Living

Postcard from Ocean Springs depicts every Fisherman’s dream, or nightmare

Small American towns and businesses that couldn’t afford postcard publishing ordered generic postcards and personalized them.
Small American towns and businesses that couldn’t afford postcard publishing ordered generic postcards and personalized them. Postcard courtesy of Paul Jermyn

The image on this postcard depicts every fisherman’s dream (or nightmare?)

The caption places the scene in Ocean Springs, but it is actually a generic postcard and could illustratively be any place. Generics were a relatively inexpensive way for small American towns or businesses, such as drugstores and novelty shops, to produce postcards representative of their area.

The postcards, carrying a general picture and non-specific script, were ordered in bulk from large companies, and then the business owner would hand-stamp “Greetings From” and the town’s name across the bottom or the top.

Note that the postcard pictured here clearly shows the difference between the red-lettered hand stamp and the rest of its artwork. The same pictures on generic postcards could be sent from different towns across the country. Over time the identifying message became more sophisticated and not as obvious as this one.

Sometimes pictures on generic cards were generally suggestive of the area, such as fishing scenes for places such as Ocean Springs, that are situated on the water.

There are several generic postcards that picture beach scenes supposedly from Biloxi and Gulfport. Another is the Lover’s Lane theme that pictures a wooded road and is captioned “Lover’s Lane” at such and such town. There are at least four known generic Lover’s Lane or Lover’s Retreat cards from places along the Mississippi Coast: Bay St. Louis (postdated 1907), Gulfport, Biloxi and Biloxi Back Bay.

It is not known just when the practice of using generic began, but some are postdated as early as the 1907-1915 golden age of postcards and others well into the 20th century. The generic card has different forms, some feature line-drawn cartoon figures, hand-painted color pictures (like this one), and real nondescript black and white or color photographs.

Murella H. Powell, a local historian, writes the weekly Flashback column. Do you have a local photograph to submit to Flashback? It can be of any subject or event in the Coast’s distant or recent past. Please send a description with your name, address and phone number to Flashback, Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535; call 896-2424; or email living@sunherald.com.

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