• POSTCARD EVENTS

    ‘Tis the season for a pause but you can often find postcards at stamp shows or antique shows.
    Use the links to search for one near you.

    Next Meeting Sat. Jan 12th, 1pm  – AGM & Meet ‘n Greet Social Details here. 

     

Postcards and the Music of the Great War: Seeing the Dear Old Home Again

The First World War was among the first to be fought in the era of the popular song, which had been born in the music halls and came of age with the phonograph. Sentimental, romantic, humorous and religious tunes form a significant part of the war’s cultural legacy and are well known to collectors as the themes of countless series of postcards that were sent by and to the soldiers.

Typically, early twentieth-century “song” postcards were produced in series of three or four, with a different verse of a popular tune (or well-known hymn) printed and illustrated on each. The foremost publisher of these cards was Bamforth & Co. of Holmfirth in Yorkshire. This source estimates that 600 sets of song postcards were published by the company between the early 1900s and the end of the war. As the linked article notes, once war was declared, Bamforth reissued some of its song sets with new military-themed illustrations.

In this post we’ll look at four complete song sets.

I Want To See The Dear Old Home Again

In the first scene, the soldier dreams of his home, his young children and the faithful family dog.

English village life is emphasized in the second stanza, complete with thatched cottage and chiming church bells.

Finally, with all that out of the way, we come in the third postcard to the most heartfelt loss of all, experienced most strongly when he wakes “a soldier still”.

The first song, “I Want To See The Dear Old Home Again”, dates from around the year 1900, although no recordings of it appear to be online. It was written by Frank Dean (1857-1922) under the pen-name “Harry Dacre”. Dean/Dacre is well remembered today for his 1892 composition “Daisy Bell”, one of the most enduring pieces of early popular music, with its famous refrain “But you’ll look sweet / upon the seat / of a bicycle built for two”. For its part, “I Want To See The Dear Old Home Again” is in the voice of a soldier off on some Imperial sojourn, and recounts his dreams of home and postponed love. The final line, “Then I wake — a soldier still”, would have resonated with most of the soldiers in the seemingly interminable conflict.

The three Bamforth postcards are numbered 4800/1, 2, 3 and were produced, as noted, with the permission of Frank Dean & Co. in London.

This set of postcards — like the other sets we will look at — was sent by a soldier, likely a Canadian in France. They are apparently from the First World War period although no specific mention is made of any dates or wartime events. Unfortunately, information about the soldier and his experiences was apparently left for the letters that accompanied the postcards. Without the letters, it hasn’t been possible to identify the sender.

The message the anonymous soldier has written on the backs of the three cards is as follows:

(1) This card for mother — more to follow. This card speaks my sympathy and the set will follow in future letters so be learning and singing this one till more comes; they are very nice if you … set a air at [to?] sing them by. DADIE. (2) Dear Mother, my sentiments are in this card. In my dreams I can see it all — home sweet home, but smile smile all the while — it’s some trial, but the Better will come and I’ll be going to my dear old friends at home. DADIE to MA. (3) For mother. This is the last of this series and I am a soldier still. There is more of these series. I send more for a change. Hope you enjoy my silly ways. But if I stay for years my love is for my dear old home and last of all MOTHER, only mother. From DADIE. Over the mighty deep.*

(*Note: I have added some punctuation and made other minor typographical and wording changes for the sake of clarity in the extracts from this soldier’s letters in this post. The original has virtually no punctuation, as was common in postcard messages of the day, and contains a number of abbreviations and many idiosyncratic spellings.)

Fight the Good Fight

The second Bamforth series includes four postcards, numbered 4870/1, 2, 3, 4, each illustrating a stanza of the Victorian hymn “Fight the Good Fight”, with words by the Rev. John S. B. Monsell (1811-1875), an Anglican clergyman in Ireland. The first card, shown below, depicts soldiers standing before a priest near to the front lines, as a biplane passes above them. There are explosions in the distance, presumably at the front line. These are the evidently the final words of spiritual encouragement that the men will hear before entering the fray. The remaining three cards focus on just one of the soldiers, depicted first in prayer, then in great despair, and at the last (see below), in the arms of Christ — the artist leaving it somewhat unclear whether our subject has been struck and is dying, or whether he is only in need of religious comfort on account of what he has had to endure. 

The same serviceman sent the “Fight the Good Fight” set to his family, but in this case he wrote only the names of his wife and (presumably) children on the backs of the cards: “Ma” (2 cards), “Albert” and “Cecilie”

The men at an informal service prior to entering the fight that rages behind them.

The fourth postcard, interpreting the hymn’s closing lines.

