[Original caption] Calcutta Coolies. The Coolies of Calcutta, otherwise porters or carriers, are men of fine physique, and are able to carry exceptionally heavy weights supported on their heads. Coolie laborers form an enormous body of men in the East, no less than 70,000 journeying yearly from India to Ceylon. The word Coolie is derived from the Hindustani Kuli, labourer. [end]
Why was this such a popular postcard subject (the original photograph seems to have been also published as a sepia postcard by W. Newman & Co., a large Kolkata retailer)? Perhaps because these were among the first people a visitor to the city, disembarking from a ship, encountered, making them particularly memorable. Some of these visitors also picked up on the larger situation. On a W. Newman postcard of this image, addressed to Maynard McFie, 1222 W29th St., Los Angeles, California: "Dear Maynard These laborers get about 20 cents a Day They earn it too 13 hours constitute a labor day here Henry Day".