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Ray Hahn


Four plus five does not equal six.  5 + 6 ≠ 7.  7 + 8 ≠ 9, but one plus two equals three. Three is unique in this regard. It is the only number that is the sum of its two precedents.

There is no need for analysis, only contemplation.

The reason for contemplation is to reflect on how many times per day numbers play significant roles in our lives – frequently without an acknowledgement. For example, each morning millions of us take pills. How do you accomplish such a routine? You think to yourself: I take three pills each morning, I look at my hand, I see three pills, all seems right so I put the pills in my mouth to swallow, and drink water to help them down.  

When you finish reading this paragraph, please stop. Take three minutes to think of the number 3. Keep thinking of the number three and how often three factors into mathematics, religion, architecture, sociology, philosophy, all the physical sciences, many different sports, and dozens of languages. Then return to this page and continue reading Postcard History.

When you were thinking of 3, how did you consider it? As an age? Perhaps a score or an hour in your day. What you thought is unimportant for everyone would have thought differently.

Now that you recognized “3” as something worthy of thought, did anyone think of “three” as a postcard collecting topic?


Please allow me a personal point.

A few years ago, I was weary of my collection topics and searched for something new. I settled on collecting cards that showed three of anything. My first purchase was a trio of trumpeters dressed in bright red college band uniforms. It is a bright and beautiful card and up until then, I had never owned any card like it.  It took some time to accumulate enough cards for a board worthy of competition, but I entered a board at a club show – the last before the covid-19 hiatus. At that show it is always the guests who determine the Best of Show and five Honorable Mentions. My board entitled, “Three” won Best of Show.


“Three Sisters” is my current favorite. It is a photo filled with joy. Look at the rosy cheeks, the impish eyes, and the wide smiles.  Are they triplets, or ages 3, 5, and 7? It could be a posed photo or a funny moment in a lesson on the use of a rope-ladder during a family fire drill.

Three is not only a number, but also a concept. In government there are three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. In religion there is the trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In today’s world there are three major religions based on the descendants of Abraham: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. The King James Bible tells the tale of the three wise men, and the three gifts they gave the baby Jesus: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

In sports there is the “three-peat.” In baseball, teams have three outs per inning. Babe Ruth’s jersey number was “3.” Basketball scores are raised to three-points when the shot is from a distance. In horse-racing there is the “Triple Crown.”

Music is frequently played by trios. At least a dozen composers of the 19th and 20th centuries, among them Bach, Beethoven and Brahms (the three Bs) composed a memorable Symphony #3. Remember Three Dog Night!  In today’s world of pop-, jazz-, and rap-music nearly 100 albums contain the words “three,” “third,” “3,” or “III.”

“3” appears on our clocks twice a day, The Strawberry Alarm Clock (a California rock band from 1969) reminded us with some really suggestive lyrics in their song “Three” that three in the morning could mean trouble.

Please – do not forget the Rule of Three. It is a design principle widely used in architecture that implies that odd numbers, especially the number three, are more visually appealing than even numbers. Columns, we all know what columns are, they are three-part architectural necessities: a base, the shaft, and capital. The three types of columns are Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.

Rub-a-dub-dub there were three men in a tub – the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, and we must not forget the three little pigs, the three musketeers or the three amigos. Hey, what about the three Stooges and the three “PepBoys.”

In Roman times III stood for the giant star in Yerkes. It is the atomic number of lithium, and in printing codes (ASCII) it means the end of text. Three is the number of dimensions that humans can perceive.

“Three” figures heavily in geographic names – there is a Three Mile Island in New Hampshire and another that is more famous in Pennsylvania. In seven states you can find towns named Three Rivers, in Australia there is a rock formation named the Three Sisters, in Oregon three mountains in the Cascade Range also name Three Sisters. In Germany the village of Dreikirchen has, as its name implies, three churches.

Even our sayings are full of threes. New fathers are often heard in hospital nurseries saying, “And baby makes three.” Then three or more years later the same father will say, “I love my kids, but one is one, two is fun, but three is a house full.”

And, “Good things come in threes.” You’re gonna love this one, in the Middle Ages the word “three” referred to court proceedings when defendants were not required to be in court for sentencing. You got three chances. If the defendant didn’t show up at the third hearing, he was sentenced in absentia – and the sentence was often a bit more stringent. The “Three” of the court were the defendant, the prosecutor, and the judge.

To the threes above we add the threes
from a few of my favorite postcards.

Donkey Parking
Three of the Fleet

Three at Once

Roman Columns
White Squirrels

Old Friends
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Enjoyed this!

I think it’s a matter of “visual balance”. Good article.

This sounds like a good way to get a child started collecting. They pick a number and then choose to collect many topics or just one. I bet it would be easy to put together a massive collection of postcards showing three little kittens. These are by Charles E. Bullard.


I have always like numbers as a topic, I collect 23 (skidoo). And 13 (paragraph 13) mostly about drinking. Nice to learn other people like numbers too.

I loved reading this and my mind is churning to come up with a new category

well done – will be on the lookout – thanks

My father’s mother often said that deaths come in threes. When two celebrities died within a day or two of each other, she would start wondering who the third would be.

Wow! This article really opened my eyes about the possibilities tied to the number 3!

Such a fun article! The number 3 will be on my mind all day!

Past Article

Eleanor “Ellie” McCrackin


Artist signed, “Dwig” postcards are popular collectibles. There are plenty to choose from – probably more than 500. C. V. Dwiggins was born in Ohio and worked for newspapers nationwide. His 60+ year career is worthy of much praise. He kept America laughing.

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