Missionary Postcard Collection
Scope and Contents
This collection includes more than 25,000 missionary postcards. These postcards were produced by mission sending agencies and distributed throughout Europe and America with the intent of promoting support for the missions' work and providing information about non-Western peoples and customs. The majority of the postcards relate to African countries but other areas are also represented. A geographical inventory of the collection is available at
Postcards depicting missionary scenes generally were not utilized for direct communication from missionaries in the field to supporters at home, nor were they typically acquired at the sites that they depict. Rather, the postcards were produced by mission sending agencies and distributed throughout Europe and America as a means of gaining publicity and garnering support. Postcards utilized techniques of "marketing" or persuasion to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the agency producing them. Postcards produced by nondenominational and faith mission agencies, as opposed to mainline church missions agencies, often took a more pointed approach toward gathering support for their work.
While many of the postcards in the library's collection seem designed primarily to publicize the producing mission agency's work, other serve to provide information about non-Western peoples and customs. The images of the missionary postcards provide an interesting glimpse into the Christian missionary enterprise and its impact on society. They illustrate the customs, methods, and technology disseminated by the missionaries, provide depictions of indigenous life, and shed light on the culture of the missionary enterprise in the early 20th century.
- ca. 1920s - 1960s
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research.
Existence and Location of Copies
As noted in the finding aid, about forty boxes of postcards in the collection have been digitized and are available in the Divnity Library Photographs database.
This finding aid is an inventory of the boxes.
46 Linear Feet (184 boxes)
Language of Materials
The collection includes more than 25,000 missionary postcards. These postcards were produced by mission sending agencies and distributed throughout Europe and America with the intent of promoting support for the missions' work and providing information about non-Western peoples and customs.
Biographical / Historical
The "Postcard Era" was a distinct historical phenomenon occurring in the years between the Spanish-American War and the First World War. Postcard collecting was widespread in Europe by the turn of the century, and the fad had caught on fully in the United States by 1905. The majority of the missionary postcards in the Divinity Library collection date from the 1910s through the 1920s, somewhat past the height of postcard mania, but coinciding with a post World War I surge in mission interest, which was reflected in increasing numbers of missionaries being sent overseas.
- Guide to the Missionary Postcard Collection
- Yale Divinity Library staff
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Yale Divinity Library Repository
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