Bazaar Cards


Printed for Budroodin Ahmedjee, Mumbai, sent Hindaun Road to Malakhera, then in Alwar State 

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One of the fascinating groups of Indian Postal Stationery is the Bazaar Cards, which had a meteoric rise for a brief span of time, making a deep impact on the Indian scene with political overtones, and were trend setters for future generations of Post Cards issued by the P.O.

So began Dipesh Sen, writing in India Post 67, (vol 15, no 1), back in 1981. I continue to quote on this neglected topic.

'By the term Bazaar Card, I refer to tnose indigenously manufactured cards by Native printing presses, prepared under firm orders from various Bazar Merchants and used for their publicity, or prepared for general sale to the local public. As these cards were intended for use through the post, they are, in a sense, an adjunct to Postal Stationery. They were legally permitted through the post after affixing a quarter anna postage stamp - the then inland rate for post cards. 

No doubt prior to 1905 privately printed cards were in use through the post all over India, but these are easily distinguishable from the later Bazar Cards by their size and quality. 

The post card was a cheap medium of communication as well as for advertisement (quarter anna as against one anna for envelopes. The rather small size of these cards created constraint on the user. So the wily Bazar Merchants, with their inherent ingenuity to improvise, evolved a larger size of card 138 x 89 mm. (average), assuming these would go through the post at the usual rate of 1a. And so they did. Some went a step further by incorporating additional space for the message on the address side - a trend setter for the modern post cards.’

They burst on to the Indian scene about 1905 and enjoyed a great success until 1912, when the official cards were increased in size and thus matched their message area. Mr. Sen performed a valuable service to ISC members by putting Bazaar Cards on the record and providing a foundation for further research in this area.

It is not clear how this particular size of 138 x 89 mm. evolved and why not a larger jumbo size. Possibly this was adopted from the British U.P.U post cards of equivalent size which were in use since 1880 exclusively for foreign correspondence. Though India also had U.P.U. cards since 1884 (Jain No.P-4) the size was smaller - 122 x 87 mm. The other contributing factor may be the Picture Post Cards (view cards) of these times, which were quite popular and were of similar size.

D. H. Trethewey added a Postscript, in India Post 77, p104, suggesting that the inspiration for these cards was from Austrian, and produced examples of the same era. 

Then Derek Lang, the student of postal stationery who published the Catalogue for ISC,  comments further in IP 78, p159:

'However, with regard to the actual why's and wherefore's of these unofficial cards, may I offer some other lines of thought? Their origin may perhaps have been inspired by those "advertising cards" of the 1880/90s, whereby various firms offered cigars, food and household goods by means of preprinted Postal Stationery cards, very often with REPLY cards to encourage an order. The appearance of these locally printed advertisements could well have given the idea, whilst the use of 'Trade Marks' in the advertisement could have led to the incorporation of the 'Deities' as an 'added aid' to business and less expensive than a REPLY card. Bulk printings on cheaper stock was sound business, sizes would depend very much on the cutting facilities available to the printer who would be most unlikely to procure knives to conform to those required by postal regulations. After all, so many rules were 'bent' and the 'kinks' generally ignored - you will probably see as many envelopes with stamps on the back as you will see with them at the top right of the front! The Government of India was trying very hard to shed the De La Rue contract for Post Cards and have them printed in India, so they were unlikely to have taken any serious steps to interfere with local enterprise, particularly in view of the fact that official supplies were often insufficient to meet demand.

These cards are very much a mixture of "It pays to advertise", "A little bit of what you fancy" and "Never mind the quality, feel the width!'