The Royal Mail said the first recorded postcard was sent by writer and practical joker Theodore Hook in 1840, but the idea did not take off until 30 years later when postcards were released with a half-penny stamp printed as part of the designs.
Picture postcards started to circulate in the early 1900s, initially featuring images of the Boer War.
Between 1905 and 1915 more than 750 million postcards were sent every year amid a boom in the postal service.
Stephen Agar, managing director for consumer and network access, said: “For over 100 years people up and down the country have been sending postcards home when they are away.
“A postcard is not only a snapshot of a carefree time but also a permanent reminder of exploring faraway lands.
“It is fascinating to think that what started out as a practical joke is now a part of the fabric of summer holidays.”
The gallery can be seen at: http://gallery.royalmailgroup.com/historyofpostcards.