Silk postcards first appeared in 1898, introduced by the Krefeld company in Germany. These consisted of attractive ornate images sewn onto a piece of silk and subsequently glued to a piece of card. They were first shown at the Paris Exhibition in 1900.
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World War I
British soldiers started buying silk postcards during the First World War to send home to their loved ones. It is said that the cards were made at home by women in France and Belgium to supplement their meagre incomes. The same design would be embroidered many times on a roll of silk and then sent to a factory to be cut up and made into postcards. There was a resurgence of popularity in 1939-40 when similar cards were sent home by members of the British Expeditionary Force. However, these have more muted colours.
Designs of the silk postcards ranged from patriotic flags to birds and flowers such as forget-me-nots. The cards also often show regimental badges, very popular among collectors. Some of them had a flap into which a small printed card could be inserted for extra messages. The inclusion of the second small card increases the value. Handkerchiefs, handkerchief sachets and other small items were embroidered in the same way. Many had the year on the front, while cards showing written, dated messages from the Front are much sought after. From 1917 American soldiers arrived in northern France to join the war and the cards can be found in Canada and in the US as well as in the UK.
Some of the cards are real works of art, very attractive and colourful. Since they were so fragile they were not sent directly through the post but were enclosed in envelopes. Many are available individually for reasonable prices online, though larger collections can reach quite high prices. However, collectors would be advised to seek the cards at postcard fairs or specialist shops. That way, they can examine the cards in person. Due to use, many cards are flawed with stains and other defects. Since they are so fragile, they must be handled with care and can be kept in albums for protection. They should not be framed as the colours will quickly fade, even away from direct sunlight.