Printer Friendly


Official Warning

The Postmaster-general finds that during the past year there has been a large increase in the number of post-cards, principally of foreign manufacture, sent by the post bearing pictorial designs of an objectionable and in some cases indecent character. [1]

Pictures of "naked ladies" are the staple of pornography in the twentieth century world, but the extensive use of pictures came late to pornography; before the end of the nineteenth century, words--not images--dominated communication about sexuality. [2] During the 1880s and 1890s, the situation reversed itself as visual images, in the form of cheap ephemera, outstripped older forms of pornography. Although the emergence of visual pornography transformed the medium of expression, the content of pornography stayed remarkably similar: visual pornography continued to focus on women as the objects of desire; ephemera deepened, rather than inaugurated, the imperial gaze; and scatological humor persisted in part through a focus on children's sexuality. Nonetheless, the new medium did transform pornography by developing new visual cues, by deepening an examination of corporeality, and by establishing the single image as synecdoche for sexuality. Of even greater importance, the transformation from literary to visual pornography expanded the audience.

While earlier, written pornography functioned as a dialogue among the aristocracy and bourgeoisie on politics, sexuality, and gender, visual pornography allowed the working classes, as well as women, children, and people of color, to join in this dialogue. The new wide-spread availability of pornography allowed these people to be more than objects of representation; they became consumers of them as well. Although the new visual pornography built on the themes of older class-restricted pornography, the expanded dissemination of these ideas transformed their meanings by radically re-situating them in society.

Concerned authorities, like the National Vigilance Association, the police, the Home Office, and the Postal Service, believed that the expanded audience for pornography and its social repositioning fundamentally disrupted an intrinsic moral order. They responded with increased vigilance in policing working-class space. However, the expanded audience appeared to believe that the consumption of pornography remained consistent with that same moral and social order. They apparently saw nothing wrong with the objectification of "themselves." This rift in perceptions between the authorities and the audience highlights the hidden relationship between representation and social control at the end of the nineteenth century. [3]

The Audience for Literary Pornography

Before the advent of working-class pornography, access to pornographic representations had been primarily restricted to wealthy, white men who had political, economic, and cultural privileges. Before the 1880s, the majority of pornography consisted of expensive, hard-to-find, literary texts that cost between three shillings for a shoddy pamphlet like "Kate Handcock" to 100 pounds for My Secret Life. [4] Both pamphlets and full-length books were too expensive for the working classes. Illiteracy further constrained working-class and women's use of pornography. [5] Furthermore, the working classes and women lacked the necessary language skills and knowledge to make sense of early pornography which often interspersed Greek and Latin phrases and mythological allusions with English and contemporary references. Moreover, class specific patterns of distribution [6] and state repression placed early forms of pornography out of the hand of the working classes. High prices, low literacy rates, class-specific cultural r eferents, unequal patterns of state repression, [7] production, [8] and distribution patterns restricted the dispersal of pornography in British society before the 1880s. This pattern [9] meant that women, the poor, children, and people of color could only seldom use pornographic representations even though they were often the subjects of these representations. The class, gender, and racial basis for control of ideas of sexuality and for consumption of luxurious commodities stood as an accepted and unquestioned aspect of privilege.

The Rise of the Pornographic Postcard

By the 1880s, however, these patterns of exclusion began to break down as the working classes gained access to pornography. Working-class pornography differed in format from older forms of pornography. The new forms included stereoscopes, mutoscopes, transparencies, and particularly postcards. Postcards could be viewed at a single glance, rather than requiring time, the skills of literacy, the cultural referents of art and literature, or the languages of Greek, Latin, and French. Pornographic postcards required little financial sacrifice, even for the poor. Mutoscopes, stereoscopes, and transparencies contributed to the rise of the new form of pornography, but postcards quickly dominated. Postcards needed no viewing apparatus (unlike stereoscopes), no previous knowledge of what to look for or how to access an image (as some transparencies did), and as few or as many cultural references as a viewer brought. They also communicated visually and through their ability to carry written messages. Both elements made the postcard uniquely important. The skills of literacy and the finances to travel would have limited the spread of the postcard to the middle class, even while a leisure culture developed for the working classes, if the postcard was meant only for the post or for written communication. But postcards, whether sexual or not, also functioned as a form of visual communication. They were cheap, bright, multi-purpose, and pervasive. [10]

Governments across the Atlantic world aided the dispersal of postcards when they approved postcards as a form of mail. In 1886, postcards gained the full authorization of the Congress of the Universal Postal Union and could be sent internationally. [11] While postcards were not an entirely new phenomenon in the 1890s, they did enormously expand a mass market culture based in communication. Roughly 140 billion postcards were sent worldwide between 1894 and 1919. [12] By 1909, 800,000,000 postcards were sold in England [13] alone each year. [14]

Major Themes in Pornographic Postcards

The images in sexual postcards ranged from Greek statues to children urinating, from sexualized images of food to scenes of seduction, from beautiful women to the grotesque, from the exotic to the everyday. [15] These images, while pulled from a variety of sources, also utilized tropes developed in older, literary and visual pornography. Earlier ideas in sexual communication were recycled and reformulated in this new form of mass communication. While some cards thematically functioned as libertine critiques and could have existed in the early 1800s or even earlier, others built upon later nineteenth-century visual and ideological constructions that made certain types of people exotic and others beautiful. In particular, postcards instituted racialist images of colonial subjects and foreign people. They naturalized images of women as passive, sexual objects. They created an inherent, instinctual sexuality in children. In short, postcards reproduced pre-existing beliefs through which Victorian and Edwardian so ciety ordered people. This social order, that carefully ranked people by social class, biological sex, race, and age, gave privileges to those with greater status including the ability to view others as objects. The development of postcards, however, increased access even if the new viewers only saw representations of "themselves." And yet, almost paradoxically, even as the postcards built on these pre-existing social divisions, they also exposed these divisions to greater scrutiny and offered the possibility of a more egalitarian system of objectification.

Divisions in Victorian and Edwardian society become apparent in the post's treatment of the cards. Sexual postcards came in two forms: those that could be legally sent through the mails and those that could not. The legal postcards used many of the same devices and visual elements as the proscribed ones but followed the strict code of covering women's pubic hair, genitals, and nipples. They hinted at what the illegal postcards showed. Men's genitals were rarely alluded to in these cards and few cards showed men at all. Illegal postcards could not be sent through the post and either needed to be placed in an envelope, handed to another person, or kept. However, the same criteria did not apply to postcards picturing "foreign" or "colonial' subjects, particularly people of color. [16] Pubic hair, genitalia, and nipples could pass by the censors if the card portrayed a colonial or foreign subject. The censors even allowed images of naked men to pass if the subjects were "natives." As a result the cards both hype r-sexualized and desexualized the "colonial" and the "foreign."

In representations of the colonized, people of color were displayed in a natural" habitat. "Natives" came from a variety of colonized and exoticized places over which Europeans and Americans exerted dominion including places in central and South America and the Caribbean, India, Africa, and Asia, particularly Japan. Postcards featuring "natives" displayed them in their "natural habitat" by showing harem scenes, landscapes, and huts. These nature-oriented postcards stood between pornography, science, and tourism and were less censorable because the ideas implicit in them had been completely normalized in late nineteenth-and early twentieth-century Britain.

