Recording the Journey, 1900s–20s

Postcard: 'Femme Arabe avec la Eruche'
Postcard: 'Femme Arabe avec la Eruche', from the Alfred Galbraith Collection, WWI
Source: Museum Victoria

Assisted immigrants in the early twentieth century were actively encouraged to write home. Shipping companies offered free writing paper, or postcards for those who could only manage a few lines. Another popular, as well as efficient form of communication was the telegram, which relayed messages from ship to shore via the International Morse Code and later the teleprinter.

Immigration authorities and the shipping companies realised that sending information home was a good way to ease the pain of separation, as well as good promotion for the shipping lines … providing the feedback was positive, of course!

The Post Office had a lad on board to take any messages to shore, so I bought a post card of the Tri Screw steamer the Demostenes, stamped it and wrote a letter to my mother to say I was on board safely.
– Young man, 20, migrated from England in 1923


Search the Internet for images of old postcards of the ports where immigrant ships used to call (Port Said, Aden, Colombo, Bombay, etc).
Enter 'Old Post Cards Colombo', etc

When you have found several that are appropriate, print them out, cut them to size and write an imaginary message on the back to a friend.

Image Gallery

Morse key and telegrams