Museum London has hundreds of greeting cards and postcards. This exhibition consists of 100 reproductions, drawn from the permanent collection.

These cards date from the late 1870s through to the late 1930s, with the majority published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They mark occasions that run the entire calendar year: New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, Hallowe’en, and Christmas. Still others acknowledge births and birthdays, as well as illness and deaths.

These greeting cards and postcards feature written and printed phrases in addition to colourful imagery. Both are crucial to communicate the message. The words announce the occasion and express sentiments to mark it. And colourful images accompany, support, and echo those words. You will recognize and understand some of these images. You’re probably no stranger to Santa Claus. But others may be a bit more unfamiliar. Are you, for instance, aware that flowers had a language of their own with each one conveying a particular idea or emotion? When featured on greeting cards they amplified the message.

Greetings from the Past provides an opportunity to gain new appreciation for the way seemingly simple and ephemeral pieces of paper can be a window into past social customs and practices.

Image: Valentine Postcard, 1913, Gift of Mrs. W. R. McGregor, 1964

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