The exoticized "natives" in the cards appear naked or partially naked, but theirs is a staged nakedness designed for perusal by a Western audience. The nakedness in these cards needs to be thought about on several levels: "native" people's culture and beliefs about nakedness; the act of taking the picture; the card as a consumer item; the shipping of the card as a form of communication; and the meaning of the card in the European context. At each of these levels, postcards created an "exoticized" sexuality.

In some of the locales, nakedness was clearly a creation of the photographer. Algerian women appeared naked on postcards even though in Algerian culture nakedness was never public. [17] Algerian women in public appeared fully dressed and often veiled. Photographers, however, portrayed Algerian women as half-naked, veiled but naked, or fully naked with head coverings. In short, the photographers used clothes to highlight the women's nakedness-to make the women appear more naked, rather than less. (See figure 1.) Photographers sometimes deepened this staging by posing the women in undisclosed locales, rather than in studios. Studio portraits could allow the viewer to differentiate the real woman from the artistic representation of "Woman" through artificial lighting, deepened shadows, and simple backdrops. In contrast, the photographers of "native subjects" captured the apparent daily practices of "native women" by photographing them in houses and courtyards with visual signs of exoticism such as hookahs and w ater jars. Through the use of articles of exoticism and outdoor photography, photographers deepened the apparent realism of the "native" by creating a record of her moving through her daily life. In posing these women, the photographers created the "naturalness" of the naked exotic, rather than documenting a culturally genuine image.

The production of nakedness underscored the meaning of the card as a consumer item. By buying representations of the exotic (and artificially portrayed) women, consumers gained an apparent familiarity with the closed, inaccessible culture of foreign sexuality. The purchase of a card implied that everything, even the most intimate scenes and acts, was available to European money and European documentation. The symbol of female nakedness and privacy in Algerian life, for example, could become a highly viewable, public form of communication. Short scrawled messages on the back conveyed part of the content, while the woman on the front illustrated the rest. When Europeans received such a card, the (artificial but apparently natural) nakedness of "exotics" juxtaposed the clothed-ness of Europeans. Postcards of "exotics" insisted on compelling differences between these societies.

In another example, "a Zulu portrait," an unspecified group of men and women posed against a landscape. Here, the photographer added supplementary color to accentuate the primitiveness of the scene. The surrounding trees were retouched bright green. Cloth and feather adornments were painted bright red (with small touches of yellow) to bracket the people's nakedness, and to expose their bodies more fully. The painted-on, primary colors suggest a primitive, uninhibited gaudiness. Particularly telling, however, is the contrast between the colored ornamentation around the people and the un-touched tones of gray in which the people are shown. The monochromatic rendering of natives contrasts with representations of white women who were routinely photographed or drawn in a stylized whiteness. This card, sent from Natal to Kent, reads "waiting for xmass dinner M. T.". M. T. was making a joke about the red and green colors, the line of people, their nakedness, and the oddity of the idea of Zulus celebrating Christmas . The joke demonstrated an awareness of the multiple levels on which the nudity of "others" was perceived.

Postcards of the exotic thus displaced the ideas of primitive sexuality onto women, children, and families in distant places. The cards created foreignness and ideas of racialism and then documented them. However, the bodies that appeared were not shown as individuals, but as types. Captions label those represented as "Arab types," "Moorish types," "Haitian types," "Geisha types," and "Cuban types." These typologies reflected collective meanings of a foreign sexuality that stood in opposition to a domestic or white sexuality. In the process, the individuality of the people photographed disappeared. The overlay of detail (Algerians with face coverings, geishas with wide-sleeved kimonos) fixed the trope of the exotic against the normative images of white women. Such postcards and such images contributed to a fixation on the exotic.

While colonial and foreign cards naturalized ideas of sexual availability outside of Europe, images of white women also contributed to formulations of a "natural" sexuality. (See figures 2 and 3.) Domestic cards, in both their illegal and legal forms, represented white women as inherently sexual, available, and waiting. These normative images of women as the objects of desire used visual tropes that earlier, more expensive photographs had established. In the cards, the placement of women's genitals, their breasts or vulvas, slightly off center as the focal point confirmed women's sexuality as genitally located. [18] Women were shown as receptive figures, rather than sexual actors. The cards show women in a variety of poses that cemented their place in relation to the viewer: standing with one hand behind the head and elbow lifted to raise the breasts and make the figure accessible, lying down with one shoulder tilted back (to lift the breasts) and one leg tilted forward to highlight the pubic "v," smiling up at the camera while removing stockings. (See figure 4.) Women's specific body parts, such as breasts or buttocks, became pictorial synecdoches for female sexuality. [19] The fixation on body parts allowed them to be separated and ritualized as the tokens of sexuality. [20]

This fixation on the female form allowed the origin of the representation to matter less than the image of female "beauty." Recreations of high art in which photographers replicated paintings mingled with photo lithographic reproductions. Reproductions of paintings like the Venus de Milo, Lida and the Swan (sic), and Good Friends (a girl and her horse) appeared in postcard form. The distinction between high art as transcendent and low art as transparent broke down in the reworking of images that emphasized the accessibility of female sexuality. (See figures 5 and 6.) As Linda Nochlin notes of art-making, "the topos of the artist in his studio assumes that being an artist has to do with man's free access to naked women. Art-making, the very creation of beauty itself, was equated with the representation of the female nude." [21] The artist who used female nakedness as the token of beauty and the pornographer who likewise employed the same token underscored the centrality of women's bodies to the Victorian and Edwardian world. High art un-problematically became low art because the central icon--female nakedness--eclipsed the distinctions between the two realms. [22]

The naturalization of female sexuality located sexuality within women, rather than between people. [23] Similar to the way that the "colonial" card used the paraphernalia of private life to focus on women as sexualized and accessible, domestic cards also built on the depiction of the private lives, private worlds, and private bodies of anglo women. The cards opened women of all classes to close inspection, even if women of all classes did not pose for these cards. Women surrounded by pearls and rich fabrics, fine wallpaper and furniture inscribed cards with the ideas of wealth. Striped stockings and cheap cots marked the "tart" in other cards. Underwear cards show women in undergarments "from across the ages" as permanently disheveled, half-dressed, and always "caught" midway between respectability and undress. [24] Honeymoon cards showed women partially unwrapped from elaborate wedding veils and dresses in poses that underscored sexual defloration as imminent. [25] Even serialized scenes, like lesbian scene s and m[acute{e}]nages [grave{a}] trois, opened private life to public inspection and used a single perspective to view sexuality--in part because the actors moved while the camera remained motionless. At a less technical level, however, these series established a normative sexuality by formulating intrinsic progressions to sexual acts. Series of keyhole cards (the skeleton-keyhole shape borders the image) allowed consumers the illusion of spying on an unwary couple as they move from dressed to undressed, distant to intimate. Domestic cards, whether serialized or single, cemented the gaze and firmly placed sexuality onto and into the bodies of others. Combining special occasions and everyday life, the worlds of the high born and low, the domestic cards reinforced current ideas about sexuality and women s centrality to its configuration.

All the forms of colonial and domestic cards discussed so far bolstered the social order by insisting on the seriousness of sexuality. Both domestic and "foreign" postcards drew upon the naturalization of certain types by fixing the place of the "other" as naked, waiting, and sexualized. Symbols of exoticism and fertility distinguished the represented person as close to nature at the same time that the camera's gaze and the sale of these cards fixed those represented in the realm of objects. These cards reinforced the social hierarchy by making women into objects for men's perusal and by baring "colonial" subjects to the imperial gaze.

