“A picture is worth a thousand words” goes the ancient saying. One of the best ways to portray the history of North Borneo (now known as Sabah) and Labuan is to look a the picture postcards of the olden days.
The early years of the 20th century were considered the “Golden Age” of picture postcards. The adventure of picture postcards allowed photographers the opportunity of having their photogenic images of urban life, country scenery and a variety of other subjects published and admired.
In the era when cameras were bulky and not affordable to everyone, picture postcards were by far the most widely collected photographic images. These picture postcards are now giving us glimpses of he scenery and life at the same time.
The bulk of North Borneo and Labuan picture postcards were mailed to Europe, very frequently to send news, good wishes and season’s greetings. There were also frequent travellers who wrote home using these picture postcards to impress their friends and families about what they had seen. Another group was the stamp or postcard collectors on international circuits. These included the philatelic dealers.
As a keen collector of old North Borneo, Labuan and Sarawak picture postcards, I can hardly resist the temptation to purchase any of these picture postcards which come my way as they are not easy to find.
The historical scope of this book is confined to those picture postcards published in the Pre-World War II period, from 1890s to the 1930s. Hundreds of North Borneo and Labuan picture postcards were published locally and in Singapore, Hong Kong and Europe. As most of these picture postcards were posted to overseas countries, especially Europe, it is rare indeed to find such early picture postcards in Sabah among the collectors or those in the trade. So far, there has been no publication on the subject.
I had the great fortune to meet Datuk C.L. Chan of Opus Publications Sdn Bhd early this year and I must thank Datuk for his invaluable support in making this publication possible. I also wish to express my appreciation and thanks to my beloved wife, Lai Hiang and my collector friend K.T. Chan for proofreading. My thanks also go to Chen Ko Ting for helping in many ways.
The picture postcards illustrated in this book are far from being a complete collection but I hope readers, collectors, researchers and historians can make full use of these materials and perhaps be able to shed new light and information on the historical significance of these picture postcards.
Chai Foh Chin