Picture Postcards – handpainted / first printed in Hong Kong in 1898?

HF: Picture postcards are found almost wherever tourists visit in Hong Kong. I wonder how long they will continue to be sold given that surely all visitors  today arrive with cameras, iPhones etc.

The history of HK ‘made’ postcards was comparatively recent, a full fifty years after the colony came into being according to these two sources.

A distinction has to be made between three types of postcards. 1) blank Postal Stationery Cards, 2) Postal Stationery Cards on which scenes were hand painted (also printed?) and 3) printed Picture Postcards.

a) Our article, Kruse & Co,  states…”Other lines… picture postcards (which latter the firm were the first to introduce into the Colony)…” (1) The article was published in 1908. Were the Kruse cards actually printed here?

b) Ningpo on the StampoRama website writes:”Hong Kong picture postcards (PPC’s) were not produced until very late in the 19th century. Although I can’t verify this, I understand the first seen was in March 1898.

Many visitors to the colony were no doubt frustrated by the lack of picture postcards available. The local Chinese, who were adept at seeing a marketing opportunity, filled a hole in the market. Those with the ability to paint in small format, would set up a small stall and hawk their wares to order. I would imagine that these street artists would pitch their stall as close to a post office as permissible.

Some had more ability and imagination then others, so the quality of the work varied from the simple to the sublime.

Although picture postcards (PPC’s) had appeared, the early ones were black and white, local panoramic views or ethnic portraits. Later, hand tinting of those same subjects appeared, probably to satisfy the tourist’s desire for something colourful.

However, this may not have been adequate for some. It is likely that some tourists wanted a more oriental look to their postcards, so this ‘street art’ continued. Perhaps some were commissioned to be painted on a specific subject, others may have just been picked from the artist’s ‘samples’.” (2)

Postcard,Postal Stationery - blank Stamporama

Undated Courtesy: StampoRama

Postcard,Postal Stationery - hand painted picture Stamporama

Undated Courtesy: StampoRama

This article was first posted on 19th August 2015.


(1) Source: Wright, Arnold, : Twentieth Century Impressions of Hongkong, Shanghai, and Other Treaty Ports of China: Their History. People, Commerce, Industries, and Resources. London: Lloyd’s Greater Britain Publishing Company, Ltd., 1908.

(2) stamporama- early Hong Kong postcards


  1. http://stamporama.com/index.php – …”for people who love stamps…”

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