• 2018 Meeting Schedule now posted

    Hope to see you there!
    See meetings  page for details.

NEWS FROM AROUND THE POSTCARD WORLD

By Andrew Cunningham

The Providence Journal has published an article about the Rhode Island Postcard Club’s 54th annual sale, which took place on October 30, 2016, complete with a short video. Read it here.

The April-July 2016 newsletter of the San Francisco Bay Area Post Card Club is now online, with articles on subjects ranging from Ellen Clapsaddle to Lawrence Welk to (for a bit of Canadian content) the Gjoa, the first ship to navigate the Northwest Passage.

Portland, Oregon’s “Webfooters” postcard club posts a lot articles and presentations online, including this interesting article about U.S. glass factories that shows how postcards can be collected as a supplement to another collecting interest.

The Golden Horseshoe Postcard Club in Hamilton, Ontario, has published the second in its series of books on Hamilton-Wentworth postcards. We’ve seen these; the production quality is really great! Ordering information is here

Speaking of Hamilton, McMaster University’s crowdsourcing project has concluded, with 18,000 descriptions of postcards supplied by helpful Internet volunteers. The next phase of the project will be to organize the collection and the descriptions for public access. Thanks to the TPC members who contributed descriptions. The McMaster Library posted a note earlier this year about the many winter scenes in its postcard collection, which include some very nice RPPCs from all over Canada. 

Anyone with similar information for future postings is welcome to send it to editor@torontopostcardclub.com and we’ll do our best to include it.

CARD TALK – WINTER 2016-17 HIGHLIGHTS

By Andrew Cunningham

Winter is nearly here … the “Winter” edition of Card Talk, I mean. The Toronto Postcard Club’s 24-page magazine is currently in the mail to its millions, thousands, hundreds of eager readers from coast to coast and (in a few cases) beyond our coasts in faraway lands such as the U.S.A. As is customary, the blog will provide a short summary of this edition’s articles in order to alert the entire planet to our content and (hopefully) to entice one or two postcard enthusiasts to join our club

The cover story this issue is a tribute to elephants. Specifically, your editor has written an article based on postcards of elephants plying their trade (as circus entertainers) in Canada. While we think of ourselves as highly cosmopolitan today, the fact remains that, thanks to the circuses that criss-crossed the country every summer, our Edwardian ancestors were far more familiar than we are with the exotic pachyderm. In the article, there is naturally some discussion of circus history, which is illustrated by postcard examples such as the pre-performance parade by the Adam Forepaugh & Sells Bros. circus shown here [1]. The Forepaugh & Sells circus was visiting Portage la Prairie, Man., in the summer of 1911 (their last year in the business, it happens). Posters advertising the event (including a large one depicting the elephants) may be seen in the image, which is a small detail of a much larger real photo postcard.

pages-14-16-elephants-figure-02-plp-circus-billboard

[1] Portage la Prairie townsfolk watch the Forepaugh & Sells circus parade, 1911 (RPPC detail)

After traipsing through a whole lot of elephant lore, ringing with names like Barnum & Bailey, Ringling Bros., and Sells-Floto, the story concludes with an account of the most famous of all Canadian elephant events, the tragic death of Jumbo at St. Thomas, Ontario, in 1885. [2]

pages-14-16-elephants-figure-08-death-of-jumbo

[2] Demise of Jumbo, 15 September 1885, commemorated in a postcard issued about 25 years after the fact

Having reflected on Jumbo’s tragic end, our readers may wish to move on to a fun story about the backs of postcards. Backs are a side of the postcard hobby that is all too often neglected. To tell the truth, an appreciation of the postcard back is an acquired taste. But once it has taken root, an interest in the reverse sides of our cards can lead the collector in new and exciting directions. In her article about the wide array of postcard backs we saw at a “show and tell” night at the Club, the TPC’s Barb Henderson tells a typical story, “I will confess that until recently I was mostly a view-side collector. When another TPC member brought a mirror (cursive) writing postcard to a meeting, I decided that my novelties collection needed one of those – and so I began looking at backs trying to find one.” One interesting thing about back collecting is that, more often than not, it’s the user of the card whose written additions to the manufactured artifact are responsible for the bulk of its current value. (TPC member Dave Moore proves this point in a separate article in this issue.) One of Barb’s backs — with a message in Morse Code — is shown here. [3] Writing in code was both fun and a way to keep your message secure from the prying eyes of the Clinton, Ohio postmistress (in this case). The opportunity of discovering an interesting back like this is one reason not to neglect the “two dollar boxes” at shows. When you find a great back, you get more than two-dollars’ worth of fun before you’ve even seen the front. 

pages-12-13-back-story-figure-03-morse-code-2

[3] Postcard back-talk — in Morse Code!

