In our current exhibition "Echoes of the Great War" there are a number of examples of silk postcards which were bought as souvenirs by soldiers serving on the Western Front, two of which are shown here. They were hugely popular and it is estimated some 10 million of these postcards were made.
Novelty postcards crafted from card and silk first appeared around 1898, originating from France and Switzerland. Prior to the war convents around Belgium and northern France were used to embroidering church vestments and articles for sale to visitors. With the demand from soldiers for souvenirs the nuns organised refugee workers and local women to embroider these attractive but affordable items.
Identical designs were embroidered with coloured silk onto a starched strip of silk organza. Once embroidered they were sent to finishing factories for mass cutting and mounting onto cards. An embossed frame was secured over the top of each card and then trimmed.
They became very popular with soldiers billeted in foreign towns and sent home to convey their strong feelings of love, patriotism and for special occasions. There were three main design groups: sentimental, patriotic, and military. The cards may have had a panel design, sometimes with a ribbon attached; a pocket design with a card or silk hanky inserted; or a panel design with photos of notable persons amongst flags.