In contrast, "comic cards" often subverted the social order by ridiculing both the privileged and the low in society. Building on the older, libertine tradition, "comic" postcards merged sexuality, scatology, and critique in ways that devalued the bourgeois seriousness of sexuality. The most common comic postcard showed sexuality appearing in unlikely places. Cards that displayed pants dropping in inappropriate places, dresses flying up from the wind, and seams splitting from movement illustrated a world on the edge of comic disaster. Exposure threatened everyone, regardless of the way they covered themselves in social proprieties. These cards worked on the principle of double meanings as men, trying to look inconspicuous, knocked at doors numbered 69. The cards mocked the social markers, like clothes and dignity, that spared some people from the perusal of others. In doing so, they inserted disorder in sexuality by using humor as a form of social leveling. (See figure 7.)

By poking fun at the bodies or habits of the powerful, comic cards could attack social proprieties and conventions without accountability or retribution. Specific, class-based symbols took the place of individuals as the object of attack. The fox hunt in England allowed fertile ground for criticism and ribaldry. [26] A postcard from 1905 features a view of the back of a woman in a riding coat and helmet. [27] However, the woman's buttocks is replaced with a horse's hindquarters. The dimpling of the haunches of the horse and the pinkish color make the transposition of buttocks--the visual replacement of horse for woman--more pronounced. The relaxed tail completes a visual illusion of a woman with huge, exposed buttocks complete with an overly-wide and especially hirsute furrow (the tail). The postcard transposes criticism of the hunt in general onto the body of the aristocratic woman as the symbolic site of corruption, making the figure both comic and grotesque. The mockery of the female figure was intensifie d by the detachment and distance (in real life) of the aristocratic woman. The unavailable figure became monstrous and undesirable through the transposition of fleshiness and in the mixture of animal and human parts. The card hinted at the grotesque indulgence of the aristocratic classes, visually labeling them as over-endowed, over-fed, and over-concerned with animals to the point of bestial preoccupation.

Another card from 1906 shows a young woman seated on a bidet shaped like a horse--apparently washing her genitals in an artifact of the hunt. Again, the combination of animals and women, of hunting symbols and female genitals mocked the sanctity of the hunt as a social form of privilege and connected it to dirt and excrement. [28] Similarly, a postcard depicting lavishly coiffed aristocratic women and their dogs, or another one in which farm dogs fellate peasants exploit bestiality to attack identifiable groups of people. [29] But bestiality, while a potent symbol, was not the only type of symbolic attack these cards launched. A 1909 card labeled "He who goes hunting, loses his place" makes the hunter into a cuckold, rather than the returning warrior. The man in hunting gear returns to his woman laying naked in bed as another man dresses in the corner. Thus, the hunter's preoccupation with masculine pursuits left him open to much deeper attacks upon his masculinity as another man appropriated his sexual prop erty.

While women's insatiability remained a central feature of comic cards (hinting at the persistence of an older conception of female sexuality), this insatiability also reflected on the virility of aristocratic men. The elaborate dress of the gentleman--walking stick, coat, high hat--clearly identified him and allowed for a form of class-based ridicule, rather than a gender-based attack on masculinity. The class-based items of attire offered visual cues that the gentleman was not like other men and his sexuality was suspect. In comic cards, the gentleman appeared overly-licentious, but unable to satisfy. Licentiousness and inability confirmed the gentleman's position at the zenith of society, but unable to act appropriately for his station and its sexual privileges. These cards used humor to level the gentleman and the lady and they disparaged the upper classes as corrupt, but they did not transform the ideas of sexuality or the normative constraints that limited it.

Scatological themes, however, de-stabilized the symbolic order of sexuality by placing human sexuality in close contact with other activities from which it had been carefully separated. Defecation, urination, and flatulence had been removed from the purified, hygienic, sexual body over the course of the nineteenth century. Bourgeois reforms differentiated human bodies from animal bodies and animal pleasures. Postcards mocking these divisions show beautiful, well dressed women passing enough wind to put out candles, children and dogs urinating in the milk together, animals eating little girls' excrement, and women defecating to the glow of the rising moon. The cards show urine mistaken for rainwater, springwater, and tea; flatulence compared with "the odor of love;" and feces served in decorated pots. Scatological cards returned the purified body to the realm of animal pleasures. [30] Like animals (and sometimes with animals), humans in these cards make little distinction between food and feces, between sweet odors and foul, and among the varieties of bodily orifices.

These cards returned socially distinguished people--like gentlemen, ladies, and clergy--to their own origins, as bodies which smell, act, and leak as do all other bodies. However, they also place all other bodies in the same position. Peasants and gentlemen, girls and boys, the lofty and the low, all live in and from the muck of bodies. These cards mocked the divisions of hygiene instituted by middle-class reforms, ridiculed the pretensions of mind over body, and derided the newly-invented insistence on privacy for body functions. All pleasures in these cards were equal; release, regardless of the type of release, was comic and pleasurable. These cards were both comic in the display of what people sought to conceal and pleasurable in the representation of release. Children in these cards function as the central actors able to enjoy the pleasures of elimination and the pleasures of sexuality uninhibited by the distinctions of society. Thus, a picture of a boy and girl each on their own chamberpot, holding han ds across the spatial divide, shows love and elimination as made of the same stuff.

Some cards combined scatology and social commentary to poke fun at privilege by associating specific groups with unregulated habits. A series of postcards that shows a nun's sexual preoccupation with sausages destabilizes the distinctions between bodies and other matter, while attacking the privileges of the Church. These cards took the older, libertine attacks on corrupt social privilege and added to them an attack on unregulated and undifferentiated sexual habits. They restored the sanctified and excluded bodies of the social superiors to the gaze of the masses. Comic cards of all types returned humor to sexuality, countering the nineteenth-century tendency to make sexuality a serious business.

Comic postcards attacked the idea that sexuality stood apart from other aspects of the body, and that human sexuality remained isolated from the rest of nature. Scatology did not attack specific class-based symbols, but undermined the divisions of a bourgeois conception of a distinctive, human sexuality. Social commentaries poked fun at the habits, bodies, and pretensions of specific groups of socially privileged people, like aristocratic women, the clergy, and bourgeois men. While these postcards maligned groups of people, they did not necessarily weaken sexuality as a system of thought bound in normative constraints.

Comic, colonial, and domestic cards each portrayed distinct ways of understanding and representing sexuality. However, some symbolic themes united them. These cards focused sexuality onto women. Images of the "other" contrasted images of whites. The body became a primary site of meaning. However, the use of images of women, exoticism, and the body functioned differently in each type of card. Comic cards often used the symbol of women to critique issues of social class (as in representations of the hunt,) while domestic cards reinforced constructions of gender and femininity through images of women (as in pictures of brides.) The terrain of the body as socially inscribed with meaning could attack the social order or could present the benefits of social order. The contextualization of symbols built upon older signs and social meanings and because of this, they continued older, often politically conservative themes. The cards objectified women, they fetishized exoticism, and they naturalized children's uninhibi ted sexuality. Even comic cards that mocked the upper classes (giving them a subversive potential) did not offer a vision of sexuality outside of the process of social ordering based on class, race, gender, and age. Instead, they used images of the powerless in the upper classes, like women and children, to criticize the existing social hierarchy. Postcards did not offer sexual liberation.

