For generations, sending a postcard home has been a quintessential part of the great British seaside holiday.
But now that great tradition is coming to an end, with the closure of Britain’s oldest postcard publishers as sales plummet in the social-media age.
Founded in 1880, J. Salmon of Sevenoaks in Kent is set to close its doors at the end of the year – with its iconic ‘Wish You Were Here’ postcards consigned to history as today’s generation choose to send selfie holiday snaps through Facebook and Instagram.
Wish you were here: A 1970s J. Salmon postcard of Brixham, Devon
A postcard showing the Aberdeen Express on the bank of the Firth of Forth
Just 25 years ago, more than 20 million postcards were sold each year, but that figure has slumped to just five or six million.
The firm’s closure will also bring down the shutters on idyllic views of Britain. Promenades, harbours, moated castles, mountains and valleys from the Lake District to the South Coast have been chronicled by five generations of Salmons.
Charles Salmon, 61, and his brother Henry, 56, joint managing directors, have sent a letter to suppliers and newsagents and tourist shops announcing ‘a proposal to withdraw from publishing’.
They wrote: ‘Increasingly challenging trading conditions and changes to the nature and size of the market for its publications have resulted in uncertainty over the viability of its trade going forward.’
Charles Salmon further explained the reason behind the decision to The Mail on Sunday, citing ‘mobile phones and new technologies, changing spending and holiday patterns’.
He added: ‘People are going for shorter breaks, not for a fortnight, so you’re back home before your postcards have arrived.’
Established by Joseph Salmon, a London bookseller when he bought a stationer’s and printing shop in Sevenoaks, the family business expanded when his eldest son, also called Joseph, started printing picture postcards in 1900.
This postcard shows the Spa alongside the beach in Scarborough
The crests of the colleges of Oxford University
This postcard has a fun message from Bexhill in East Sussex
These postcards show London and North Western Railway and the changing of the guard
This postcard shows the high street in Sevenoaks, Kent
A WWI patriotic postcard
The first scenes were black-and-white views of Sevenoaks. Its first colour prints came three years later.
One of the firm’s biggest coups was commissioning watercolour artist A. R. Quinton to paint 2,300 scenes around the country. His world of thatched cottages, spired churches, horse and carts, uniformed maids and rosy-cheeked children in Sunday best soon gained a huge following.
During the Second World War, with paper and ink in short supply, J. Salmon produced morale-boosting patriotic postcards.
The firm, which employs 50 staff, has until now fought off competition from the digital camera by producing larger, glossier photographs and updating its stunning photographic views of Britain.
It has also added postcards of Royal occasions and tourist attractions such as Changing the Guard. Anne Hathaway’s cottage, York Minster, and scenes of the West Country, Oxford and Cambridge remain bestsellers. But with shrinking markets and no one in the family wishing to carry on the business, closure is planned.
Jeffrey Richards, Emeritus Professor of Cultural History at Lancaster University and an expert on postcards said: ‘This is absolutely tragic. Postcards are the fingerprint of the lives of ordinary people. They give us insights into what really went on, not just where they went, but what they did, wore, the shops they went to.’
A postcard of Betchworth village, near Reigate in Surrey