The sending of greeting cards or postcards became very popular from the mid Nineteenth century onwards. Christmas or New Year wishes and Valentine’s cards were the first major greetings cards to be produced. However, in the early 1900s, a whole range of greetings and tourist cards and postcards were mass-produced, including St. Patrick’s Day.
They usually feature an image of St. Patrick himself, a harp, sometimes the banished snakes and of course they all include the shamrock.
The shamrock has long featured as a symbol of Ireland or ‘Irishness’. The shamrock has been associated with St. Patrick and he supposedly used the three leaves as a method of spreading Christianity and teaching the Holy Trinity to folk.
We have a few examples of St. Patrick’s Day postcards in our collection, but my favourite ones are the postcards with a small packet of shamrock seeds attached. These postcards date from the early 1900s and they were well mass-produced by 1910.
I’m sentimental and like the idea that no matter where you went in the world that someone could send you a postcard with these little seeds from home to plant your own shamrock. Shamrock has been worn in small bundles on hats or the lapel. In some regions in Ireland, it was popular to wear a St. Patrick cross made from fabric or paper.
I can only imagine that these postcards would have been very popular to send to friends and family who emigrated to America.
Unfortunately, these postcards are blank so we don’t have a story to tell of who they were sent to but on a positive note the packets of shamrock seeds are still intact.
I’d have to ask one of our science curators if the seeds are still viable!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!