In the early decades of the 20th century sleazy cartoon postcards were very popular. Looking through postcards from the 1930s-1950s, you’ll find not as many photographs of tourist locations as you will bawdy cartoons. It’s a fascinating social documentation on public tolerance for this risqué subject matter – much of it would be wildly inappropriate today.
In the early 1930s, cartoon-style saucy postcards became widespread and at the peak of their popularity the sale of saucy postcards reached a massive 16m a year. They were often tacky in nature making use of innuendo and traditionally featured stereotypical characters such as priests, large ladies and put-upon husbands in the same vein as the films.
However, in the early 1950s the newly elected Conservative government was concerned at the apparent deterioration of morals in Britain and decided on a crackdown on these postcards. The main target on their hit list was the renowned postcard artist McGill. In the more liberal 1960s the saucy postcard was revived and became to be considered, by some, as an art form.
The demise of the saucy postcard occurred during the 1970s and 1980s; the quality of the artwork and humor started to deteriorate with changing attitudes towards the cards content.