Postcards did revolutionize pornography, however. Cheap mass produced representations of sexuality had not been previously available and this new form transformed dirty words into dirty pictures. Sexual ideas now relied on visualcues, rather than literary cues. While visual description was not new, the heavy reliance on it and the refinement of visual cues were. The cues themselves imparted a wealth of information that called forth a variety of responses. The signs of exoticism, like primary colors and hues, called into play the meaning of foreignness, the relation between life in the "home" country and experience in a distant one, and the availability of nubile unrestraint; just as cues of social class like the hunt brought a wealth of meaning by questioning the meaning of wealth. These visual cues of lifted breast or a split blouse became the medium for conveying information rather than a mere illustration for the more crucial ideas available in the text.

The cards revitalized older notions like the comic and dislocated aspects of sexuality which had once found expression in libertine literature, bawdy songs, and burlesque theater. While the cards did not invent scatology or comic renderings of sexuality, they successfully formalized these ideas into a permanent article, rather than the experiential form of oral culture. The cards held jokes, rather than told them. And the jokes they held were visually located as permanent punch lines. The freezing of images, whether comic or not, implied imminence rather than closure. A joke was always in the process of narration just as a woman was always waiting. The fixity of images helped perpetuate the idea of exotics as unchanging, of women as forever disrobing, and of the penis as always erect. The continuous imminence of stills--as a facet of the medium--became a central part of the message of pornography.

The cards also hinted at the alternate future of pornography--motion. Card series which show the unfolding of a scene prefigured film and began to predicate meaning onto action. The narrativity of successive poses in the cards reinforced the idea that sexuality has certain ritually prescribed actions. The serialized path of sexuality cemented the order of sexual activities like the embrace, the disrobing, breast fondling, genital mounting, and relaxation. The combination of motion and visual cues pointed toward one future of pornography defined by culmination. The incomplete, imminent images of singular postcards and the culminating, moving images of serialized postcards formed the two paths of modern pornographic representation.

The Expanded Audience and Official Reactions

Perhaps most important, postcards along with stereoscopes and mutoscopes, made images of sexuality available to a broader public. Sexualized postcards were not segregated from other types of postcards or from working class life more generally. Vendors sold postcards in corner stores, in markets, in tobacconists, in newsagents' shops, and on the street. [31] Both sexual and non-sexual postcards were bought and sold in the same places often by the same people. One vendor, Mr. P.J. Huardel of High Holborn, had in his possession 27,550 postcards when the police raided his shop in 1903. Of his stock, 386 postcards were obscene; in this case, sexual postcards formed a small and relatively unimportant part of his stock. But of another vendor's stock of about 6,000 cards, the police found 2,287 problematic cards. [32] James H. McCann, a news agent, had 70 obscene cards. [33] Other vendors dealt only in indecent wares. A traveling showman added a gimmick to his sales by vending cards through machines. [34] Postcards by the 1890s were ubiquitous and bawdy postcards formed an important part of that commodity culture. Huardel defended himself by saying that he did not sell anything not found in other shops. [35] And indeed such cards could be found throughout the British Isles and across the Atlantic world in Belfast, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Bristol, Glasgow, Montreal, Yarmouth, Dublin, and Paris. Obscene postcards mingled with other types of postcards in the shops and streets of working-class neighborhoods. Men, women, boys and girls, the native and the foreign, all sold--and were caught selling--indecent picture postcards. By 1908, the police, told to crack down on the trade of sexualized postcards, labeled the phenomenon "the picture postcard craze." [36]

Postcards became popular because they were inexpensive to produce, sell, and buy. They could be bought "seven of the cards for sixpence," twopence a piece, and three pence a card. [37] They were easy to market and more durable than other ephemera as they were printed on heavier paper. Postcards appeared in everyday places because they were part of the everyday world rather than segregated by money, access, special places, or special occasions. Witnesses from London, Dublin, and Manchester [38] testified about the picture postcard craze and remarked that women, children, and the working classes made up the new customers for this type of sexual culture. As one policeman testified,

I may mention that upon one occasion I myself visited the exhibition that was prosecuted on a Sunday night at the Elephant and Castle, and at the least estimate the number of persons, boys and girls, there was over 300. They were indulging in all sorts of indecent acts among themselves, and two were looking round picking out the different machines that bore the most seductive titles and which they thought contained the worst pictures--a boy and a girl each spying on the payment of 1/2 d. in the same machine, touching one another in an indecent manner, and making use of indecent language. [39]

Men and women, boys and girls [40] publicly began to consume sexualized material artifacts in ways that the authorities found to be unprecedented and insupportable. The subordinated gave every indication that they condoned the increased availability of a sexualized commodity culture; complaints came not from the working classes but from the police, members of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, and women's social purity groups. [41]

The expansion of access helped focus debates over social purity. The legal, religious, and reforming communities believed that the multitudes could only be corrupted by pornography and that access had to be limited through the eradication of objects like postcards and mutoscopes.

The trade in obscenity has so easily attained the formidable proportions which disturb consciences and seriously menace morals. This is undoubtedly the place to strike: of all methods used in the corruption of youth this is certainly one of the most serious and may be truly said to be the source of all others, and were it only possible to get the better of this evil it would greatly enable the special legislations in each country to combat the other evils. [42]

State agencies and private organizations viewed pornography as a cause of "social evils." These groups worked in international and national policy spheres to protect youths and others unable to control their sexuality and who were therefore vulnerable to pornography's influence. [43]

Officials and social purists believed they needed to save the working classes from their own folly, for the working classes did not respond with proper outrage at the corruption of their wives, children, and mates. A tobacconist, when charged for exhibiting indecent postcards, was asked:

"Would you like me to show your wife or daughter a card like this?" Defendant: "I wouldn't have any objection, sir." Mr. Noddings: "Then you are a strange man." [44]

Another defendant, Mr. Devenny, seemed equally accused for having his "daughter, a girl of 16," work at the shop as he was for selling postcards. Here again, the defendant stated that he did not see the cards as obscene. "I have not had any complaints before. I can't see they are filthy." The judge stated in response that "If you can't see it, and think they are fit for a girl to sell over the counter, of course, one forms one's own opinion about you." [45] The condemnatory stance taken by officials because the vendors continued to "see" the images as appropriate demonstrates both a rift in perceptions and a form of social discipline. Officials attempted to shame vendors into realizing the inappropriateness of their perceptions. Vendors, even those casually caught up in the business, continued to argue the importance of their own standards. A Mr. Varley of Bloomsbury helped his niece with sales when the proprietor went to Paris. When called to trial, Varley argued that "The cards were sold by the millions all over the world." The Magistrate responded:

That is not the point. The question is whether they are indecent. The Defendant: Who is to decide what is decent? The Magistrate: I have to decide in the first place. [46]

The authorities insisted that the working classes needed to conform to official standards of public morality.

Vendors contended that they were maintaining these public standards. As one young lady testified on her own behalf, "For the defense the young lady said that the wholesale vendor assured her that the cards in question had been subject to seizure that had failed, and that therefore were 'saleable.' She bought them as 'comic,' while others were reproductions of pictures from public galleries. Mr Chapman said that it was a question of common sense. The cards were indecent." [47] The young lady knew that sexualized postcards had come under legal scrutiny of late and she justified their sale by arguing that the representations could be found in high art and in public galleries. She explicitly tried to link her postcards with other (more middle class) standards of public viewing.