Another prized back-type (prized, at any rate, by historians of the postcard trade and its economics) is the “sample” back, which typically includes an over-printed price list intended for small-town shopkeepers and druggists who might be persuaded to supply photos that the publisher would turn into a finished set of saleable postcard views on the stated terms. If you don’t follow that, take a look at the sample card shown here, [4] which advertises postcards on behalf of Toronto’s Pugh Manufacturing Co., one of the second tier of Canadian postcard publishers (in terms of output). It’s a good example because it’s addressed to a general store (operated by the Rehder family of Owen Sound, Ont.), which would have been just the sort of customer that a postcard publisher was targetting. A good many Canadian sample cards exist, and the more of them that we can collectively assemble, the more we can learn about the commercial history of Canadian postcards. Be on the lookout!

pages-12-13-back-story-figure-04-pugh-advertising

[4] Pugh Manufacturing Co. sample card

The “two dollar boxes” that were just mentioned bring us to our next Card Talk article. John Sayers of the TPC tells us in this issue about some of his “two dollar box” finds. For example, at a recent postcard sale, John found lots to interest him in the bargain bin, including a great addition to his maritime collection in the form of a Valentine & Sons (U.K.) card [5] depicting the Allan Line booth and display at the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908. This exemplifies one of the great advantages of postcards as a collectible, i.e. that there are just too many postcards, covering too many places and topics, for dealers to know infallibly what every specialist collector really values (the moral being that you can regularly leverage your specialist knowledge into great and satisfying buys).  Looking at John’s Allan Line card, it’s intriguing to notice, at left, some sort of display of Canadian rotary saw-blades. More value! 

pages-10-11-trolling-the-two-dollar-box-figure-01-allan-line-at-franco-british-exhibition-1908

[5] Franco-British Exhibition, London — The Canadian Pavilion

pages-08-09-the-1936-berlin-olympics-figure-02-sports-field-9

[6] Olympic Stadium, Berlin 1936

At another sale, the eagle-eyed John also found five cards from a series published at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. As he notes, while he doesn’t normally collect that type of thing, these came at a price that easily justified a deviation from the routine. The unused cards appear to have been part of an “official” series numbering over 100. The Olympic rings are on the reverse, along with a rubber-stamped “postmark”. One example [6] shows the stadium that is so familiar from films and which was the scene of Jesse Owens’ famous race. As always, information from those who are specialists in the areas we discuss — in this case, the Olympic Games — is welcomed. 

Assuming the role of postcard detective, I hunted down the story behind two fairly well-known postcards from what is now the city of Cambridge, Ontario. The cards memorably feature a hobo referred to in the cards’ captions as “the lost Charlie Ross” (see example [7]). It struck me that there just had to be an interesting story behind these deltiological oddities. My hunch was correct: the resulting article recounts the once notorious kidnapping of the four year old Charlie Ross from the front yard of his parents’  home in Germantown, Pa., on 1 July 1874. This audacious crime instantly became a cause célèbre and was followed by decades of speculation over the fate of the poor innocent lad. The number of wayward boys who were investigated as possible “Charlies” eventually climbed into the hundreds (if not thousands), with older pretenders to the throne coming forward right through the 1930s. The Cambridge “Charlie” cards are therefore examples of a North American popular culture phenomenon of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Interestingly, the well-publicized failure of Charlie’s kidnappers to recover a ransom — which happened because Charlie’s father disobeyed instructions and went to the police — was said to have brought an end to child kidnappings for ransom in the U.S. for several decades. The upshot of the story was a sad one; no trace of Charlie was ever found. While it’s unlikely that he survived for very long after the kidnapping, the whole truth about “the lost Charlie Ross” will probably never be known.

pages-17-18-lost-charlie-ross-figure-01-wreck-of-the-lost-charlie-ross

[7] The Lost Charlie Ross, a Wreck on the Galt, Preston and Hespeler Electric Railway, Canada

Finally, in the newest installment of our series “Canada’s Postcard Photographers“, we look at the short but interesting career of Edmonton’s Charles W. Mathers (1868-1950). In 1892, Mathers, a native of Lucknow, Ont., became the first professional photographer to install himself permanently in what was then Edmonton, N.W.T. More interested in public photography than studio portraiture, he devoted himself to recording the life and times of Edmonton, northern Alberta, western Saskatchewan and the Mackenzie district to the north (of which he was one of the best-known early photographers). Mathers produced many “stock images” of pioneer life for view books, settlement-promotion literature, and newspapers requiring illustrations for stories about the “Great North West”.

