One of the largest and most significant collections in Special Collections unit of the Lakeland Public Library is the Lakeland Postcard Collection. It includes more than 900 postcards (including duplicates) documenting the history and development of the city from the early 1900's to the present. People seldom think of postcards as an historical resource, but they are a significant one. The postcards often are the only source for determining what a building or area of the city looked like 50, 75 or even 100 years ago. Additions are made to the collection regularly and it is heavily used by a wide variety of researchers for a variety of purposes.
Postcards have been in use in this country for more then a 100 years. Picture postcards were published in Europe as early as the 1870's, and illustrated advertising postcards appeared in the US at about the same time. These, however, were known as "souvenir" or "correspondence" cards, as only the government was allowed to use the word "postcard" on the back of the postcard. Private publishers were not permitted to use the word "postcard" on the back of the postcard until the end of 1901. Still, only the address could appear on the back of the postcard. All messages had to appear on the front of the postcard. It was not until March 1, 1907 that postcards with divided backs were permitted. The address was written on the right side of the postcard and any message would be written on the left.
This collection includes postcards depicting a wide variety of subject matter, ranging from public buildings, to churches, to streetscapes and more. The earliest postcards date to the beginning of the twentieth century. Many were used and later donated to the library and include interesting and/or amusing comments from the sender.