While many cards did carry reproductions of high art, when put onto postcards and sold on the streets, they lost their status as legitimate art. The new popular context of images took precedence over the origin of the representation. The image of the naked woman, essential to artistic and pornographic representation, transcended the division that officials tried to maintain. Repeatedly, vendors argued that the origins of the representation should matter and the postcards could not be judged indecent or obscene if they came from "works of art." [48] The authorities disagreed. When asked whether a photograph of the Venus de Medici (sic) equaled other nude representations, the Chief Constable of Manchester replied, "No, but I suggest that all the circumstances should be taken into consideration; the photograph of nude women under certain circumstances may be all right, but if it is placed in the windows and sold to youths and sold on the streets, then I say it is not for the good of the community, and you shoul d take all the circumstances into consideration when you decide." [49] The issue of the individual viewer's place in society defined the meaning of the object being viewed. Sexual explicitness by itself did not define an object as indecent, obscene, or pornographic. These definitions occurred in the conjunction of people and ideas and in the socially determined relationship of viewer to viewed.

The expansion of access to sexual representations radically undermined the socially prescribed relation of people to ideas. Women seeing nakedness could in itself be dangerous, even though women's nakedness was central to aesthetic objectification. "As late as 1893, 'lady' students were nor admitted to life drawing at the Royal Academy in London, and even when they were, after that date, the model had to be 'partially draped." [50] Being able to view representations of bodies, rather than be represented as bodies, transformed the meaning of these representations and undermined the basis of social control which remained implicit in them. The appropriation of aesthetic objectification and subsequent reaction to it demonstrated that the restrictive "moral standards" of Victorian and Edwardian society rested on "categories of being" rather than egalitarian principles. Women, children, the working classes, and people of color violated their "categories of being" as objects when they laid claim to the same prerogat ives of aesthetic objectification as had their social betters.

As people who had been viewed began to view sexual representations, pornography began to take on threatening connotations. In other words, as women, children, and the working classes began to consume images of a sexualized social order, these artifacts became subversive. Women, children, and the working classes had been sexualized in older forms of high-priced, written pornography. Flossie: A Venus of Fifteen, Sweet Seventeen: the True Story of a Daughter's Awful Whipping and its Delightful if Direful Consequence, and A Pretty Girl's Companion all sexualized girls, but were not accessible to them. A crisis came when those who had been sexualized, like girls, began to consume sexual culture, even in a purified form. When as many as thirty girls and young men used twenty-seven penny-in-the-slot machines with labels "for gentlemen only," the police of Scotland Yard shut down the premises. The judge presiding over the case stated: "If you had found such things in a private house perhaps they would not be regarded as obscene. But [at] an exhibition for boys and girls they clearly are." [51] The removal of images from the private homes and into the cheap machines of the poor established a new and dangerous social context. The danger came not from sexualizing girls, but from girls seeing representations of their own sexuality.

The dangers implicit in exposure applied not only to girls and the poor, but also to people of color. In a case of pornographic importations to South Africa, The Vigilance Record reported that "the same logic applies to the 'Black Peril,' and while we must punish the men guilty of these crimes, more effective steps should be taken to bring to justice those white men, who induce the natives to purchase indecent pictures and obscene articles, by which they poison the minds and stimulate the baser passions of some of these semi-savages." [52] A normative image, like an image of a white woman representing "Beauty," when placed in the hands of a black man became a deviant reality. The image of the white, naked or partially naked woman as an item of consumption reinforced the social order, only when consumed by white men. When consumed by black men, however, the same item became dangerous. The idea of black men and white wives could be enjoyed as long as only white men controlled the ideas--as they had with The Mem oirs of Madge Bufford, an expensive, limited edition text. When circumscribed by race, class, and gendered systems of access and ownership, representations such as Madge Bufford allowed wealthy white men to imagine the construction of deviance. When the representations leaked to those who had previously been objects, however, the imagined peoples became potentially dangerous actors. Women, children, blacks, and the poor could act in ways that mocked fantasies of control, and that undercut fantasies as fantasies.

Apparent dangers arose when pornographic images fell into the hands of women, children, and blacks, at least in the minds of judges called to decide these cases. The leap from symbolic pleasure to real danger in the judges' minds happened effortlessly because the ownership of sexual ideas formed a type of social control. Thus the change in ownership undermined the social order.

There are indications that an extensive trade is being carried on in immoral productions. Recent outrages indicate that natives who have committed outrages on white women were brought into contact with such baneful influences. The importer of the consignment which has been seized admitted that the contents were for sale to kaffirs. Such disclosures must cause grave anxiety, and we trust the facts revealed will lead to watchfulness on the part of householders and to action on the part of the police. [53]

Changing the ownership of the imaginary was seen as an act of restructuring the world. When blacks in South Africa looked at the pornographic images of the anglo world, they reconstructed their social situation. The authorities believed that their consumption of pornography had real social implications; pornography could "cause" violence, miscegenation, and sexual lawlessness that would affect anglos rather than "kaffirs." Thus, the act of imagining could turn the world upside down, as objects became actors.

Representations of "natives" had long been a staple in European pornography. The British, Americans, and French had been viewing sexualized images and reading sexualized representations of those they conquered for decades, as part of the right of conquest. Pornographers had often used a scientific model to justify representations of the colonized sexuality. [54] Pornographers had been used, played with, and infused a colonial hierarchy with meaning for the purpose of titillation. By selling obscene images to the colonized, Louis Hendleman broke the law, but he also encouraged a disruption of prerogative of ownership. He brought the act of imagining to the natives.

You have committed a grave breach of the law. What makes it still worse is this: you sold and showed these most filthy photos to the natives. What the effect on their minds will be I do not know. For you, a white man, to make a living out of the sale of this stamps you as a person of no character. I feel bound to make these remarks because 1 think it is the duty of every white man to endeavour, so far as lies in his power, to instill into the minds of the natives a respect for white men and white women. If you show and sell to natives this sort of thing how can you expect the natives to show proper respect towards us. [55]

The ability to reconstruct a people's sexuality was a fundamental part of social control. The direction of ideas--who could imagine whom and therefore who could recreate whom for the purpose of pleasure--remained central to the preservation of the social order that governed both imperial and domestic relations. The social implications of "filth" in the wrong people's hands did more than expose hypocrisy, it exposed sexuality as a method of social control.

Conclusion: Objects, Subjects, and Social Control

When women, children, the poor, and people of color began to consume pornography in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, they purchased hegemonic constructions of sexuality. They bought and examined images in which ideas of gender, race, and class reflected the dominant culture's view of the world. The development of a new form of cultural representation like picture postcards did not create a revolutionary, new form of working-class expression. It did, however, resituate ideas that had enormous significance such as women s "natural" sexuality, children's undifferentiated and uninhibited sexuality, and the availability of "colonial" pleasures. Merely shifting the location of the ideas could be dangerous enough because it called attention to the ways that sexual representation constituted a facet of social control. The shift in the placement of ideas complicates a picture of cultural hegemony. For as surely as the widened distribution of pornography contributed to an acceptance of hegemonic formul ations of sexuality, it also exposed the fundamental ambiguities in subordination as the "subject matter" in older formulations of pornography became subjects in their own right. This exposure called for an increased policing of the boundaries of race, class, and gender.

Louis Hendelman received one and half years imprisonment and a fine of 300 pounds, while the "natives" received swift and drastic punishment for accosting white women, actions supposedly "instigated" by pornography. Louis Hendelman made a serious error in judgment in misusing his proprietary rights to objectify subordinates when he sold pornography to black men; however, the "natives" violated a "category of being" that precluded any right to representations at all. The recondite relationship between representation and social control had been clarified; the government resorted to overt forms of policing to reinforce "categories of being" that defined the prerogatives of ownership.