A modern interpretation of the piece, which is set to the tune “Pentecost” (1864) by William Boyd, is provided on YouTube by the choir of Brigham Young University‘s Idaho campus. A simpler version, together with the sheet music, is available via hymnal.net

God Keep You Safe

In contrast with the previous examples, “God Keep You Safe” appears to have been composed during, and with specific reference to, the First World War. Only a little information is available online about this piece, and unfortunately there is nothing to give us an idea of how it sounded. This catalogue entry from Australia’s national archives, which presumably hold a copy of the sheet music, says that it was written by one Kate Hill Salter, with music for piano accompaniment by Edward Cuthbertson. An online catalogue that is selling a copy of the score gives the name as Kate Hitt-Salter (not “Hill”), and a check of ancestry.com does reveal an Alice K. Hitt-Salter being married to a John C. Wood in Dover in 1931. Whether “Alice K.” is Kate or a relative is hard to say, but at least we now know that there was someone with the unusual surname “Hitt-Salter” out there, even if she seems to have made no mark on history other than this half-forgotten composition (half-forgotten but for deltiology, that is!). Nothing at all turned up online for Edward Cuthbertson. 

Unlike the others, this song takes the point of view of the soldier’s wife, left at home to worry about the fate of her “dear heart”, lamenting: “The hours apart from thee / Drag by on leaden, lifeless wings”. This was undoubtedly a sentiment shared by millions of family members across every one of the combatant countries. The three postcards are numbered 4960/1, 2, 3, and sport fancier lettering than is found on the other Bamforth series discussed here. Card 3 is particularly beautiful, with the soldier’s round portrait cleverly placed on the wall by the artist in place of a “thought bubble” (as appears on Card 1, also shown below).

Imagining the battlefield.

The conclusion of “God Keep You Safe”, by Kate Hitt-Salter.

The sender again writes a long letter across the backs of all three cards, concluding as follows: “This is the last series. Don’t you think it’s nice and very appropriate to its calling? I have about 30 or so of “odds and ends” cards to send anything I write on [i.e. that he can use anytime he needs to write something]. The cards can be raffled off. These cards have come from all across the Dominion — a very large collection.”

Little Grey Home in the West

The final song set consists in four cards illustrating the ballad, “Little Grey Home in the West”. Of the songs presented here, “Little Grey Home” has the most tenuous thematic connection with war. It’s really just a sentimental piece. The lyrics were by one D. Eardley-Wilmot (a member, it appears, of an aristocratic family by that name but about whom little else is known), with the tune by the famous British composer Hermann Lohr (1871-1943). Recorded as early as 1912 by Peter Dawson (and also by John McCormack and others) it appears in newspapers across North America and the U.K. as a massively popular recital piece in 1914 and afterward. The Dawson version as it appears on YouTube uses the four Bamforth postcards as illustrations. Since the song isn’t really about a soldier, the illustrations on the cards simply show the soldier thinking of the sentimental scenes that the song recalls. Much like “I Want To See The Dear Old Home Again”, “Little Grey Home in the West” works its way up to the thing the singer misses most: his true love — or, here, “the two eyes that shine just because they are mine”. 

There are lips I am burning to kiss … And a thousand things other men miss.

The fourth and final card in Bamforth series 4871.

 

Card no. 3 seems to have hit home with our anonymous soldier, who writes on the back: “Dear Mother, This shows the mental telephone working between the soldier and the friends at home and the other thousand things he misses, but we must all keep smiling — no coldness out here –, and our wives at home and everybody smile. There is no use getting disordered as it is no use and only makes matters worse, don’t you think so? DAD”

Not all soldiers were quite so enthralled by the sometimes mawkish sensibilities of the songs. Parodic revisions of lyrics were common as the Great War servicemen creatively attempted to “keep everyone smiling”. On 22 April 1915, the Montreal Gazette reported on a version of “Little Grey Home” of which the librettist was a Captain Frost of the 14th Montreal Battalion. In his possibly somewhat more realistic take, the song went as follows:

There’s a little wet home in the trench,
That the rain storms continually drench,
There’s a dead cow close by,
With her heels in the sky,
And she gives off a beautiful stench.
Underneath us in place of a floor,
There’s a mess of cold mud and some straw,
And Jack Johnsons tear,
Through the rain-sodden air,
O’er my little wet home in the trench.

(Andrew Cunningham)

 

The Canadians Are Coming! Postcards of Our Great War Soldiers

As the hundredth anniversary of 11 November 1918 — the end of the Great War — approaches, we will take a look back at what postcards of the time tell us about the four long years that took such a toll on the people of Canada, Newfoundland and many other countries. Coincidentally, the war years brought down the curtain on the “Golden Age of Postcards”; while the medium continued to be popular, the postcard industry as a whole no longer exhibited the vitality and variety of its pre-war heyday.

Keeping the old flag flying

Postcards mailed in the summer of 1914 can provide us with insights into how ordinary people in the sedate turn-of-the-century world responded to the sudden intrusion of war into every aspect of life. Exhibit 1 is the Stedman Bros. “patriotic” shown below, which depicts departing Canadian soldiers while assertively proclaiming: “Canada Will Do Her Duty To Keep The Old Flag Flying”.

