Treasure trove of postcards depicts changing face of world

Collection captures historical moments and complexities of graphic design

Patrick Pearse addressing a crowd at Dolphin's Barn (Lot 358 Est €60-€80)

Patrick Pearse addressing a crowd at Dolphin's Barn (Lot 358 Est €60-€80)

 

 Long before the advent of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, postcards were used as a way to send picture messages.

The largest collection of postcards in Ireland began in 1960 when historian Seamus Kearns, a Dubliner who helped establish AA Roadwatch, turned his interest to deltiology – the collection of postcards. Having died in 2014 his assemblage of over 100,000 postcards from around the globe will be auctioned by Whyte's on January 26th.

Col Codys New Plane (Lot 398 €250- €350)
Col Cody's New Biplane (Lot 398 €250-€350)

The collection captures moments of history from the late 1800s and also highlights the complexities and mastery of graphic design.

The trove depicts many scenes, from the old trams running through Rathmines to an east-west transatlantic flight from Portmarnock beach in Dublin to Newfoundland in Canada by Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith (Lot 119 – 6 items €60-€80).

Architecture is another feature which can be traced through the history of postcards, even buildings that have disappeared – such as the Dublin Exhibition Palace Winter Garden – included in Ireland’s Exhibitions and Public Events (Lot 300 - 250 items €400-€600). Also in this lot are cards from the 31st Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 1932. It captures a period of Irish history when religious devotion was at its peak and more than one million attended the papal Mass in the Phoenix Park.

Proposed Minerall Baths at Lisdoonvarna in Lot 31 (€60 -80)
Proposed Mineral Baths at Lisdoonvarna in Lot 31 (€60 -80)

All of the 32 counties are represented, depicting topographical images, hotels, town squares and railways. Of interest is a card in Lot 31 (100 items €60-€80) – Proposed New Mineral Baths for Lisdoonvarna – there is not a spa in the country today comparable to this 1916 design by architect William Scott.

Lot 358, the PH Pearse Collection, has a particularly interesting photographic card of Patrick Pearse in uniform addressing what looks like a sea of hats in Dolphin's Barn (€60-€80).

Of international interest is Lot 398 (250 cards on aviation €250-€350), in which three postcards in succession depict photographs of Colonel Cody’s New Biplane, Wreck of Colonel Cody’s Water Plane and Funeral of Colonel Cody. Lot 397 (450 cards €1,000-€1,500) depicts worldwide disasters including the haunting image of a French aircraft bombing a German zeppelin. The most expensive lots are those with specialist advertising covering an array of companies from Jacobs to Guinness, with Lot 311 having the highest estimate of €2,000 – €3,000 for 120 postcards.

In essence, Kearns’s postcard collection shows how Ireland’s social, cultural and political landscape has changed over the course of a century. Some of the cards are used and that in itself leaves thousands of other stories yet to be discovered. See whytes.com for more details.

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