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Abstract

In 1898, Congress authorized the use of Private Mailing Cards, better known today as the postcard. At the turn of the twentieth century, a postcard craze swept the nation, and sending, receiving, and collecting postcards became a favorite pastime of Americans. Early manufacturers such as E. C. Kropp, Arthur Livingstone, and the American Souvenir Company produced a wide variety of cards featuring a broad range of people, places, and events. Although designed to serve as a means of communication between parties, many of these cards were based on original photographs, and serve to document the culture and history of locales across the nation. Many libraries, archives, and special collections have postcard collections, but few actively pursue and purchase postcards as historical documents, although the cards are easily found on online auction sites such as EBAY. The purpose of this brief article is to share my experiences as a collector who also happens to be an archivist, in particular in relation to the acquisition of postcards of the city of Hattiesburg and Mississippi in general. A second but less significant purpose of the article is to document how the postcard can be used on the local level to interpret the past, and why archivists should strive to add postcards to their collections.

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