Stedman Bros. no. 2539, with an added photographic image.

On turning the postcard over, we find that it was posted at Toronto on 13 September 1914, barely a month after the state of war officially began. In fact, things had unravelled so quickly that the Canadian National Exhibition had no opportunity to re-think its 1914 theme of “PEACE YEAR”, neatly incorporated into the special CNE “slogan cancel” that we see here.

Verso image of the card as posted to Wimbledon, Surrey on 13 September 1914.

One might wonder how Stedman Bros. managed to print up World War I cards such as this so quickly. The answer is that they didn’t, really — this example, numbered S.B. 2539, was in fact an old Stedman card on which the small photograph of the departing soldiers was pasted (the card originally featured a coloured illustration of an R&O ship). To complete the metamorphosis, the caption about “doing her duty” was overprinted on the image in silver lettering. (Indeed, since Stedman Bros. are thought to have exited the postcard trade in 1914, it is possible that the refurbishment of these cards as World War I souvenirs was someone else’s handiwork.)

The message itself is, of course, another place where we might hope to find  reference to the big news from Europe. However, even though her words were destined for England, the writer didn’t acknowledge that anything out of the ordinary was going on. By the end of her note she had apparently run out of things to say — or so we might surmise, given that she filled the rest of her space in the time-honoured way, with bland observations about the weather!

The 79th Cameron Highlanders

The story of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada is well told on the regiment’s own website. The Camerons, from Winnipeg, were the first Highland regiment in the West, having been founded on 1 February 1910. It is unlikely that the original members would have anticipated the sacrifices that they and their mates would be required to make within just a few short years. Even at the Decoration Day festivities on 10 May 1914, as depicted in the Maurice Lyall real photo postcard below, it is unlikely that the kilted marchers imagined that before the summer was out, some of them would be halfway across the country, and then halfway around the world, fighting for real.

10 May 1914. The building in the background was the University of Manitoba. The Broadway Armoury stood directly across the street, on the site of what is now the Manitoba Legislature.

We encounter the Camerons again on the Valentine & Sons postcard below (106,330), which may well have based on a photograph taken the same day (and perhaps by the same photographer) as the postcard above. Posted on 22 September 1914 by a Royal Bank of Canada employee to a colleague who had evidently been transferred to the Bank’s Vancouver branch, its message does refer, indirectly, to the War:

To Mr. J. A. Noonan, Royal Bank, Campbell Ave., Vancouver, B.C.:

“Hello Mr. Noonan, Just to remind you we have not quite forgotten you in the exciting times we have been having. Glad to hear you have not much to do but don’t get too fond of doing nothing and forget all about Winnipeg. Every body happy in the R. B. of C.”

Valentine & Sons card showing the soldiers standing on Broadway, looking out from the Drill Hall.

The 79th trained first at Camp Sewell, near Brandon, and were then sent out to Valcartier, Quebec, just outside the city of Quebec. The following “John E. Walsh” postcard was acquired simply as a handsome Quebec “patriotic” but turned out to have some interesting Cameron Highlanders content on the reverse:

Grande Allée, Quebec City. Patriotic postcard published by John E. Walsh, a Quebec stationer.

The first thing to note about the back of the Grande Allée card is that it is cancelled with a slogan cancel for the Quebec Provincial Exhibition (31 August – 5 September 1914). Unlike Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition, the 1914 theme in Quebec was not “peace” but “health” (“l’année de la santé”).

Back of the card, with a message from “R. M.”, then in training at Valcartier. The message is transcribed below.

As the Camerons’ website notes, only a limited number of the 79th’s members were sent to Valcartier and then on to England in the summer of 1914. At Valcartier, the Camerons were merged with others from across the country as the 16th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. While it is brief, the card’s message provides at least some information about the Highlanders’ life at Quebec:

“E Company,
79th Cameron Highlanders
Valcartier Camp, Quebec

Sunday

Having a good time down here up at 5:30 in morning. Drill all day. Getting quite thin. Remember me to Overseas bunch if you see them on Tuesday. R.M.”

As the sender is identified by initials (“R. M.”) only, the only significant clue is the recipient, J[ohn] France Hughes of the Great-West Life Assurance Co. of Winnipeg, who turns out to have been an actuary with Great-West. Hughes was born in England around 1885, had emigrated around the turn of the century, and by the time of the postcard was married and living at 609 Spence Street, a house that still stands at (what is now) the corner of Cumberland Avenue. The “Overseas bunch” sounds as though it might have been an informal weekly gathering of British immigrants — as R. M. probably was (although, given his regimental affiliation, he may have been a Scot rather than an Englishman like Hughes). From the handwriting and the fact that his social circles included a well-paid insurance professional, one might also conclude that R. M. was likely well educated.

In any event, this is a good example of what we can learn from postcard messages about the very earliest days of the Great War.

