Musical postcards – how to get a tune through the mail

phThe “golden age” of postcards is generally reckoned to be between 1895 and 1914. During that time their popularity increased and many different subjects were depicted on their fronts. These ranged from the purely topographical scenes of various places in Britain and overseas, to photographic representations of people, animals, events; paintings, drawings and cartoon, humorous and sentimental messages for any occasion and more. As time went on the manufacturers strove to innovate, moving from black & white to colour, from printed to photographic, using various mechanical devices to “animate” the card – e.g. having movable parts to show different parts of a picture or alternative text.

From a musical perspective there were many postcards showing various musicians, composers, singers, and musical ensembles – including brass bands – indeed in many cases these were used as promotional items by the organisations or individuals they depicted.

One type of card that appeared in the late 1890s were those that were printed with some music. This was usually a short musical phrase of a popular song or hymn with the appropriate notes and/or words. Some of these were related to brass bands, being tunes “associated” with specific bands. A few examples are given below.

A further musical card that appeared in the early 1900s in Germany, but did not become popular in Britain until the later 1920s, was the gramophone record postcard. This consisted of a single sided miniature disc record, made of celluloid, glued onto a postcard with centre hole punched through both the card and the disc. The disc material could be black, a brownish opaque or colourless translucent, and the discs originally played at 78rpm. The musical snippet recorded on the disc was usually a tune related to the broad subject of the card’s picture – e.g. “Bonnie Banks & Braes of Loch Lomond” with a picture of Pitlochry. A large number of these were produced, but few survive today.

A wide range of musical topics were included on these miniature gramophone records, but I have not found any evidence of brass bands being part of this particular musical offering, as yet!

Some examples I have found are shown in the article below:


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