by Jan Haber
In this age of texting and e-mail, few people send post cards. Along with their disappearance are customs once connected with them —including the language of stamps.
In the mid-eighteen hundreds, you could convey a message in the placement of the postage stamp—without writing a word other than the address.
In England, where this custom started, the postal authorities allowed you to stick the stamp on a postcard any place you pleased— upper left, upper right, aligned with the address, lower right … In the 19th and early 20th centuries, stamps were affixed to envelopes and picture postcards in all sorts of odd positions and angles. The location and orientation of the stamp could relay a message to the receiver.
Eventually, problems involved in the cancellation of wandering stamps caused postal authorities all over the world to require us to affix our stamps on the top right-hand corner of card or envelope.
Postcard collectors should be on the look-out for stamps placed in odd positions. Some enthusiasts use them to form the basis of interesting collections.
The Word Hound welcomes readers’ questions, comments, favorite words and suggestions for future columns.