The Red Star Line employed the leading companies of the day to print and publish their postcards. By 1900 the finest images were being printed using the process of chromolithography and all the early RSL sets were produced by this method.
The list of printers of the RSL art cards is impressive :-
- O.de Rycker Brussels
- O.de Rycker & Mendel Brussels
- Dietrich & Co Brussels
- Fritz Schneller Nurnberg
- J.E.Buschmann Antwerp
- Muhlmeister & Johler Hamburg
- E.Stockmans & Co. Antwerp
- J.L.Goffart Brussels
- American Litho Co. New York
- J.E.Goossens Brussels
The majority of the Cassiers cards came from two of these. Dietrich were responsible for his watercolours of landscapes, coastal scenes and city scenes while his graphic art nouveau seascapes, for which he was most famous, were printed by de Rycker & Mendel.
This card is probably the first for the Red Star Line. It shows Westernland rigged for both sail and steam.
Built in 1883, the funnel colours of cream and black with a red star were changed in 1893 to a black funnel with a white band. Details of the 1894 Atlantic sailings, which were operated jointly with the American Line, are shown on the rear of the card.
The printers were Muhlmeister & Johler of Hamburg and Bremen. The artwork is unsigned and sets the standard of excellence which was to be maintained by the many cards painted by Henri Cassiers for the Red Star Line.
Dating Red Star Line postcards may be done directly using :-
- Postal cancellations
- Dated correspondence
- Postal rates and mail routes
- Postcard era
Where this information is not available, timelines may be used :-
- Dates between which the liner was in RSL service
- Funnel colours
- Minor route variations
- Passenger lists and timetables
(These four headings are well covered on the web at The Ships List. This site also provides many other useful links. It is advisable to cross check any such information from other sites on the web!)
By overlapping multiple timelines a reasonably accurate date may be arrived at. Cards were rarely issued prior to launch or maiden voyage date. This gives a definite earliest possible date. Usage would stay fairly constant until either the liner or the cards were replaced. It would then tail off, with some still being used when long out of date – rather like stamps!
To identify the year of issue will often be a major achievement, given the lack of detailed information which exists. Postcards are a valuable source of social and postal history which can provide rewarding areas for research.