Women, children, the working classes, and people of color belonged to subordinated "categories of being" and therefore could not handle the burdens of aesthetic objectification without disrupting the process of social ordering as essential to social control. While pornographic postcards did not advance a path to sexual liberation, they did offer something at once more mundane and more insidious; erotic ephemera at the turn of the century let the subordinated gaze upon themselves with all the pleasures and dangers that this form of objectification entailed.


(1.) The Vigilance Record (London), n.s. 1 (Jan., 1905): 8.

(2.) Historians of pornography generally focus on high-end literary texts. Robert Darnton, Lynn Hunt, lain McCalman, and Walter Kendrick all offer seminal contributions to the history of pornography in modern society. Robert Darnton demonstrates the ways that pornographic production in the publishing industry went hand-in-hand with the development of revolutionary sentiment. Robert Darnton, The Literary Underground of the Old Regime (Cambridge, MA, 1982); Robert Darnton and David Roche, eds., Revolution in Print: The Press in France, 1775-1800 (Berkeley, 1989). Lynn Hunt offers a complementary picture to Darnton's by demonstrating the ways that the ideas in French pornography contributed to the development of French revolutionary thought. Lynn Hunt, ed., Eroticism and the Body Politic (Baltimore, 1991); Lynn Hunt, ed., The Invention of Pornography: Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity, 1500-1800 (New York, 1993). lain McCalman takes the exploration of the nexus between pornography, publishing, and revolutio n across the Channel to illuminate a very similar development in England at the beginning of the nineteenth century. lain McCalman, Radical Underworld: Prophets, Revolutionaries and Pornographers in London, 1795-1840 (Cambridge, Eng., 1988). Lastly, Walter Kendrick carefully delineates the ways that public morality functioned as a form of social control in both Britain and America during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Walter Kendrick, The Secret Museum: Pornography in Modern Culture (New York, 1987). All of these works focus primarily on literary pornography because literary pornography predominated until the end of the nineteenth century. However, this emphasis tends to orient their discussions to the development of aristocratic and bourgeois thought, rather than that of the masses. In the following discussion, I attempt to show the ways that shifting the location of ideas, rather than the content, transforms meaning.

To develop an argument on the politics of visual culture, I rely on Laura Kipnis, "(Male) Desire and (Female) Disgust: Reading Hustler" in The Cultural Studies Reader, ed. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary, Nelson Paula A. Treichler (New York, 1992): 373-391; Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (New York, 1995); and Catherine A. Lutz and Jane L. Collins, Reading National Geographic (Chicago, 1993). These works explore the ways that race, class, and gender become constituted in visual culture.

(3.) For discussions of similar patterns of disciplining sexuality in nineteenth century British society, see the works of Judith Walkowitz and Jeffrey Weeks particularly: Judith Walkowitz, Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class, and the State (Cambridge, Eng., 1980); Judith Walkowitz, City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late Victorian London (Chicago, 1992); Jeffrey Weeks Sexuality and Its Discontents (London, 1985); Jeffrey Weeks, Sex, Politics, and Society: The Regulation of Sexuality Since 1800 (London, 1981).

(4.) "Album 7," item 25 "Catalogue of Rare and Curious English Books" (London: n.p., 1903), British Museum, and Prospectuses "Catalogue of Rare, Curious, and Voluptuous Readings", (N.p.: 1897). For prices, see: Peter Mendes, Clandestine Erotic Fiction in English, 1800-1 930, A Bibliographical Study (London, 1993); 161-166; H.S. Ashbee (Pisanus Fraxi, pseud.), Index Librorum Prohibitorum (1877; Reprint, New York, 1962); H.S. Ashbee, Centuria Librorum Abscondirorum (1879; Reprint, New York, 1962); H.S. Ashbee, Catena Librorum Tacendorum (1885; Reprint, New York, 1962).

(5.) See Gillian Sutherland, 'Education' in The Cambridge Social History of Britain 1750-1950, ed. F. M. L. Thompson, Vol. 3 (Cambridge, Eng., 1990) R. K. Webb, The British Working Class Reader, 1790-1848 (London, 1955) and Patrick Craig Scott and Pauline Fletcher, eds., Culture and Education in Victorian England (N.J., 1990). Even illiterates could gain access to literary culture through reading aloud, sharing stories, and discussions. While some in the working classes could and did read, the class based differentials in literacy meant the middle classes and aristocracy had a far greater chance of consuming pornography.

(6.) Vendors sold pornographic literature to select clients at public schools and universities, in select bookstores and through mail order to clients listed in Social Directories. PRO, Home Office Papers, UnderSecretary of State, "Draft for Approval" Whitehall, Sept. 1894. HO144/192/A6657D; PRO, Home Office Papers, Metropolitan Police Report, E. Division, Jan. 27, 1891. HO144/238/A52539. Pornographers sent advertisements and circulars for pornographic texts directly to the wealthy. "The advertisements in question were addressed to adult persons in the upper ranks of Society, some of them ladies, whose names and addresses had apparently been obtained from Directories." HO144/192/A6657D General Post Office to The UnderSecretary of State, 12 August 1896, 3.

(7.) One pornographer reported that his readership included "aristocrats, judges, admirals, generals, and lawyers." Iain McCalman, Radical Underworld: 215. Other known buyers of pornography included "a young member of Parliament" and Prince Louis Bat tenberg. By the 1890s in an attempt to crack down on pornography, the Home Office began to write 'warrants for the arrest' of the mail from known pornographers. They also began to arrest the mail going to these pornographers. PRO, Home Office Papers, Home Office chart of success of postal arrests, 1897-1898, no. 18, 5. HO45/9752/A59329 xc13898. Upper class members of society could avoid any repercussions even if their tastes for pornography became known. Less fortunate were the run-of-the-mill who could afford pornography, but not avoid the repercussions. One man, John Flewelling, ordered a number of pornographic photographs from Adolf Esringer, who operated out of Hungary and Amsterdam. Flewelling had a taste for young girls age 8-12, young boys and girls in int eresting positions, and ballet girls. PRO, Home Office Papers, "Copy of Letter to Mr. Adolf Estinger from John Flewelling," Windsor, July 1894, HO144/238/A52539E. Flewelling avoided prosecution, but his name was bandied about the Home Office and the Post Office opened and examined his incoming and outgoing mail. As a known user of pornography, he warranted no privacy. Similarly, a Mr. Webb from Reading and a L.B. from Holloway also had their outgoing mail opened and scrutinized. HO144/238/A52539E xc13846. In contrast, the member of Parliament went unnamed and apparently unobstructed. In fact, when the postal authorities inadvertently caught the M.P.'s mail and made his name known to the Home Office, the Home Office dropped the policy of opening and examining outgoing mail to pornographers, but not before the Post Office opened and scrutinized 3,724 letters to dealers. HO45/9752/A59329 xc13898, No. 18. Thereafter, the postal service only confiscated catalogues and packages coming from the locations provided by the Home Office. The government stopped its incipient files on users because of the power and privilege of some of them.

