1913: The Tallest Man In The World And The Fattest Man In The World Playing Cards (Colorized)

January 29, 2021

Edwardian Postcards Were Like Social Media

This image is, for all intents and purposes, one of the first ever viral photos. When looking for colorized photos, one of the most passed around images online is this postcard featuring the tallest, fattest, and smallest men in Europe at the time playing cards in 1913. "Who are these jokers?" You might be asking yourself, "And, why are they playing poker for the enjoyment of post card purchasers?" More on that later.

We know who two of these fellows are. The tallest man is Cornelius Bruns, the biggest (he's the fellow sitting on two chairs) is Cannon Colossus (which is maybe the coolest name in history) and the shortest fellow is... well no one is sure about that. Some people have surmised that his name is "Chip," but that sounds more like a joke than a real name, but if that was his real name, apologies to our man Chip.

With no real sources for who these gentlemen really were we have to use some sleuthing abilities as well as plenty of conjecture to learn about who they really are.

source: jecinci

We don't send many postcards today, but all the way up until the tail end of the '90s people still sent postcards whenever they went on road trips or traveled overseas. It was a way to say "Hey! Look where I've been." But even though postcards morphed into that, that's not how they began.

In the Edwardian era, postcards were used as a way of quick and easy communication. Whether you were just saying hello to someone or inviting them over for tea, you did it with a post card. Not only are they less formal than a letter, but they were less costly as well. There were six mail deliveries a day in towns like London (there were no phones), so it was possible for friends to trade messages back and forth with cute postcards that featured everything from cats in bonnets, to sexy ladies, and human oddities playing poker.

Six billion postcards were sent between 1902 and 1910, which means that someone had to design them, models had to pose, and someone else had to do the printing. For a short period of time the post card industry was a lucrative business.

Your undivided attention

source: pinterest

The design of Edwardian postcards is top notch, and with so many different images and variations it's hard not to look at them all, but the aesthetic of these postcards is actually based on government ordinances of the day. In 1898, the United States Congress passed an act that allowed private companies to produce postcards as long as they made it clear that messages weren't allowed on the address side of the cards. Simple enough.

By 1901, postcard companies were printing pictures on the address portion of the card, making it unnecessary to feature a nasty message about not writing on both sides. There was no longer a reason to dissuade senders from using extra space because people wanted to preserve their cool looking postcards. By 1913, U.S. postcards entered the "Divided Back" period of design, meaning that there could be messages on the left half of the address side. Finally, people were free to write a little more.