Silk Postcard Collection

Accession Number RC00688
Collection type Published Collection
Record type Collection
Item count 1454
Object type Postcard
Maker Various
Date made 1914-1919
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

The Australian War Memorial has a collection of over 1000 woven, printed and embroidered silk postcards from the First World War, 1914-18. The majority of the collection are embroidered postcards. With a small number of the collection being woven or printed silk postcards. The themes covered include: Australian Themes, woven and printed silk postcards, general greetings, greetings to relatives, silk postcards embroidered Wife / Darling or Mother, Sister, birthday greetings, Christmas and New Year, units and camps, flags, France and Belgium. It also includes the following personal collections, L.W. Artlett Collection, Cpl S.H. Deakin Collection, Cpl E.E. Payne Collection, McCaw Collection, Druery Collection, E.E. Croft Collection, Bray Collection, Grace Day Collection, Rose Collection, Dulcie Whyte [nee Smith] Collection, Heazle Collection, Thompson Collection, Farrar Collection, Pritchard Collection, Maddigan Collection, and Thornton Collection.

History / Summary

Woven silk postcards were first produced in Krefeld, Germany in 1898 as a combination of printed postcards and large woven silk pictures, known as Stevengraphs. The early cards were woven on machines. Being machine made, the woven cards always maintained a high standard.

Embroidered silk postcards were first made in 1900 for the Paris Exposition. The popularity of silk postcards peaked during the First World War 1914 - 1918. A thriving cottage industry began around 1915 and the quality of the early silks was quite high. However later, to satisfy demand, the workmanship was often not quite as high.

Postcard companies began to employ women to produce silks on a rough assembly line basis. The cards were generally hand embroidered on strips of silk mesh with as many as 25 on a strip. They were mostly embroidered by French women in their homes and then sent to the factories for cutting and mounting on postcards.

Some postcards were made with little envelopes which could contain a smaller card with a sentimental message.

Production continued steadily through World War I, declining substantially in 1919, until ending around 1923. An estimated 10,000,000 hand made cards were produced from 1915 to 1919.

Several themes became popular. The main themes were:

Souvenirs of France and Belgium
Souvenirs of the war
Regimental badges and crests

In the 1930s and during the Second World War, machine made cards were produced which were simpler and plainer and with less variations. They never gained the popularity of their WW1 predecessors.