In the year 1904, as the postcard craze took off, Mathers published some of his images — it’s not clear how many — as postcards. A number of the scenes he chose were already a little dated, such as this 1893 image of a placer miner and his “grissely” (or sluice) in search of North Saskatchewan River gold [8]. While Mathers was in on the beginning of the postcard era in Edmonton, he did not stay to partake in its rapid development. Like many men of his day, Mathers was not inclined to stay long in one place, and by 1905 he had departed Edmonton for Vancouver (although he is said to have returned to photograph the celebration of Alberta’s entry into Confederation in September of that year). Shortly after the end of the First World War, Mathers and his family moved to California, where he continued his photography business, became a U.S. citizen and eventually retired in the Los Angeles area. There is no indication that he produced postcards or other “public” images at any other stage of his life, although his Edmonton and regional images continued to appear on cards produced by other publishers after he had left Alberta (whether with permission or not I do not know). As noted in the article, a number of Mathers’ postcards are included in the University of Alberta’s Peel’s Prairie Provinces website.

pages-04-05-c-w-mathers-figure-04-gold-washing-on-the-saskatchewan-at-edmonton

[8] C. W. Mathers photo (1893) published as postcard (c. 1904)

In addition to these articles, the new Card Talk takes a photographic look back at Toronto Postcard Club memories of the 1980s and offers our members an updated show calendar, advertisements, notes and announcements of upcoming meetings. Please consider joining the TPC so that you can read the whole postcard story in Card Talk and also — if you’re in the Toronto area — participate in our meetings and other activities. To top it all off, members will receive free admission to Canada’s pre-eminent annual postcard sale, coming up in February.

 

 

 

 

CANADIAN WORLD WAR I POSTCARDS

By Andrew Cunningham

The First World War, the “war to end all wars”, got underway just as the shine was coming off the Golden Age of postcards. While wartime demand extended the postcard’s lease on life, it also changed the nature of the medium. In Canada, at least, postcards after 1913 were less apt than previously to show off the growth of the country’s towns, infrastructure and agriculture. Instead, and not unexpectedly, they dwelt more frequently on the war and its associated sentiments. Those sentiments encompassed both the public emotions of patriotism and more private feelings of estrangement and sadness — in addition to simple curiosity about what the soldier’s lives looked like. Because Great War postcards were so popular, postcard collections are often significant repositories of images of the War, including many that are unusual or unique, as well as of accounts (brief ones, of course) of the experiences of soldiers, recruits, families and friends during and after the long conflict. We were recently contacted by a representative of the Imperial War Museum, the London-based institution, which is currently attempting to record accounts of the conflict that are found on postcards. TPC members and friends who wish to contribute should see their website for details. 

As Remembrance Day is approaching, I’ve assembled a number of postcards from my own collection. They reveal the war years as they appeared to the ordinary men and women of the time and cover some — but by no means all — of the range of what is available to today’s “Great War” collector:

field-ambulance-depot-lines-sewell-camp-1915

Field Ambulance Depot Lines, Sewell Camp, 1915. — Advance Photo Co.

There are countless Canadian postcards depicting life at the camps at which Canadian soldiers received their pre-departure training. Among the largest of these was Camp Sewell — renamed Camp Hughes in 1915. A century later, remnants of its trenches and fixtures are discernible in farmers’ fields along the Trans-Canada Highway east of Brandon, Manitoba. As thousands of recruits passed through Camp Sewell/Camp Hughes, the Advance Photo Co. of Winnipeg was on hand to produce and sell real photo postcards depicting camp life. The number of real photo postcards produced of the camp by Advance (and a handful of other photographers) is unknown, but it is likely in the many hundreds. Despite its momentary prominence in the field of Canadian military photography, almost nothing is known about the Advance Photo Co. It had a brief existence around 1915 and 1916 and produced dozens of real photo postcards of a major flood in Winnipeg in the spring of 1916, but otherwise (it seems) almost nothing else. The company’s unidentified principals are quite possibly the gentlemen in the image below, which (more generally) illustrates how postcard photographers would have operated in such a setting.

souvenir-of-sewell-camp-advance-photo-co-hq-and-staff

Advance Photo Co. office (or, more likely, darkroom) at the Sewell Camp (halftone image from a view book of Camp Hughes produced by the company)

Scenes of departure are another frequently encountered World War I genre. Such postcards are usually real photos, which could be produced virtually on the spot for sale to participants in the event. But they were sometimes considered of sufficiently enduring interest to warrant production as lithographed cards. The following example — depicting the soldiers’ send-off at the Intercolonial Railway station in Truro, Nova Scotia — is by Valentine & Sons, the most prolific producers of picture postcards in Canada (and likely worldwide as well).

troops-leaving-truro-n-s

Valentine & Sons card no. 111,920 adds colour to a scene that we normally see only in monochromatic real photo cards.

