News / Ask the photo expert – postcard photograph

Ask the photo expert – postcard photograph

Our photo dating expert, Jayne Shrimpton, analyses your family photos.

Paul Bridges sent us his photo and asked:

‘I would love to have help in identifying the attached photograph. I think it may represent the marriage of two first cousins, Mabel Annie Robinson and Edward Thomas Robinson, which took place on 28 June 1914 in Upper Holloway, London. The bride was aged 31 and the groom was 24.

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The back of the photo is in postcard format with a vertical line in the centre. The stamp location has the message: ‘A half-penny stamp for inland, one penny foreign’. I think this puts it at later than September 1902.’

Jayne says:

‘It is always helpful to know what type or format a photograph represents as this invariably provides a basic timeframe. The postcard with a divided back – a vertical line running down the centre, providing separate spaces for the address and for a written message – was introduced in 1902. This new arrangement inspired the use of postcards as mounts for photographic portraits and the postcard photograph remained popular throughout the first half of the 20th century, only finally declining after WWII.

Literally millions of postcard photographs (sometimes called ‘real postcards’) survive in today’s family collections and most were taken between 1906-7, when they became more established, and the 1940s. Sometimes postcard photographs were posted, but even if they bear no stamp or dated postmark, the stamp box in the corner and the stated postage cost can help to narrow down the date. The inland postal rate for postcards was a half-penny until 2 June 1918, after which time it rose to a penny, so we know that your photograph pre-dates June 1918.

Jayne Shrimpton

Jayne Shrimpton

Looking at the image, we see a large wedding scene, the group packed into what appears to be a garden – most likely that of the bride’s family home, where the reception following the wedding may have taken place. As usual in such photographs, a range of ages are represented, the guests here ranging from children to elderly adults: three, or possibly four, generations.

This bride wears a formal bridal gown trimmed with lace and a conventional veil. Gradually, during the early 20th century, it became increasingly common for brides from all social backgrounds to wear white on their wedding day. Some chose special bridal wear, others a white day dress or suit.

Female fashions always provide the closest date range for a mixed group photograph, especially the dress of any younger women. The high neckline of the bride’s gown signifies the final display of the formal Edwardian choker-like collar. We notice that many of the ladies here are wearing lower necklines and the neat collars that were becoming fashionable during the early 1910s. The relatively narrow style of their clothing – seen clearly on the two bridesmaids (carrying bouquets) – also supports a date range of c.1911-14, when the so-called ‘hobble skirt’ was in vogue. Their ornate hats demonstrate the conservative deep-crowned styles that mainly older ladies favoured and the flatter, very wide-brimmed shapes that young women often preferred.

I see no problem at all with this photograph representing the June 1914 wedding that you suggested. Often in wedding scenes, the bride’s family would be positioned on her side of the group and the groom’s on his, so hopefully you may be able to recognise a number of different family members in this lovely photo taken almost a century ago.’

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