(8.) The production of pornography, by the 1890's, had been pushed out of Britain and onto the continent. Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and Paris became the centers of the pornographic and risque trades. While pornography tended to be produced in other regions, Paris became the distribution center. Paris provided easy access for wealthy tourists to browse amontst the obscene, bawdy, and pornographic works of the time and it became a mecca for vendors and distributors of obscene wares. "Report from the Joint Select Committee on Lotteries and Indecent Advertisements," (London: HMSO, 1908), 18-19. The production included Amsterdam and Rotterdam particularly, but also Antwerp, Budapest, Barcelona, Berlin, and Genoa. HO144/9752/A59329 "Confidential Report on the Stoppage of Letters--A Brief History, 1898." See also: PRO, HO151/7 p. 116 "Warrant for mail from Van Gotten, Amsterdam, 1894;" PRO, HO151/7 p. 215 "Warrant for mail from W.A. Heck, Berlin, 1892;" PRO, HO151/7 p. 269 "Warrant for mail from Charles Schroecter, Barc elona, 1896;" PRO, HO151/7 p. 297 "Warrant for mail from 5 French dealers, 1897;" PRO, HO151/7 p. 300 "Warrant for mail from A. Van Dyke, Antwerp, 1897;" PRO, HO151/7 p. 382 "Warrant for mail from R. Gennert, Paris, 1899;" PRO, HO151/7 p. 383 "Warrant for mail to and from Le Blanc, Paris, 1899." While the majority of producers shipped pornography to Paris, some producers/distributors set up independent mail order companies and shipped directly to consumers. See PRO, HO45/055453/9752/A59329 "History of Foreign Postal Obscenity Problems;" "Chart of Warrant Issues," 1897-98.

(9.) A notable exception to this pattern of extremely limited access occurred between the 1810s and 1830s. William Dugdale, George Cannon, and the brothers Duncombe printed both revolutionary tracts and pornographic works. See: McCalman, Radical Underworld. As a group, these revolutionary pornographers sold slightly less expensive pornography out of republican sentiment which might have increased working class access. However, patterns of low literacy rates for the poor, unequal repression, and limited distribution continued even during their reign. As a sidenote, for those interested in revolutionary culture and E. P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class, Dugdale "was implicated in the Cato Street conspiracy" according to H. S. Ashbee, Index Librorum Prohibitorum (1877; reprint, New York, 1962), 127.

(10.) The postcard as a form of communication began before the sexualized postcard. Both privately published 'company' postcards and government sponsored postcards began in the 1860s in Europe and America. H. L. Lipman's of Philadelphia established the company card' in 1861 when it published pre-printed reminder cards for businesses and travelers. Dorothy B. Ryan, Picture Postcards in the United States, 1893-1918 (New York, 1982), 1-2. The Austro-Hungarian Empire issued official "state" postcards in 1869. Company cards and state cards, though, began as inexpensive ways to send information but did not rely upon a visual element for their popularity. By the 1870s, tourist locations began to imprint an image of their locality on cards. These cards relied on stylized vistas to encourage the sale of memory. Tourists bought, kept, and sent cards of their experiences as a record of their journeys for private and public consumption. The images also worked on their own as pleasurable or informative representations with out reference to memory; they were sold outside of the locality they represented in packets of viewcards. The sets carried images put together by the printers rather than ordered by geography or itineraries. The images could be collected as a substitute for viewing locations, rather than as an accessory.

(11.) By the 1890s, governments allowed privately printed postcards the same postal privileges as government issued cards. Germany appears to be the first allowing companies the rights to print postcards in 1872. Great Britain and the United States did not grant these rights until 1894 and 1898, respectively. Giovanni Fanelli and Enzio Godoli, Art Nouveau Postcards (New York, 1987), 15, note 7. Privately printed cards could then be sent through the mails cheaply both locally and internationally. The link between visual elements and the cheap passage of information was tightened. Visual images became a form of mass communication.

(12.) Fanelli and Godoli, Art Nouveau Postcards, 16.

(13.) While some of the postcards were produced in England, many were not. The attempts by the authorities in England to rid their country of pornography succeeded at pushing the pornographers our of the realm of their jurisdiction. Paris became the distribution center and cards were shipped to vendors in a variety of places from there. Some of the postcards aimed at an English language audience have captions and publishing information in two languages, some have publishing information and captions in a foreign language, and some have no captions or publishing information.

(14.) The Vigilance Record, 8 (Aug., 1909): 62.

(15.) The postcards I analyze come from the Kinsey Institute, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and from private collectors and dealers. I have relied most heavily upon the Milford Haven collection of postcards, held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, even though his collection is nor as extensive as the collections at the Kinsey Institute. However, the Milford Haven Collection has remained intact since it was formed in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries, while the Kinsey Institute's collection is the result of long-term acquisitions. While this does not mean that the Milford Haven collection offers a representative sample, it does offer a wide range of images developed by an important collector known for the breadth of his tastes. I have also haunted ephemera shows and sales for three years to gauge the representativeness of these samples. I have supplemented the Milford Haven collection with postcards from private dealers and owners because of the inadequacy of images of 'foreignness' in compa rison to those produced and circulated in the late nineteenth century.

The Milford Haven collection, catalogued by E.J. Dingwall in 1960, has 631 postcards. Dingwall organized the collection according to 15 categories such as 'nudes,' 'breasts, 'prostitution,' etc.. I have chosen not to follow this organizational schema in my analysis because I believe that many images--whether 'nudes,' 'breasts,' or 'prostitutes'--offer similar visual tropes of female availability. Instead, I have used the categories of 'foreign,' 'domestic,' and 'comic' to discuss these images. I have chosen this classification system by broadly grouping the cards by content.

(16.) For a discussion of exoticism, see: Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York, 1994); Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (New York, 1992); and Edward Said, Orientalism (New York, 1979). For a discussion of the relationship between European society and imperialism more generally, see Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire, 1875-1914 (New York, 1989) and Kathryn Tidrick, Empire and the English Character (London, 1990).

(17.) For a more complete discussion of Algerian postcards and the relationship between postcards and culture see Malek Alloula, The Colonial Harem (Minneapolis, 1986).

(18.) E.J. Dingwall, "The Milford Haven Collection of Postcards," cards 72-121.

(19.) Dingwall, "The Milford Haven Collection of Postcards," breasts: cards 323-335; buttocks: cards 350-419.

(20.) The centrality of women in the growing body of visual representations does not mean that women were or are the only way to represent sexuality. Earlier in the nineteenth century, pornographic representations discussed male sexuality as well as female in texts such as The Lustful Turk, Man of Pleasure or Paris, and Curiositates Eroticae Physiologiae. The Lustful Turk (London: n.p., 1828); Man of Pleasure at Paris, or An Account of the Pleasures of that Capital (Paris: n.p., 1808); John Davenport, Curiositates Eroticae Physiologiae; or, Tabooed Subjects Freely Treated (London: Privately Printed, 1875). However, over the course of the nineteenth century representations of the female form became a primary way to visualize sexuality. Early photographs propelled the process forward and then early postcards continued it. For re-prints of early photographs, see: Uwe Scheid, Akademien (Uberherrn, Germany: privately printed, 1991) and Uwe Scheid, Bilderlust (Heidelberg: Edition Braus, 1985).

(21.) Linda Nochlin, Women, Art, and Power and Other Essays (New York, 1988), 17.

(22.) "One might add that the passivity implicit to the imagery of the naked woman in Western art is a function not merely of the attitude of the owner-spectator, but that of the artist himself: indeed the myth of Pygmalion, revived in the nineteenth century, admirably embodies the notion of the artist as sexually dominant creator: man--the artist--fashioning from inert matter an ideal erotic object for himself, a woman cut from the very pattern of his desires." Linda Nochlin, Women, Art, and Power, 143.

