Selection of Sound Postcards

Selection of commercially produced and pre-recorded sound postcards. Photo: Aleks Kolkowski

The very first sound postcards that appeared in the early 1900s, such as the French Sonorine and the Italian Fonopost from 1905, were self-recordable, providing a new and ingenious method of communications. They combined the increasingly popular picture postcard with the then new medium of the recorded audio message, delivered through the postal system. They predate the more commonly known pre-recorded sound postcards manufactured as novelty items, souvenirs, advertisments or as commemorative memorabilia from the late 1920s until well into the 1980s. During the 1950s, 60s & 70s, this off-shoot of the recording and postcard industries also spawned an underground boom in illicit music-sharing in Soviet-era Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia and Russia where censored popular music from the West was illegally pressed or recorded onto seemly innocent looking postcard records and sold on the black market.

Pre-recorded sound postcards are normally mass produced and the grooves pressed onto the surface, much like vinyl records, whereas self-recorded sound postcards are made individually and in real-time, each becoming a one-of-a-kind artefact. For more information on the self-recorded sound postcard, visit the Cartavox Recorder section on this website.

publicite carte sonorine phonographe

Advertisment for the Sonorine published in Illustration, December 1905. Source: Le Musée de la Carte Postale, Antibes.

Website and Sound Postcard Player developed by Laurence Cliffe in collaboration with Aleks Kolkowski. Please take a moment to fill in our Questionnaire

Digital representations of these sound postcards contained on this website as well as the virtual sound postcard player are protected under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 license