Manuscripts, English -- 20th century. Photographic postcards. Picture postcards. Postcards.
After slavery was abolished in the British Caribbean in the 1830s, colonial officials and land-owners looked to fill positions in labor-intensive industries, especially in the production of sugar. Among these sources for new laborers were the territories making up British India (today’s India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan). Beginning in the 1830s, men as well as women and children made the voyage to the Caribbean, largely to Trinidad and British Guyana. Many of these laborers signed contracts in South Asia based on misleading promises and others did so forcibly to satisfy long-standing debts, while some were kidnapped and sold into the trade. Large numbers of such migrants arrived in the Caribbean, more than a quarter million by 1900, permanently changing the demographic and cultural makeup of their new homes. The postcards in this collection document the lives of Indo-Caribbeans as well as their perception by Euro-American travelers who served as the market for the majority of the images in this collection.
The 50 postcards in this collection, dating from the late nineteenth century to 1975, depict Indo-Caribbean life and culture in Trinidad, British Guyana, Suriname, and Jamaica. Large numbers of people from the Indian subcontinent arrived in the Caribbean following the end of slavery in British colonies there. Many of these migrants came as indentured servants to work in the labor-intensive agricultural sector. By the twentieth century, Indo-Caribbeans made up close to a third of the population of both Trinidad and British Guyana. The postcards in this collection were produced by a variety of studios, largely for sale to tourists, and include portraits, scenes of everyday life, mosques and temples, as well as the houses and villages of Indo-Caribbeans. A significant number of the postcards depict Indo-Caribbean women and children in staged scenes often dressed formally and adorned with jewelry. The postcards are arranged by country and then by subject. Some of the postcards have been written on and mailed, and feature postage stamps and postmarks, while some of the postcards are blank and have not been mailed. The postcards were mailed to a variety of locations around the world, including: Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia, PA; Springfield, MA; Scarsdale, NY; Manomet, MA; as well as Iceland, Tunisia, France, Holland, and Germany. The postcards that have been mailed are inscribed in English, French, and Dutch.
Acquired for the Penn Libraries with assistance from the Singh Family Fund.
Sold by over two dozen different online postcard sellers in the US, UK, France, Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany via David Anthem Bookseller, February-April 2017.