postcards ... and it costs 24¢ to send a card domestically, 55¢ to Canada and Mexico, 75¢ to the rest of the world.

Posted by: T. Carter | April 2, 2007 12:44 PM

Not funky, but the handmade postcards at http://postsecret.blogspot.com/ are pretty interesting. As an art project, Frank Warren of Germantown, the proprietor of the site, invited people to send him postcards telling him about their secrets. (He left the cards around at various business and such.)

People responded in amazingly creative ways and in enormous numbers. Warren has had several exhibits to show them and has published three books containing prints of them.

Posted by: THS | April 2, 2007 7:40 PM

The one smart thing the USPS did a few years ago was make the postcard rate the same as the second-ounce rate for letters. So you can buy a few 24c stamps to have handy for an overweight letter (such as a complex tax return) or a postcard.

Posted by: Cosmo | April 3, 2007 10:31 AM

The weather is here, I wish you were beautiful.

Posted by: Jimmy Buffett | April 3, 2007 10:38 AM

You gotta send postcards to get postcards. On an overseas trip we always find a cafe to sit in and write home - Wish you were here!

Posted by: Tomcat | April 3, 2007 12:08 PM

Marc, in addition to postcards, another small set of collectibles that I have is matchbook covers from places that I've been. I occasionally look at those and think about how much fun I had at those bars and restaurants.

Posted by: Good Times | April 3, 2007 9:43 PM

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