Australian War Memorial
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Title: Silk Postcard Collection
Date range of collection: 1914-1919 and 1939-1945
Extent - Space occupied: 51 albums
Extent - Number of items: 1409
Repository: Australian War Memorial
Location: Published Collections, Research Centre, Australian War Memorial.
Abstract: The Australian War Memorial has a collection of over 900 woven, printed and embroidered silk postcards from the First World War, 1914-18. The majority of the collection are embroidered postcards.
Provenance: Silk Postcards have been collected since the 1920s from a variety of sources.
Accruals: The collection continues to be updated.
Access: Open. The collection is accessible in the Research Centre Reading Room on the lower ground floor of the Memorial during the Reading Room opening hours. The opening hours are Monday to Friday from 10 am to 5 pm and on Saturdays from 1pm to 5pm. The Reading Room is closed on Sundays and ACT public holidays. Researches can contact the Research Centre to plan a visit. To access the collection the user will need to register as a client and agree to the Reading Room’s conditions of use. To contact the Information Services department or to make an appointment to visit the Reading Room call 02 62434315 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Restrictions on use and reproduction: For copying and copyright enquiries contact the Senior Curator, Published and Digitised Collections.
Preferred citation: [item number], Silk Postcard Collection, Australian War Memorial.
Digital Images available: This collection has been digitised and links to the images are available here: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/RC00688/
Related materials for silk postcards are held at the Australian War Memorial in the following collections:
Military Heraldry and Technology
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.
John Laffin , World War I in postcards (Alan Sutton: Gloucester,1988)
Malcolm J. Roebuck , Stevengraphs bookmarks and postcards etc.: World War I Postcards (http://www.stevengraphs.com/stevengraphs/worwar1silpo.html: 2000)
C. Radley , The silk postcard [published in RF 1985 picture postcard catalogue] (R.F. Postcards: Essex,1985)
Scope and Content
Using the collection: This collection consists fifty-one postcard albums. There are twenty-nine series within this collection; the first twelve series are arranged by theme, and seventeen series are collections relating to individuals. Within each series, items have been given running numbers, rather than being organised chronologically.