Canadian soldiers in other countries’ cards

Canadian First World War collections often include postcards from other countries that depict the Canadian war effort. One scarce example is this collotype showing the 48th Highlanders — cousins of Winnipeg’s 79th — as they leave “Torento (Canada)”. One supposes this scene to be somewhere in the vicinity of Union Station, with the departing men parading in the pouring rain. Produced by Le Deley, imprimeur et éditeur (printer and publisher) at 127, boul. Sébastopol in Paris, this particular example was not used.

A rainy day in Torento.
“And very good reason to be” … indeed!

Our final example is a British card celebrating “Canada’s Men”, poetically, as “the Bravest Men — we’ve seen of late / That have crossed the Atlantic Sea”. The quality of some of the verse suggests that the poet may have been working to deadline, but overall the expression of Britain’s appreciation comes through clearly enough and, I’m sure, was much appreciated by its recipients. The card — the British publisher of which is not identified — was posted within the U.K. on 26 December 1916.

Future posts

We’ll try to post some other World War I postcards over the next few weeks, as the hundredth anniversary nears. 

Andrew Cunningham

PHILATELY AND DELTIOLOGY: WHAT DIVIDES US? (THOUGHTS FROM 1903)

Poking around the Internet on a summer’s evening, I came upon a brief book review of All About Post-cards, one of the first postcard guides, published by Walter Scott in Leeds (England) in 1903. Appearing in The London Philatelist 12:140 (August 1903), the anonymous reviewer is of the view that the study of government-issued postcards (of the traditional picture-less type) does constitute a branch of philately. In stark contrast, the collection of privately-produced picture postcards is something else — and, whatever it may be it is not worthy of discussion in the august journal of the Philatelic Society, London!

So there is an early attempt to define the place where philately ends and where the realm of what was then known as “cartophily” (and later as “deltiology”) begins. The key, in the reviewer’s mind, seems to be the “official” nature of both stamps and government-issued postal cards.

As for the book, which sounds pretty interesting, it seems to have gone the way of so many of the guides and magazines that accompanied the postcard boom of the early 1900s. Other than the London Philatelist‘s book review, few traces of All About Post-cards exist online. If anyone has seen the book, we would be interested in hearing about it.

Advertisement for Walter J. Scott’s “All About Post-cards” as published in a popular postcard collectors’ magazine.

The reviewer’s rather snide opening suggestion that the book might be considered more self-promotional than scholarly relates to the fact that its author, Scott, was himself a significant publisher of picture postcards, particularly of scenes from around Yorkshire. He does not appear to have been connected with the Walter Scott who published postcards in Barrie, Ontario, around the same time.

In any event, in case it is of interest to anyone with a foot in both camps (stamps and cards), here is the full review as published by the London Philatelist exactly 115 years ago:

ALL ABOUT POST-CARDS. By J. W. [sic] Scott. Scott and Wilson, 4, Reginald Mount, Leeds.

‘“THERE is nothing like leather,” cried the shoemaker, and it is only natural that Mr. W. J. Scott should sing the praises of the wares that his firm so largely deal in. The book in question, containing some seventy pages devoted to the post card — official and pictorial — and thirty-four pages of the firm’s price catalogue of the same, bears out our opening quotation. None the less, this little volume will be found to afford both interest and information to those who are interested in entires, the author acknowledging his indebtedness to Mr. W. B. Warhurst, the well-known collector and worker on the subject of entires, and to Mr. E. W. Richardson, the editor of The Picture Post Card. The letterpress, divided into nearly twenty chapters, devotes about equal space to both sections of the subject, but there is an obvious leaning on the part of the author to the “fascinating hobby” of pictorial card collecting.

‘This is not an “interesting branch of Philately,” as are termed the regular post cards, and does not call for any comment in our columns. Of its amazing popularity we have had abundant evidence as previously recorded in our pages, and we see no reason why such charming and artistic mementoes, produced at a price that places them within the reach of all, should not have an abiding and brilliant future. As regards officially issued post cards, we should be only too glad if this branch of Philately could be reinvigorated and sustained; it has the merits of straightforwardness in issue, limits in numbers, and relatively small cost, and we should rejoice to see its adherents increased; their bulk is against them, but they are far more easily susceptible of arrangement than are envelopes, and they embrace far less stationery. They have probably been crowded off the philatelic stage by the ever-increasing quantity of new issues of all sorts, and it is to be hoped that by the aid of such excellent advocacy as that of Mr. Scott and others their popularity may be restored.’

(Andrew Cunningham, TPC #1424)

All In A Postcard: Go (North)West, Young Man!

Miss Columbia: “She Certainly is Attracting A Great Deal of Attention, And Though I’m Sorry They’re Leaving Me, I Do Admire My Fair Cousin.” (Government of Canada, 1906)

Entitled “The New Belle”, this postcard was one of 12 that are believed to have been published by the Interior Ministry of Sir Clifford Sifton in 1906. The Canadian Government’s design was to promote immigration — specifically, U.S. immigration — into newly opened agricultural districts of the “Great Northwest”, i.e. the newly formed provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.