Postcards showing such scenes only occasionally include related messages. This, fortunately, is one of the minority that does. The card turns out to have been used by a departing soldier to thank a woman who had prepared a gift packet for him. As part of the war effort, ordinary people were asked to send “care packages” to soldiers, who would then be given their names and would write them to express their appreciation. The package in this case was received by Pte. R. Grant, “C” Company of the 40th Battalion, Valcartier, Quebec, who wrote his benefactor, Mrs. Appleton P. Anderson of Sydney, C.B., as follows: “Mrs. A. P. Anderson:- I, Pte. R. Grant was the recipient of your gift on Friday night to the 40th Battalion. The boys were pleased to see the interest the women of Sydney have taken in providing for their comfort. Yours truly, Pte. R. Grant.” The rather stilted first sentence was likely dictated but the second might represent more of a personal effort. 

The next thing you would have done as a soldier is to board a ship for England, and there are many postcards that depict such departures. Below is a particularly fine example – a real photo – showing soldiers waving goodbye at Saint John, N.B., as they begin the long voyage across the Atlantic. Many of them must have been imagining this moment as the beginning of a great adventure. Whether they continued to be of that view on their return (if they returned) is another matter. The ship is the Caledonia:

transport-caledonia-leaving-st-john-n-b-with-26th-battalion-and-r-column

Transport Caledonia, leaving Saint John with the 26th Battalion and “A” Column (undated) — photo by D. Smith Reid of Saint John.

While in England, solders of the Canadian Expeditionary Force underwent additional training. Postcards were naturally a hot seller; messages to friends and family in Canada were dispatched by the thousands each day. Many of Canada’s soldiers ended up at Shorncliffe Camp in Kent (a dangerous place in its own right as it predictably attracted enemy aircraft bombardment). The postcard below shows Canadian soldiers awaiting a visit from George V:

waiting-for-the-king-at-shorncliffe-c-e-f

“For Cecilie. Cecilie this is the camp where Frank Berry hung out all summer. This is the oldest camp in England. It’s the old original camp from the Beginning of history of war. The King’s favorite camp and where the burying ground [is] of all his fancy horses that die. DAD”

This was published by Upton Publishers of Folkestone, the town adjacent to Shorncliffe camp. “Dad” was correct about the historic nature of the location, as this recent BBC story about Shorncliffe’s uncertain future makes clear.

Once the soldiers had made their way across the channel, the most distinctive form of postcard they sent back was the “silk”, as we’ve recently discussed. This example, though showing signs of age now, is typical inasmuch as it incorporates flags and the current year into an attractive design:

1917-souvenir-from-france

These postcards, known as “silks”, were manufactured by the millions in France and Belgium for sale to soldiers.

This is only a sampling of the types of Great War postcards that can be collected — there are also countless examples associated with individual regiments, real photos of soldiers, images of postwar destruction, anti-Kaiser (and pro-German) propaganda cards and many other types. The final cards, chronologically at least, are those depicting the troops’ return home and the memorials that were erected to the dead. The example below, showing the interior of Montreal’s Windsor Station, nicely combines those two elements. We see a soldier in military dress, nearly alone in the cavernous hall, overwhelmed in the image by the names of the battles in which the C.E.F. fought. Those names were already etched in the country’s consciousness when the postcard was mailed on 24 July 1919 — even though many of those who had fought in the battles were only just then making their way home.

c-p-r-windsor-station-montreal

Ypres. Festubert. The Somme. Vimy. Hill 70. Passchendaele. Amiens. Cambrai. Drocourt-Quéant. Mons.

As the Great War is now passing out of the realm of direct human memory, postcards offer us a tangible connection to the people, events and ideas that defined it.

 

THE SPIRIT OF CHILDHOOD: A CANADIAN POSTCARD (AND AVIATION) MYSTERY

By Andrew Cunningham

Postcard collecting can take you to unexpected destinations. This post is about how postcards dragged me off into suburban Canada of the 1930s. A few years ago, as part of my collecting focus on my hometown of Winnipeg, I picked up an unused real photo postcard that seemed, initially, to be of rather minor interest. It depicted a little girl seated in a replica airplane, evidently designed for children. The craft was emblazoned with the words “The Spirit of Childhood” and “Winnipeg 1934”. The setting was the public sidewalk out front of a house of an exceedingly common local style: 934 something street; or maybe 334. Unidentifiable, in other words.

the-spirit-of-childhood-winnipeg-1934

The Spirit of Childhood, taking off from a Winnipeg sidewalk circa 1934.

