Today, for the most part, postcards are mass-produced souvenir items, but earlier postcards could be personally produced by professional photographers.
Shortly after the program “Extracting Fact from Fiction: the Search for Garrett Buster,” sponsored by the Yellow Springs Historical Society and given on September 24, 2013 (with a video link here), Dave Neuhardt came across a photograph postcard of a certain “G. Buster.”
According to Dave, “As you’ll note from the photo of the back, there is a 2 cent revenue tax stamp, which means the photo cost 25 cents or less. The photographer was supposed to write the date on the tax stamp and cancel it when he affixed it to the photo, but Mr. Martin didn’t take the time to do anything but affix the “x”—but since the tax was only levied between June 30, 1864 and August 1866, we can at least narrow down the date to somewhere between those two dates. . .I think this is likely the son of Garret Buster the former slave (rather than Garret himself), but that is just me guessing at ages.”
And upon seeing this post, Dave added this correction: “. . . this was very much not a postcard. This was a photograph format generally referred to as “carte de visite” (visiting card), and is roughly the size of a visiting card with your name on it (today’s business card) and was initially intended to be a personalized “modern” form of a visiting card you’d leave when visiting someone at their home. The format was extremely popular during the Civil War and a few years after because it was cheap—you could get many copies for $1.00–but these were never intended to be mailed. In fact, true postcards didn’t become popular until around 1898 when the postal rules were changed to permit private printing of postcards.”