For most of human history, transmitting an image quickly and across long distances was either costly or impossible. Enter, at the turn of the twentieth century, the humble postcard: cheap to produce, widely available, and inexpensive to buy and mail, postcards allowed messages and images to travel farther and faster than they ever had before. Before the advent of World War I, postcards were already flooding the German mail system at the rate of nearly five million per day; after the war began in earnest, that rate almost doubled. In its extraordinary popularity, the postcard also provided political actors with a new and powerful tool of persuasion. During the era of the world wars, propaganda producers—from governments to publishers to resistance movements—took advantage of the ubiquitous form to further their own political and ideological agendas. A selection of those postcards, culled from a collection published by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in December titled The Propaganda Front: Postcards of the Era of World Wars, appears below. According to Lynda Klich, one of the collection’s contributors, “propaganda postcards made complex situations seem straightforward, actions just, and desired outcomes believable and attainable.” Although both the medium and the messages may seem antiquated today, the logic behind them remains unsettlingly familiar.
From The Propaganda Front: Postcards of the Era of World Wars by Anna Jozefacka, Lynda Klich, Juliana Kreinik, and Benjamin Weiss. © 2017 by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.