I filed it away and, I will admit, soon forgot all about The Spirit of Childhood. That is, until a few months ago, when to my surprise I came upon a second similar postcard. This one featured two girls in another replica airplane, which again proclaimed “The Spirit of Childhood”. But this time it wasn’t Winnipeg. It was “Vancouver 1934”.

spirit-of-childhood-vancouver-1934

Vancouver’s Spirit of Childhood has managed to attract a passenger and a co-pilot.

How odd. What was going on? Were these planes constructed from a kit ordered from (say) Eaton’s or the Bay? Not likely, it seemed — their construction and painted lettering were similar but not by any means identical. And yet it certainly appeared that they had been designed with reference to a common model and, one would presume, owed their name ultimately to Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis.

Since then, I’ve discovered several more examples of The Spirit of Childhood online. The Peel Collection at the University of Alberta shows four postcards of this genre (for a genre it appears to be). One card is emblazoned with “Edmonton 1931” and there are also three Calgary examples, one whose date is not captured in the photo and two that respectively represent the years 1936 and 1937. The last image that my Googling uncovered shows a similar scene of a plane that doesn’t have a painted reference to a city or a year, but which apparently came from the Yukon Territory.

One useful result of this search was the revelation that the difference between “my” two planes does not, after all, mean that the designs were one-offs. In fact, if you look closely at the images linked above (plus my pair), it appears that there were two models of these planes. The “Vancouver” model appears virtually identical to Edmonton 1931, Calgary 1937, Calgary 193? and the Yukon plane, while the “Winnipeg” model looks the same as Calgary 1936. So now we are left with seven planes in two designs, dating from 1931 to 1937 and each being the subject of photographic postcards in a similar style. By that I mean that every single one of the photos has been taken on a sidewalk in front of a house — a natural place for the plane to be, I suppose, but you’d think that the odds would be that at least one out of seven photographers would have decided on some other equally good location. To speculate: could the photos have been intended for submission to an organization — to the manufacturer or a retailer, for example — as part of a contest the rules of which specified how the required photo was to look? Frankly, I haven’t a clue.

Another thing to note is that — going by what shows up in the first few results returned by Google — there don’t seem to be any U.S. examples, or examples from eastern Canada. Surely that must mean something….

But all I have at this point is that these planes were made from some sort of plan or kit, that there were at least two designs in use, and that these were distributed across Western Canada in the 1930s. They may have been intended to represent something about Canadian aviation, but — if that’s the case — I’m not sure what.

Anyone who might be able to shed some light on this aviation mystery is welcome to submit a comment!

 

POSTCARD DIGITIZATION (AND SOME STARS OF YESTERYEAR!)

By Andrew Cunningham

The Winnipeg Public Library is engaged in a major postcard digitization project, based (thus far) on the collections of two TPC members – Rob McInnes and the late Martin Berman. The postcard images that have been uploaded so far are available on the Library’s impressive Past Forward website. In the course of working on the collection, one of the librarians, Christy, unearthed a great story after finding a postcard written from Winnipeg by an early twentieth-century actress who went by the stage name Ruth Maycliffe. Ruth’s story, together with some context from Christy about to the Library’s impressive project, is recounted in this post on the Library’s “Readers’ Salon” blog. It’s well worth reading.

Postcards of popular stage personalities were collected with great enthusiasm at the height of the postcard craze (roughly 1905-1910). However, because the names are rarely recognizable to us, today’s collectors often don’t show much interest in the cards that depict them. That’s unfortunate, because with a little online research performers’ publicity postcards often yield up interesting stories. Not infrequently, the careers of the vaudeville-era actors who appeared on early 20th century postcards carried on right into the television era. As a random example, one very Edwardian-looking music-hall actress whose postcard somehow ended up in my collection turned out, on further investigation, to have been a guest star in several episodes of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone (playing a very old lady, of course!)

Below is a typical card of this genre, a “Philco” effort showing the (once) famous Dare sisters — Phyllis (1887-1975) and Zena (1890-1975) — together with their mother, Harriette Dones. These cards were especially popular in England, with major publishers constantly issuing new series featuring West End actors, sometimes (as below) in the fashions of the day and sometimes as they had appeared in their most recent or most famous roles:

the-misses-zena-phyllis-dare-mother

By the way, we’re always interested to hear about postcard digitization projects from anywhere in Canada (or anywhere else if the subject-matter would interest our members). Please send us a note if you know of any that aren’t mentioned on our site.

CARD TALK – FALL 2016 HIGHLIGHTS

By Andrew Cunningham

The Toronto Postcard Club publishes a 24-page magazine, Card Talk, thrice annually. The latest issue, Fall 2016, is on newsstands now! Well, not exactly on newsstands, because the only way to get a copy — quite literally, as we can’t afford to print any extras — is to join the Club. Just to rub it in a bit for those of you who haven’t yet joined, here’s a little summary of what you could be reading right now if only you had! (Of course, there are more great issues to come, so all is not lost if you become a member today!) For current members, you’ll find some of the links mentioned in the articles in this edition here, so you don’t have to search for them or type them out yourselves.

Dominion Land Office, Moose Jaw, Canada

A Lewis Rice postcard from Moose Jaw, posted in the summer of 1911.

First up is an article written by your editor, the second in our series of short pieces about Canada’s local postcard photographers. Last issue we featured Donald Buchanan of Arcola, Saskatchewan. This time around, it’s Lewis Rice (1863-1913), one of Canada’s better known independent producers of lithographed postcards on account of his prodigious output of images of the Moose Jaw district of Saskatchewan (occasionally ranging as far away as southern Alberta). This article, however, focuses on his less well-known earlier career in Nova Scotia, where he produced view books and postcards in and of the Town of Truro and surrounding areas. Looking at Rice’s pre-Saskatchewan life, we find that he was from a Cape Breton family that had produced many professional photographers, including a brother George who gained fame — unfortunately posthumously — as photographer to the ill-fated Greely expedition to Canada’s Arctic in 1883-84.

The second article is an expanded account of our May 16, 2016 meeting on printing techniques. This was one of our best meetings ever, with a great talk by Stephen Sword on the history and technical details of the printing techniques that allowed our little treasures to exist. Beginning with the story of Alois Senefelder‘s invention of lithography in late 18th century Germany, Stephen proceeded to talk about the development of chromolithography and other processes such as the collotype (a gelatine-based process that gave us some of the most attractive monochrome postcards). The article summarizing his presentation, written by the TPC’s Barb Henderson, notes a number of sources for further information, such as Encyclopedia Britannica’s article on the halftone process and a website called “Legion of Andy”, which has a number of very useful posts (such as this one) on halftone screens and “Ben Day dots” in the context of comic-book art.

After an account of recent postcard shows in Montreal and London (U.K.) by long-time TPC member Bob Atkinson, including a real photo postcard obtained by Bob showing a patriotic parade in an unknown Ontario city (below left — any guesses as to where this is?), this edition of Card Talk moved on to an article based on another excellent talk from earlier this year, member Ian Robertson’s carefully researched account of the history of the International Stationery Co., a prodigious postcard producer based in Picton, the historic seat of Prince Edward County in Ontario. Ian recounted the tale of his 35-year quest to find out everything there is to know about this well-known company and its founder, James Livingstone, who owned a chain of small department stores in Picton and other towns, each trading as “The Fair”.

PAGES 10-11 - Postcard Shows - Figure 8 (Celebration in unidentified city)

Which city is this? (Click to enlarge)

The quintessential International Stationery card, illustrated here (below, at right) by an example showing a scene in Windsor, Ontario, is a collotype on a sepia coloured card stock. While this would have been ordered from a manufacturer in Germany, as the majority of Canada’s printed postcards were before World War I, it is strongly associated with Livingstone’s International Stationery Co. because this design was rarely if ever used by other Canadian postcard producers. One of the strong points of Ian’s research is simply that he had the good sense to get started early. As a result, back in the 1980s, he was able to interview several people with first-person memories of how postcards were ordered and sold at “The Fair”. Sources who directly recollect that era have long since disappeared and it has sadly become impossible to do similar research on “Golden Age” postcard companies in the 2010s. But Ian’s discoveries, as set out in the article, include information about production and distribution that would likely apply to many other Canadian producers and sellers.

Ferry Landing, Windsor, Ont.

Ferry Landing, Windsor, Ont. (posted 1914). Its sepia-toned look is common to most postcards published by the International Stationery Co.