(23.) Domestic cards also featured 'nature scenes' in which women's bodies are displayed as pretty, fertile rarities. Nature cards show women with covered in flowers and as flowers; in one series, not only is women's hair adorned with flowers as a sign of fertility, gigantic petals surround women's bodies so that the truncated torsos (with exposed breasts) become the stamens. The use of flowers, plants, and fruits as signs of femaleness reinforced the position of women as delicate, waiting, and fertile. Likewise, cards perched women (with and without wings) on branches so that they became part of the natural landscape. Another favorite trope placed women on fur. These cards use the metaphor of women as cats (domesticated and stroke-able) and the idea of cats as prey (wild and untamed). Women sprawled on the quintessential signs of aggressive masculinity--tiger and leopard skins--function as trophies of manhood.

(24.) Dingwall, "The Milford Haven Collection of Post Cards," cards 163-204.

(25.) For an overview of the symbolic meanings of ritual wedding dress see John R. Gillis, For Better, For Worse: British Marriages, 1600 to the Present (Oxford, 1985) and Pamela R. Frese, "The Union of Nature and Culture: Gender Symbolism in the American Wedding Ritual," in Transcending Boundaries: Multi-Disciplinary Approaches to Gender, ed. Pamela Frese and John M. Coggeshall (New York, 1991), 97-112.

(26.) See: Roy Porter, English Society in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1990).

(27.) Dingwall, "Milford Haven Collection of Postcards" Catalogue, card 354 (Milano, 1905).

(28.) Dingwall, "The Milford-Haven Collection of Postcards," card 262.

(29.) Both cards are from a private collection. They appear to be from the 1890s.

(30.) Dingwall, "The Milford Haven Collection of Postcards," cards 420-504.

(31.) For corner stores, see: "Report from the Joint Select Committee of Lotteries and Indecent Advertisements" 61-62; The Vigilance Record, 9 (September, 1902): 71, The Vigilance Record, 2 (February, 1905): 14-15. For markets, see: The Vigilance Record, 4 (April, 1902): 30. For tobacconists, see: The Vigilance Record, 8 (August, 1904): 3, The Vigilance Record, 11 (November, 1904): 7. For newsagents, see: The Vigilance Record, 4 (April, 1904): 5, The Vigilance Record, 11 (November, 1904): 6. For street vending, see: The Vigilance Record, 8 (September, 1902): 59; The Vigilance Record, 9 (September, 1903): 72, The Vigilance Record, 5 (May, 1904): 7; The Vigilance Record, 8 (August, 1905): 68.

(32.) The Vigilance Record, 12 (Dec., 1904): 4.

(33.) The Vigilance Record, 4 (Apr., 1904): 4.

(34.) The Vigilance Record, 11 (Nov., 1904): 7.

(35.) The Vigilance Record, 11 (Nov., 1903): 82.

(36.) "Report from the Joint Select Committee on Lotteries and Indecent Advertisements," 58.

(37.) The Vigilance Record, 1 (Jan., 1906): 7; The Vigilance Record, 3 (Mar., 1906): 23; The Vigilance Record, 3 (Mar., 1910): 24.

(38.) "Report from the Joint Select Committee on Lotteries and Indecent Advertisements."

(39.) "Report from the Joint Select Committee on Lotteries and Indecent Advertisements," 44--45.

(40.) If the police observed children viewing postcards, the courts heightened fines and hard labor against vendors. One defendant, George Smith, was fined 25 pounds in part because Inspector Cheyney 'saw children looking in the shop window': The Vigilance Record, 4 (Apr., 1905): 31--32. Another, Jacob Bloom, had 'a crowd of children' standing outside his shop. The Vigilance Record, 9 (Sept., 1905): 74. Likewise, 'a number of young boys and girls' stood outside the shop-window of John and Margaret Allon. The Vigilance Record, 9 (Sept., 1906): 75.

(41.) For example, a photographic 'peepshow' had run for eight years without complaint before the police arrested the proprietor. The Vigilance Record, 5 (May 1904): 7.

(42.) "Translation Concerning Correspondence Respecting the International Conference on Obscene Publications," and the "White Slave Trade," 1912, 4. National Vigilance Association Papers, Box 107. Fawcett Library.

(43.) Eighty-six associations, including 'the powerful National Vigilance Association' took part in an international conference aimed at ending the expansion of pornography in 1912. Ibid., 6.

(44.) The Vigilance Record, 11 (Nov., 1904): 7.

(45.) The Vigilance Record, 4 (Apr., 1905): 31--32.

(46.) The Vigilance Record, 9 (Sept., 1903): 71.

(47.) The Vigilance Record, 12 (Dec., 1906): 100.

(48.) The Vigilance Record, 4 (Apr. 1902): 30; The Vigilance Record, 9 (Apr. 1903): 72; The Vigilance Record, 11 (Nov. 1904): 6.

(49.) "Report from the Joint Select Committee on Lotteries and Indecent Advertisements," 80--81.

(50.) Linda Nochlin, Women, Art, and Power, 159.

(51.) The Vigilance Record, 5 (May, 1902): 39.

(52.) The Vigilance Record, 7 (July, 1911): 54.

(53.) The Vigilance Record, 7 (July, 1911): 54. Reprinted from The Natal Mercury (South Africa), (June 5, 1911).

(54.) A coterie of British pornographers, including the Richard Burton, Richard Monckton-Milnes (Lord Houghton), Henry Edward Vaux Bellamy, James Campbell, Charles Algernon Swinburne, and Edward Sellon, belonged to the Royal Geographic Society and the Anthropological Society of London, both of which were concerned with the documentation of other places and other people. See, Mendes, Clandestine Erotic Fiction in English: 7--9. The pornographic interests of the members of these two societies meant that science could eroticize foreign sexuality. State legitimation and free inquiry together allowed for a sexualization of the imperial agenda. The members of these societies wrote their own pornography using imperial themes and also translated tracts on sexuality from other cultures like The Kama Sutra; Ananga-Ranga or The Hindu Art of Love (Cosmopoli [London]): for the Kama Shastra Society of London and Benares, and for private circulation only, 1885), The Perfumed Garden of the Cheikh Nefzaoui: A Manual of Arabia n Erorology, (Cosmopoli [London]: for the Kama Shastra Society of London and Benares and for Private Circulation only, 1886), and The History of the Sect of Maharajas, or Vallaharcharpas in Western India (London: Trubner & Co., 60 Paternoster Row, 1865). The distance evoked through documentation and through the re-creation of nature opened the powerless to multiple avenues of investigation. Sexual investigation did not need to preclude the scientific. Instead, the two went hand-in-hand.

(55.) The Vigilance Record, 9 (Sept., 1911): 72.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Journal of Social History
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2000, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Sigel, Lisa Z.
Publication:Journal of Social History
Date:Jun 22, 2000

Related Articles
The Great Depression: An International Disaster of Perverse Economic Policies.
British Society, 1680-1880: Dynamism, Containment, and Change.
Sacking porn surfers. (Internet News).
Harlem Renaissance icon Zora Neale Hurston was honored with a 37-cent postage stamp commissioned by the U.S. Postal Service on January 24, 2003....
Governing Pleasures: Pornography & Social Change in England, 1851-1914.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters