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February 9, 2024

Strange and Amusing Love Postcards From the Early 20th Century

For those interested in this strange but amusing art form, here are six postcard designs from the British publisher, Birn Brothers, Ltd., 67 Bunhill Row, London, England. The set, printed in Germany, may well be from a production era just prior to the First World War. The main characters on each card are the couple who are much enamored with one another and their umbrella. The artist has very cleverly set the man and woman behind the umbrella in a way that they form a silhouette within a rather ordinary “rainy-day” in London scene.

The brothers opened their business in 1905 in northeast London on Bunhill Row. From the 1860s the site had been an integral part of the warehouse district in which commodities from around the world were stored for sale and distribution. The Birn brothers operated printing presses on four floors until 1964, after which the neighborhood was transformed by luxury high-rise apartment houses that in essence redefined the area as residential.

Birn’s reputation evolved based on the high-quality paper used for their greeting cards and postcards. It was a larger operation than most. The cardstock is embossed and of medium-plus weight. The set here is a good example, although this set likely came from one of their Bavarian affiliates. Also in ordinary production, contrary to their reputation were thousands of cheap paper children’s books and young adult novels – the forerunners of what today are known as graphic novels and chapter books.


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