The message of this particular propaganda campaign (essentially, that it’s time to abandon the U.S. for Canada) had to be delivered in strong and memorable way. But, at the same time, to the extent possible, the Canadian Government needed to minimize any offence that might be taken by its U.S. counterpart, which did not appreciate Canada’s (highly successful) entreaties to Midwestern farmers. The caption on this card represents an attempt to toe this very fine line.

The postcard was mailed at Forest Nook, Ontario (a long-forgotten P.O. on Ahmic Lake in Muskoka) to a man in Meadville, Pa., who had previously forwarded the sender a U.S. newspaper story about the size and potential of Canada’s wheat-growing region. Articles of that nature filled U.S. newspapers at that time, in no small measure as a result of the promotional railway tours that Canadian land companies were running for obliging American newsmen. 

As a final note, some postmaster somewhere along the way has gratuitously postmarked Fair Miss Canada’s noggin. To avoid fanning the flames of Canadian resentment, I can report that close examination shows that this rude strike at our lady’s dignity occurred at Burk’s Falls, Ontario and not south of the border!  — Andrew Cunningham, Toronto Postcard Club

“Many thanks for paper. Article on Canadian wheat fields very interesting.”

ALL IN A POSTCARD: COBALT AND THE ORIGINS OF MINING FINANCE IN CANADA

It is well known that postcards are windows into the social life of the early 20th century, but it’s easy to neglect what they have to tell us about the worlds of commerce, finance and industry. Canada’s mining business, which was developing into its modern form around the turn of the last century, is an example — hopefully the first of several to be featured on our blog.

While everyone knows about the Klondike gold rush of 1898, it is less often remembered that an equally serendipitous discovery in 1903 quickly transformed a remote corner of northeastern Ontario into the world’s largest silver producing region. By 1908, thousands of hopeful “miners” had poured into the suddenly world-famous town of Cobalt, a few miles west of Lake Timiskaming. That Cobalt’s silver boom coincided almost exactly with the worldwide postcard craze means that there is an almost endless supply of postcard views for collectors of ephemera from this fascinating period in Canada’s history. Many of them have messages from miners, visitors and assorted hangers-on that recount personal experiences of boomtown life.

Copp, Clark postcard of Cobalt, Ontario

Figure 1. Cobalt’s Wall Street, c. 1908 (Copp, Clark).

A whole network of commercial infrastructure quickly arose in the Cobalt district, supporting not only 10,000 newly-arrived residents but the mining industry itself. The postcard in Figure 1 nicely captures the commercial aspects of this moment in time. Entitled A view of Cobalt’s Wall Street, where frenzied finance plays in mining stocks, the Copp, Clark Ltd. collotype image shows almost every aspect of the mining finance business in action:

  • The building at the left houses the stock market: Cobalt Open Call Mining Exchange.
  • The building at centre is the equivalent of today’s downtown skyscraper, housing professional services firms: the assayer, the law offices of Browning & Boultbee (“Cobalt – Toronto – North Bay”) and two other law firms. 
  • To the right are the financial services offered by the Imperial Bank of Canada (one of many banks in town).
  • In the rear, at right, is the Queen’s Restaurant, where business deals could undoubtedly be made in quiet comfort (if one had time; otherwise it was the Quick Lunch cart in the foreground — the “food court” of its day).

The reality of the whole situation, for many people, is suggested by the sender’s inscription across the face of the card: “This is where I didn’t go broke”. It was undoubtedly very easy to do so if you weren’t careful. On the reverse, “Jack” engages in a bit of eye-rolling as regards a companion who was apparently a bit more “into it” than he was: “Byron is out speculating in the rain this morning on a broncho”.

Of course, with modern communications, the majority of the mining finance activity that this “Wall Street” card represents would today be performed in Toronto rather than locally. But, at least in microcosm, the various functions of Bay Street (or Wall Street) are encapsulated in this image.

Also shown below, as Figure 2, is a bifold (double) postcard by Warwick Bros. & Rutter of Toronto (no. 4942), posted October 8, 1908, not long before the 1909 fire that destroyed much of the town (click to enlarge).

(Andrew Cunningham, TPC #1424)

Bifold postcard of Cobalt, Ontario

Figure 2. Cobalt, Ontario, c. 1908 (Warwick Bros. & Rutter).

 

 

 

REFLECTIONS ON POSTCARDS: CLUES TO LOCATIONS

One of the great challenges that comes with collecting postcards, particularly the often uncaptioned “real photo” type, is figuring out what exactly you’ve got a postcard of. Like personal photos from family albums, postcards of unidentified people, places and events are common, but inherently less interesting than similar cards whose contexts are known. At the same time, a lot of the fun of collecting — particularly in this information-rich Internet age — lies in solving such mysteries for fun and profit (realistically, 99% for fun).

