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National Trust Library Historic Postcard collection

 Collection 0001-MDHC-NTL

The National Trust Library Historic Postcard Collection contains approximately 20,000 postcards dating from 1893 to the 1970s with the bulk of the cards from the years 1900 to 1920. The collection represents over 3,000 locations in the United States, as well as a small number of foreign countries. There is a particular strength in cards from the New England states although all 50 states are documented. Most of the cards were commercially produced and depict early 20th century scenes from small towns to large cities. There is also a group of about 900 cards for which location could not be determined. These are arranged by subject.


  • 1893-1970
  • Majority of material found within 1900-1920

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections Reading Room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.


20,000 Items

Scope and Content of Collection

The National Trust Library Historic Postcard collection contains approximately 20,000 postcards documenting localities across the United States with a particular strength in the New England states. The postcards date from 1893 to the 1970s with the bulk falling between the years 1900 and 1920. The collection includes a small number of foreign cards as well as a small number of cards arranged by subject.


The collection is organized as three series.

Series 1
Geographical Postcards -- United States
Series 2
Geographical Postcards -- Foreign Countries
Series 3
Subject Postcards

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The National Trust for Historic Preservation donated this postcard collection to the University of Maryland Libraries in 1986. It was included as part of the library collection when the entire National Trust for Historic Preservation Library was donated to the Univeristy. The collection was donated to the National Trust by an individual from New England which has given the collection a particular strength in the New England states. Over time a variety of other individuals have donated smaller numbers of cards to the collection. These cards have been incorporated into the collection as they have been donated.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital copies of select postcards in this collection are available at in the University of Maryland's Digital Collections.

Related Material

There are a number of postcard collection located in repositories across the country. Institutions are increasingly digitizing and placing these materials online. Listed below are some of the most prominent collections.

  1. Curt Teich Postcard Archives - Lake County Discovery Museum. This significant collection of postcards is dedicated, primarily, to cards produced by the Curt Teich company. The majority of these cards were produced in the second half of the 20th century and as such are quite different from the cards in the National Trust Library's collection. They provide direct access to several portions of their collection electronically.
  2. Detroit Publishing Company Postcards from the Leonard Lauder Postcard Collection - New York Public Library Digital Gallery. This collection is part of New York Public Library's Digital Gallery and consists of 5,780 digitzed postcards ca. 1898-1920s. The cards feature images of North American landscapes and cityscapes, including views of well-known streets, buildings, historic monuments, natural scenery, industry, transportation, and daily life.
  3. Institute of American Deltiology (IAD) Postcard Collection, National Trust Library, University of Maryland. The IAD collection is estimated to contain over one million postcards published and printed in North America. The National Trust Library received this collection in 2010 through a generous donation from Donald Brown. The Library currently has only a portion of the collection at the current time but it will continue in the coming years.
  4. The John R. and Jane Adams Postcard Collection - San Diego State University. The John R. and Jane Adams Postcard Collection consists of approximately 200,000 postcards. This website is an online exhibit of postcards of historic postcards from San Diego and California.
  5. University of Delaware Postcard Collection. The University of Delaware Postcard Collection comprises more than 2,000 postcards of Delaware and the surrounding regions. The postcards have been digitized and are searchable by location and subject.
  6. Werner von Boltenstern Postcard Collection at Loyola Maryount Univesrity Library . The postcard collection at Loyola Marymount University has aprroximately 1 million postcards and is one of the largest publicly accessible cards in the United States.

Processing Information

Postcards have been arranged by geographic location whenever possible. Some postcards that are particularly fragile or are real photo postcards have been placed in mylar sleeves. Oversize postcards have been placed in specialized housing.

Guide to the National Trust Library Historic Postcard collection
Processed by Megan McShea,May 2003, Peter Curtis, 2004, and Joanne Archer, 2005 and 2009.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742