Views of Old Philadelphia:
The Brightbill Postcard Collection



Mr. Brightbill's inventory uses a number of abbreviations and codes. The rich meaning of these becomes clear to anyone who reads and commits to memory his explanation of the four series and his first appendix. For everyone else, we have created to following guide in an attempt to make this wealth of information more accessible. We suggest you keep this window open as you browse the collection -- you will probably refer to it often.

Below, you will find a few sample entries. The parts, when appropriate, are linked to a list of the codes used. For example, the element labeled "publisher abbreviation" is linked to the index of publisher codes and addresses, while "sheet number" is relatively self-explanatory, and not linked to anything.

Skip to the summary of codes.


General Layout

When you look at an inventory page, you will see entries similar to this.

The first part of the entry is the call number. The physical collection is organized into 4-pocketed sheets, much like baseball cards. Because the call number is the same for all cards on any given sheet, we've only listed it once.

The second part of the entry gives the details of the cards in the sheet. There will be a number of bulleted entries; each refers to an individual card. Thus, if there are three bullets, there are three cards with the same call number.

Details of the Call Number


The call number has three elements.

The first of these is the subject number, also known as an index item. It refers to one of Brightbill's 172 broad subjects.

The second element is the style code. (A) means the card is in color, (B) not in full color, and (L) that it is not on paper.

The third part of the call number is the sheet number. For example, Mr. Brightbill has filled three plastic sheets with postcards printed in full color and featuring the Betsy Ross house with one large and two small flags. The first sheet would be labeled 01, the second 02, and the third, 03.

Details of the Cards

The detailed descriptions of the cards use a number of symbols.

Unfortunately, some have dual meanings, while others appear to be synomous. Often, it is only through careful attention to context that one can tell precisely what Mr. Brightbill means. This said, we have done out best to elucidate his shorthand.

The descriptions tend to follow this general form:

Mr. Brightbill usually gives the complete message printed on the front of the card, and sometimes a summary or transcription of the text on the back. He describes the image in some detail. Publisher codes tell which company put out the card; the publication number is the serial or printing number that company assigned the card. It is usually found on the back. It is often difficult to tell if a date actually refers to the copyright, or to some other rdate relevant to the card. The physical peculiarity code gives a rough idea of what the card looks like -- whether it has a decorative border, or a back divided into spaces for an address and a message.

A postcard with all this information would ideally look like this:

However, the entries are seldom ideal.

Most of the fields are not commonly used. When they are used, they will, as often as not, be differently ordered, according to Brightbill's sense of which information is most important.

Thus, the actual entry for the first in a series of Gimbel Brothers Store's doll house display reads like this:

This is despite the fact that, on the actual postcard, the description and details of the view are given on the back upper right corner. Furthermore, note that the first two fields in square brackets ( [ ] ) are both codes for physical peculiarities, while the last one could be either the publication date or Brightbill's note as to the exhibition date.

There are a few more other things to watch for, such as in this entry:

The asterisk (*) in the second entry indicates that, at one time, Brightbill had removed this postcard from the Library Co. collection and added it to his personal estate. Most of these postcards appear to never have been removed, or have been returned to the collection. However, we have retained Brightbill's asterisks because of the difficulty of cross checking all of the thousands of items.

The elispses (...) indicate repetitive information. In this case, there are several postcards, all captioned "Greetings from Philadelphia," with a picture of a man and a woman looking at the moon through a telescope, put out by the same publisher, and with the same physical peculiarties. The only change is the image inset on the moon. Thus, the elipses encompass all of the repetetive information. Only the details which differ from card to card are given. Occasionally, [same] will be used instead of elipses.

Summary of the Codes

Index Item Numbers -- please see the Complete Index.

Style Codes

A -- cards are in full color
B -- cards are black and white, real photos, sepia, monotonal, or cyanotype
L -- cards are printed on linen or chrome

Printer Publisher Codes -- please see Appendix I.

Other Punctuation and Symbols

* -- the card, although catalogued, may not be in the collection
[ ] -- text is Brightbill's addition, decribing but not printed on the cards.
< > -- text is printed on the side opposite that it is normally found on.
(...) -- indicates that any information not specified in an entry is the same as in the entry directly preceeding it.
[same] -- seems to be interchangeable with ellipses.

Physical Peculiarities

BB -- Bottom Border
TB -- Top Border
LB -- Left Border
RB -- Right Border
EB -- Equal Borders
GB -- Gold Borders
WB -- Wood Appearance Border
USB -- Un-split back
RP -- Real Photo
TOB -- Text on Back
EMB -- Embossed
HC -- Hand colored updated by BMC july 7, 2000