Of the journalist’s “five W’s” (who, what, when, where, why) the “where” is most often the key that unlocks a postcard’s mysteries. When there is no caption or postmark to tell us anything at all about the location of the image, the first and best clue is often the postcard itself, as a physical object. Is it a Canadian, a U.S. or an English card (or is it from somewhere even farther afield)? With experience, we can learn to tell when a postcard back is Canadian … most of the time. Knowing the country of origin definitely helps.

Another clue that is often lost before we think to take advantage of it is other cards that were associated in some way with the one we’re looking at. Often the seller will have taken our card out of an estate-sale album with similar cards that are captioned — sometimes a helpful dealer will even note likely locations on postcards that, while not identified, are clearly from the same place as others in his or her stock. But it’s pretty rare that we as buyers think to examine (let alone have the time to examine) a dealer’s other cards for clues about one we’re intending to buy. There can also be hints about locations in the card’s message, if there is one. But more often than not, we are reduced to staring, wistfully, into the world of the image itself, hoping that something will tell us where-oh-where this wonderful scene from a hundred-odd years ago could have been.

As an example, take this excellent real photo postcard (RPPC).  

S. C. Parks Fine Shoes, 1224 1/2 Something Street, Somewhere

Here we have no problem with country — it is a “MADE IN CANADA” real photo card of a design that tends to date from about 1915-20. But Canada is a big country, and there is no message, no postmark and no caption to help us. The shot is close-in, so all we get is one shop with one generic name, “S.C. Parks Fine Shoes”. We could try Googling it, but — realistically — the right “Parks” is going to be hard to find, given the inevitable proliferation of “Park” street names, let alone all the “Park” park names. The initials “S.C.” are another blow to our hopes — a given name would have been so much easier to find.

So what else do we have to work with? The products in the window display, for one. On several occasions, the brands of goods in a shop have helped me narrow down a location. For example, the card below, which could in theory have been anywhere in Canada or the U.S., was definitively placed on this side of the border because of the distinctively Canadian brands on offer, e.g. Royal Crown Oatmeal Soap and Squirrel Peanut Butter. A closer consideration of where these products were produced led to the tentative conclusion that the card came from Western Canada, possibly Vancouver (that’s as far as I ever got: if anyone has any thoughts, please tell me — one of the best ways to figure these things out is to join your local postcard club and let your knowledgeable colleagues do the work!)

Squirrel Peanut Butter (remember the peanut on top?) in the big tub at lower right … only in Canada.

However, in the case of the shoe store, the products don’t get us beyond what we already knew — that this is somewhere in Canada. What else do we have? A house number — 1224 1/2 — that could really be just about anywhere, although the “1/2” may come in handy down the road, since there will have been far fewer 1224 1/2’s in Canada than 1224s. 

But here’s where not losing patience, and owning a magnifying glass, can come in handy. One thing about shops is that they had plate-glass windows. And one thing that plate glass does is reflect. More than once, I’ve found an answer, or at least a clue, in the form of something across the street that is faintly reflected (in reverse, of course!) in a shop window. And exactly that turned out to be true of the S.C. Parks Fine Shoes postcard. At the very top of the window, on the left side, is a dark patch which turns out to be the reflection of a sign across the street. With some squinting, we can make out what it says … R-O-S-E-D-A-L-E (space) G-A-R-…! A likely answer is now clear. This has to be Toronto — not all that far from me, in fact. Surely (fingers crossed) it can be nowhere else than the commercial strip of Yonge Street, where that famous road runs past Toronto’s wealthy Rosedale neighbourhood.

With the tentative address “1224 1/2 Yonge Street, Toronto” in hand, we head to the deltiological Batcave and call up the Toronto city directory (known as Might’s). But wait … which year should we start with? Well, we’ve already noted that the card itself is of a type common from 1915-20. But even if we didn’t know that, we have a clue to a second “W” (when?) in the form of the poster at the far left. While partly blocked by the gentleman, enough of it is visible to see that it is advertising a contest sponsored by a shoe manufacturer. Looking more closely and reading what can be read, we can conclude that the contest, whatever exactly it was, had to do with the First World War. So we can surmise that a good year to try would be 1918. Looking at the Might’s Directory for that year, we find 1224 1/2 Yonge, just north of the Summerhill train station on the west side of Yonge (a couple doors up from Alcorn Avenue). And, sure enough, the occupant of that address was one Charles S. Parks, although (unusually) the nature of his business is not identified (it is mentioned in the personal directory listing for his nearby home at 32 Summerhill Avenue). Further investigation shows that Parks was Ontario-born, was 41 in 1918 (and thus is almost certainly the man in the photo), was married to Bertha, with whom he had one child, George, born 1908. The shoe store seems to have been in business from 1914 until about 1920, after which Charles appears in the directory as an insurance agent. Further investigation showed that the Rosedale Hotel stood across the street from the shop at 1145-1151 Yonge. What the G-A-R stood for — “Garden”? “Garage”? — can safely be left for someone fussier about completeness than I am.  