A couple of shorter pieces about the First World War are also to be found in this issue. One of them, written by TPC executive member John Sayers, brings to light the very interesting story of the False Armistice. While today we often think of November 11, 1918 as the day when a seemingly interminable war crashed to a sudden stop, in point of fact rumours of the impending end of hostilities had been rampant for quite some time. On November 7, it turns out, a false alarm went out to the whole world in the form of an erroneous United Press newswire story out of Paris. Newspapers around the world joyfully reported that the war had ended, in some cases issuing their already-printed “The War Is Over!” special editions — when in fact the war was still “on”. In the Ontario town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, the happy celebrations were recorded in real photo postcard form, four days early! John happened to see these postcards while visiting a local museum and has kindly shared them, and the story they represent, with us.

PAGES 17-19 - Border - Figure 02 (Treaty of 1818)

The Historical Calendar Advertising Co. of New York published a series of postcards featuring historical lessons for each day of the year. This card commemorates the Treaty of 1818 that established the 49th parallel as the U.S.-Canadian boundary west of the Lake of the Woods.

Finally, your editor contributed an article on postcards depicting the Canada-U.S. border. From cards showing border markers, to historical/educational cards commemorating the anniversary of the historic Treaty of 1818, to images of such “border oddities” as the split U.S./Canada post office in the Quebec/Vermont border town of Beebe Plain, to cards championing U.S. immigration into the Canadian prairie provinces, images of the border are plentiful in Canadian postcards, and collectively form a worthwhile area of sub-specialization.

In addition to these stories are smaller notes on postcard happenings and the usual calendars of events, advertisements and other regular features that make Card Talk such a great value.

EMBROIDERED SILK POSTCARDS

By Andrew Cunningham

Among the most beautiful collectible postcards are embroidered “silk” cards, the vast majority of which were made in France and Belgium during the First World War and sold mainly to British Empire and U.S. troops. The cards featured colourful imagery, such as the butterfly in the example below. Most of the designs — although by no means all of them — incorporated militaristic or patriotic elements, such as the four national symbols embroidered into the butterfly’s wings in our example. Because so many “silks” were produced, and because they were usually retained as keepsakes, they are more common than one might expect (and not always quite as valuable as those who find one or two in “Grandma’s album” tend to hope).

As the website of the Imperial War Museum in London notes, the most sought-after cards tend to be rarities with imagery specific to particular regiments (including many Canadian examples, as TPC member Mike Smith recently discussed in the Wayback Times). Also worth checking out is this site featuring choice examples from the collection of a British deltiologist. World War I silk postcards, including those with Canadian themes, are a terrific collecting area that, with a little time and effort, could produce a beautiful and historically informative collection at a relatively modest cost.

[WW I butterfly silk]

Butterflies were one common motif on World War I silk postcards, typically with flag elements worked into the stitching of the wings.

HOCKEY-PLAYING FELLERS…

By Andrew Cunningham

Just to follow up on John Sayers’ baseball mystery, I thought I’d tell a tale of my own that shows how much fun it can be to solve a postcard puzzle of just that sort.


Mine is about the boys of winter, not the boys of summer, though. A few months back, I acquired a rather ragtag group of ice hockey postcards, most of which seemed to date from 1910-1940. They weren’t early NHL or Stanley Cup treasures or anything as desirable as that. Instead, they mostly seemed to depict school and local players (or entire teams) from Quebec and New Brunswick. A smaller number were from Ontario and a scattering of U.S. border states, and still others were simply unidentified and, so far at least, unidentifiable. (Actually, I should add — if only by way of warning — that many of them had been misidentified, possibly deliberately, by a past seller who seemed to have decided to “identify” the cards with the name of a randomly-chosen school or town whose first letter conveniently matched with the letter in the monogram on the team’s sweater. Hockey sweaters in those days almost always featured either a large plain letter or an artistic “monogram” design made up of a letter or letters — think the “CH” of the Montreal Canadiens or the Boston Bruins’ spoked-“B” — both are survivors from that period.)

This particular card was one of several teams whose identities I was able to pinpoint, eventually, and (in this case) after having learned a lot about a little known corner of Canadian history.

[Baptist hockey team]

The card shows what is clearly a high school team, with its gentlemanly teacher-coach. A noteworthy feature of the card, which would have required a bit of photographic expertise and effort to achieve, is that one player is shown in an inset photo. There is nothing to say which team it is and the monogram visible on the team’s sweaters is one of those that isn’t easy for the modern eye to interpret.

But … there was a big clue. The names of the players — all but one — had dutifully been recorded on the reverse:

Back Row:

Hamilton
C. Cook
Nel. Auclair
Mr. Massé, pastor
M. Larivière
L. Brouillet
E. Jones

Front Row:

Groundwater
B. McCann
J. Derrick
[not named]
J. Hughes

The boy in the inset photo — who proved to be the key to solving the mystery — was named in full: Leslie Isaacks. 

