And while this was a national craze, postcards from Florida were uniquely plentiful. “No other state had a history illustrated this way, from citrus growing to sugar cane grinding, from cards promoting businesses to cards promoting beaches.” Much of this was due to Florida’s sunny weather, easily captured on camera and mailed to friends and family suffering through winter blizzards up north.
“People got these in the middle of February and they came here in droves,” Coursen says.
Surprisingly, Germany and Britain were the major postcard manufacturers. “German publishers,” she adds, “were absolutely fascinated by alligators. They were convinced we walked out the door and fell over an alligator.”
Coursen calls her postcard collection “the only bad habit I have.” The passion eventually led her to her online business, www.AmericanPostcardArt.com, which enlarges vintage postcards into poster size art.. Over the years she has collected a variety of images, from postcards of her hometown in Maine to postcards of women fly fishing — and pretty much everything in between, including, yes, alligators. She has no idea how many cards she owns, though she confesses that “when I go to a postcard show, I forget to eat.”
In the era of Facebook and Twitter and smart phones, when a tourist can snap and send a beach scene to a friend in a matter of minutes, she concedes that the postcard’s days may be numbered.
“They’ll be here for this generation and the next. After that…” her voice trails off, then regains strength. “There may not be postcards as we know them, but there will always be postcard collectors.”