So there you have it. A postcard that seemed to show only one small business with a frustratingly generic and hard-to-search name actually turned out to show more than that when we looked hard enough. Incidentally, the shop at 1224 1/2 Yonge is still standing today, albeit in somewhat altered form and under the new identity of “1224A”. It houses a vintage furniture store — which would probably have seemed like a futuristic furniture store to Charles — called Decorum.

Andrew Cunningham (TPC #1424)

POSTCARDS FEATURED AT CHARLOTTETOWN GALLERY EXHIBITION

The postcard photographs of William S. Louson are the subject of a new exhibit at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Charlottetown. Louson was the leading amateur photographer of Prince Edward Island in the pre- WWI period and is one of the few identified postcard photographers in the country. The exhibition, curated by Harry Holman (TPC#1534), features the photographic images produced by Louson and includes images from his original negatives, copies of views which were carried in a range of local and national magazines, and a large collection of postcards, most of which were published by the Toronto firm of Warwick Bros. & Rutter. The exhibition also includes Louson photos which were used by other publishers without credit to Louson.
 

Sydmount Avenue, Charlottetown, P.E.I. (William S. Louson)

 According to Holman “Louson is without doubt the most important and interesting photographer in the history of early P.E.I. postcards. His black and white images were given a new dimension by being produced with colours supplied by the postcard publishers and served to make Louson’s view of the province as a gentle rural landscape, the dominant perception of the Island in the pre-war period.”
 
The exhibition continues at the Gallery until April 21, 2018.

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE: A VALENTINE & SONS POSTCARD MYSTERY

I’ll be the first to admit that this one is probably just for the geekiest of deltiologists. It has to do with a duplicate Valentine & Sons card in my collection — number 102,198, entitled “G.T.R. Double Track through the Garden of Canada” in one example, while the second version spells out the name of the railway in full, as “Grand Trunk Railway”. Valentine & Sons captions often changed between printings of the same card, so the name variation isn’t especially interesting. To see what was interesting, let’s have a look at the cards:

Spot the Differences.

The back types are identical. “Grand Trunk Railway” appears (on the basis of a pretty murky postmark) to have been posted on 19 February 1907, while “G.T.R.” was posted on 3 May 1908. But that’s neither here nor there. The odd thing is that the cards are different in a second way that is harder to spot at first. It’s the images: they are identical EXCEPT for the sky. The clouds on version 1 are completely different from the clouds on version 2! Of course, the skies on these early lithographs were entirely fake to begin with, because they usually reproduced as completely blank areas, necessitating the subterfuge of “hand colouring” in which clouds were added to the artist’s taste. But that doesn’t explain why the skies would be different between two printings, when everything else in the image, including all the rest of the applied colouring, is identical.

Or does it? Is there a reason that the sky would have been coloured separately on the occasions of each printing?

In case you can’t make out the differences, here is another version with added contrast (click to enlarge):

Any thoughts? Anyone have similar examples of Valentine & Sons cards — or cards by anyone, really — that are the same except for the sky (setting aside variations in the caption)?

— Andrew Cunningham

FIRESIDE READING – CARD TALK’S WINTER EDITION

Our annual Seasonal Party at the Imperial Buffet this past week was a great success. In addition to delicious food, the TPC served up the latest edition of Card Talk to all attendees, thus saving some postage costs. Retrieved from the printers only hours earlier, the Winter edition of our flagship (well … only) publication contains its usual 24 pages of deltiological news and analysis.

Following up on an article in the Fall edition, TPC member Lorne Smith contributed additional information on the use of Esperanto in postcards, including an account of his visit to the Esperanto Museum in Vienna. Among the postcards in Lorne’s collection is one of Prague’s Old Town Bridge Tower (Figure 1), with a message in esperanto and an Esperanto sticker on the front. The postcard’s caption has also been translated by the sender. 

Figure 1. “Malnova Ponta Turo”, according to the sender.

We had a response to our call for early Canadian RPPCs (real photo post cards) — “early” being 1904 or prior. Member Rick Parama submitted a photo card of a cow and calf from Bowden, Alberta, N.W.T. (as it then was) from the summer of 1904. Generally speaking, RPPC production in Canada seems to have gone from almost nil in the spring of 1904 to a significant trickle in the later months of 1904. By mid-1905, it was a veritable torrent that did not die down for several years thereafter. Real photo cards from 1904 and earlier are rare in Canada and we continue to solicit members and the general public for examples to illustrate the early days of this important photographic genre.

Another of our members, Joe Rozdzilski, contributed some examples from his collection of west-end Toronto postcards, focusing on the life and times of Sunnyside Beach and its amusement park and bathing pavilion, the latter of which could accommodate 2,000 swimmers and was, on opening in 1922 (Figure 2), the largest heated outdoor pool in the British Empire. The amusement park was a wonderland of food and attractions that are brought vividly to life in Joe’s story.

