Allegorical Imagery in Lincoln Centennial Postcards
postcards, coincidentally, made their debut at almost the same time as the
Lincoln cent. The basic form
had been around since just after the Civil War, beginning life as
promotional cards for businesses. The postal card, with pre-printed
postage on the face, also already existed as a means of communication.
In 1906, however, Congress officially merged the two forms, passing
laws permitting messages on one half of the back side of postcards, with
the other half reserved for the address. This left the entire front for the picture, and a popular new
communication form was born.
Collecting postcards became just as popular as sending them, and the colorful mementos were produced for every occasion, holiday, local and national event. It was only natural that major postcard manufacturers would print a line commemorating Lincoln’s birth for the 1909 centennial.
Because Lincoln’s significance to the country was mostly related to his presidency during the Civil War, the majority of the cards paid homage to events from that period. A typical example (figure 2, right) depicts his visit to Richmond Virginia after the fall of the Confederate capital. Although the caption quotes the famous line from his second inaugural address, “With malice toward none, with charity for all,” the actual image gives a much more martial view. The president is shown flanked by a squad of stern soldiers, marching down a ruined street, with battle-damaged homes and smoke-filled skies in the background. Above the view is an eagle, national symbol of the federal republic, framed in a laurel wreath with red, white and blue festoons.
Another example, with the title “Sword and Pen” (figure 3, left), features a mythological figure holding those two items as symbols of Lincoln’s methods of fighting the war. At the bottom are the now standard laurel leaves and patriotic motifs. We see a depiction of Lincoln’s Springfield home in the center almost as an afterthought, until we realize that it represents peace and a return to normal life for the nation. Like the card depicting his entry into Richmond, the dichotomy of war and conciliation are presented side-by-side.
material on this page copyright 2003-2005 Afrolumens Project
The url of this page is http://www.afrolumens.com/rising_free/lincolnpc2.html
Contact the editor
This page was updated September 8, 2005.