A search on Ancestry.ca quickly revealed the sad news that a Leslie Raymond Isaacks, schoolboy, had died at Kingston, Ontario on 16 June 1931 at the age of 16. Leslie was a son of Charles and Sophie Isaacks, English immigrants who were Baptists — an important detail, as it turned out.

The information about Leslie Isaacks was interesting, but something didn’t fit. If this was a high school in Kingston, why were so many of the surnames French-Canadian? Another curious fact struck me: “Mr. Massé” is described as “pastor”. Not a priest but a pastor. It sounded as though, very unusually for someone who was (presumably) French-Canadian, he might have been a Protestant … and quite possibly a nonconformist Protestant, such as a Baptist (Leslie Isaacks’ religion, as I’d just discovered).

Hmm… I checked online for the next most complete and distinctive name: Nelson Auclair. Ancestry.ca yielded up the lad’s birth registration, which was in Marieville near St-Hyacinthe, Quebec. Sure enough, young Nelson was also a Baptist. Moreover, he had been baptized in 1913 by none other than G. N. Massé, pasteur.

Searching for G. N. Massé on Google brought to light the interesting history of French-Canadian Baptists in Quebec and particularly of the Feller Institute (or College), established in the 1840s in what was then Canada East by Baptist missionaries from Switzerland. An old history of Quebec’s French-speaking Baptists found online (in a very poorly OCR’d version) tells the interesting story of the Swiss Baptists’ arrival in Lower Canada and the not always welcoming response of local Catholics. It also makes reference to G. N. Massé and his brother, Arthur Massé. Wikipedia recounts the later history of Feller College, which was located in the village of Grande-Ligne south of Montreal (since renamed St-Blaise-sur-Richelieu), down to 1967, when it closed for good.

So, the pastor in the photo is one of the Massés, or perhaps a son who followed them in a life of service to the church. And that hard-to-interpret monogram is an “F”, for “Feller”.

Why then is Leslie in an inset? Well, it appears from his death certificate that he had been undergoing treatment in Kingston, his hometown, for two months prior to his death in June. So perhaps he had had to leave his mates behind in Quebec before the team photo could be taken and, not wishing to forget him, they had the photographer insert a photo that had previously been taken of him in a track or basketball uniform. If so, that would plausibly date this image to the winter or spring of 1931.

Another mystery solved. And here’s to Leslie and his friends, the Feller College hockey team. They’d have to be at least 100 years old to be alive today, but I’d be willing to bet that for as long as they may each have lived, not one of them ever forgot their lost teammate.

BALLPARK MYSTERY

By John Sayers

We love baseball. We love our home team (except occasionally when they blow it in the 9th inning!). We have friends that have travelled to every ball park in the majors – plus a half a dozen that are no longer being used! They have even been to some of the Double A and Triple A ballparks.

Even though we don’t collect that subject ourselves, we get entranced when we find an image like the one shown here. It looks like a ball park, but there doesn’t seem to be a backstop behind home plate. There is a player in a white shirt who seems to be hitting practice balls to the infield – and maybe the outfield that we can’t see. There is a film camera behind home plate. And there’s a police officer on horseback, and other officers on foot for ‘crowd control’.

Ballpark Mystery (Sayers)

There is a big crowd. It looks like 1920s – or maybe 1930s. The few women spectators are wearing hats. The men spectators are wearing an assortment of hats – including fedoras, caps, and ‘pork pie’ hats. Are the men on the field playing ball – or making a baseball film?

This was a very good sized stadium for its day, and so must have been in a major American city. But which one was it?

O.K. you ball fans out there. Where the heck is this?

CHEER UP!

By John Sayers

CheerUp

It seems that even a hundred years ago many people needed cheering up. This Canadian Pacific postcard was produced and created in 1910. On the face of this card Canadian Pacific suggested some reasons for their readers to ‘Cheer up’. One of them was ‘Wheat Growing’. The other was ‘Money Flowing’. Hey, that’s not too different from today! The farmers are watching the skies intently for the needed rain to nurture their crops. And the rest of us are looking at our VISA statements and our bank accounts hoping that money will flow from somewhere to deal with the costs of our surprise expenses – or our spending excesses.

You’re thinking that it’s only a postcard – how can that cheer you up? Well, it tells you that over the intervening hundred-plus years, you aren’t the only one who has had to grapple with difficult crops or daunting debts. And you probably won’t be the last. But if they survived – and most did – a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work will help you to smile through it all. So cheer up!