Figure 2. Sunnyside Beach Bathing Pavilion on Opening Day.

In 2016, we discussed the postcard photographer Lewis Rice, who worked first in his native Nova Scotia but more famously, after around 1907, in Saskatchewan, where he carried on business in the boom town of Moose Jaw. In this issue of Card Talk, the TPC’s Barb Henderson and Vancouver Postcard Club’s Gray Scrimgeour recount the events of June 1, 1912, which was declared to be “Postcard Day” in Moose Jaw. This was a Board of Trade effort to promote the new city by having its citizens send out Lewis Rice postcards with pre-printed boasts on the back. Through years of diligent searching, and with the help of fellow collector Don Kaye, Gray has found cards bearing nine different slogans, such as:

  • FIFTY THOUSAND more CITIZENS WANTED who are law abiding and can stand prosperity for it’s sure to get you if you come to MOOSE JAW. 
  • Some towns are afraid to see new people come in, fearing that there will not be enough for all. That’s not Moose Jaw.
  • Welcome Nobles [i.e. the Duke of Connaught and his family] to Moose Jaw — the Minneapolis of Canada.

This edition’s cover story shows some of the many ways in which postcards take us inside Canadian buildings of the early 20th century. From the old Centre Block of Parliament  (Figure 3) to the elegant Vice-Royal Suite of Winnipeg’s Royal Alexandra Hotel (Figure 4) to the interior of the ill-fated Great Lakes passenger vessel Noronic (Figure 5), postcards offer views of interiors that are invaluable to our understanding of the history of everyday life as experienced in ordinary houses, grocery stores, hotels, restaurants and factories.

Figure 3. Entrance to Houses of Parliament, Ottawa

Figure 4. Empire Room, Vice-Royal Suite, Royal Alexandra Hotel, Winnipeg

Figure 5. The Noronic

An item of special interest in this issue is a checklist of Halifax Explosion postcards, compiled by our member Terry Robbins and included in Card Talk in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of that tragic event — the most devastating man-made explosion in history prior to the atom bomb. Lithographic cards by Cox Bros., H. H. Marshall and Novelty Manufacturing & Art Co. are included in the listing. In addition, Barb Henderson has contributed articles on an amazing postcard relating to the aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss and on pyrography, the art by which leather postcards — including the example shown in Figure 6 — were created.

Figure 6. An attractive leather postcard

In addition, there are the usual features: a message from our President, reminiscences about Card Talks past (1982 this time), advertisements from our advertisers, our TPC meeting schedule and the round-up of upcoming postcard sales and shows. If you’re not already a member of the TPC, join our coast-to-coast (and U.S. and overseas!) membership and receive the whole Card Talk story three times annually, attend our informative (yet fun!) meetings and get special deals on our show admission and our exclusive members-only auctions.

(Andrew Cunningham, editor)

 

Card Talk, Winter 2017-18.

 

WINTER FUN IN AMHERST, N.S. (AND SOME DELTIOLOGICAL FUN FOR US!)

Here’s an interesting winter-themed card, showing women skate-sailing on Blair’s Lake, a small lake on the outskirts of Amherst, Nova Scotia (it looks like they could use a bit more wind!) As we quickly learn from Edwardian postcards, Canadians of the time — men and women alike — were up for just about any sort of sporting activity in wintertime, no matter how absurd!

Amherst, Nova Scotia postcard

Skate Sailing at Blair’s Lake, dated March 20, 1906.

Reverse of the Blair’s Lake “Private Mailing Card”, printed by Black Printing Co., Ltd., of Amherst.

The interest of the card extends beyond the image. For one thing, the card stock is coloured on the reverse but plain on the picture side, an unusual and (one imagines) costly effect that definitely lends the card a touch of class — offsetting the limitations of the half-tone image.

As noted, the printer was Black Printing Co., Ltd., of Amherst. Postcard aficionados will also note the non-compliant “PRIVATE MAILING CARD” title, a designation that was required under U.S. law between 1899 and 1901 but wholly improper under Canadian postal regulations. I have seen U.S. wording on Canadian postcards before, but not, to the best of my recollection, on a back that was clearly printed in Canada rather than having been imported from the U.S. Other examples of this kind would be interesting to see.

“PRIVATE POST CARD” was the Canadian standard established (as Steinhart tells us) in the Official Postal Guide as of December 29, 1894. The card itself was posted in 1906, long after plain old “POST CARD” had become the norm in both countries.

[Andrew Cunningham]

ADDENDUM: 

As per the comments below, Harry Holman sends us this PEI card, produced by P. D. Ayer of Moncton, N.B., that also has a “Private Mailing Card” back:

Welcome to Prince Edward Island”

Reverse of the card, with the PRIVATE MAILING CARD design from P. D. Ayer & Co.