By Andrew Cunningham
TPC members should have received the newest Card Talk this past week, a wee bit behind schedule but hopefully worth the wait. Articles this time around include John Sayers on the Halifax Explosion, particularly the cards published by Novelty Manufacturing & Art Co. of Montreal with images that were credited to Underwood & Underwood of New York, the famous stereo view publishers. The article identifies seven Novelty Manufacturing & Art Co. cards between the numbers 523 and 536 that feature Halifax explosion images — 523, 525, 528 and 533-536. Presumably the others in that range, and likely many other Novelty Manufacturing cards, also have views of the disaster. One of the cards, no. 525, “Beautiful Halifax Church, Mile and a Half Away, Wrecked by Explosion”, is seen in Figure 1.A second series of Halifax Explosion cards identified by John was published by Cox Bros. Co. of Halifax. This series, which appears to be somewhat less common than the Novelty Manufacturing cards, is represented by ten cards in John’s collection, mostly numbered between 629 and 704, although there is also a “999” in the set. These images are very interesting and include a close-up view of the Imo — the ship that started the catastrophe by colliding with the Mont Blanc –, an image entitled “Kaye Street Methodist Church” in which there is no church other than what looks like a small pile of lumber in the midst of some broken trees, and (most interestingly, perhaps) the Cox Bros. studio itself, which was very badly damaged (there’s actually a bit of a story there, as John points out, but it’s a bit too involved to get into in a short summary like this).
A second feature article in this issue is Canadian Banks on Postcards. The author looks at banks in the early twentieth-century, from provisional structures built in brand-new Prairie towns to “skyscrapers” in Winnipeg and Toronto that, in their day, were the tallest commercial buildings in the country. The cover of this issue features a Canadian Bank of Commerce branch at Granum, Alberta (Figure 2) that may look familiar to western Canadians — not because they have all been to Granum, but rather because the Bank of Commerce used the same “kit” branch — manufactured by the B.C. Mills, Timber & Trading Co. — in small towns across the West.
We also look at interesting postcard find by our member Harry Holman, whose “Straitpost“ website (incidentally) is full of interesting thoughts on Prince Edward Island postcards. Harry recently discovered a Warwick Bros. & Rutter postcard of Prince of Wales College, Charlottetown, the reverse of which contained an interesting letter from English-born flier Harry Bingham Brown (1883-1954), one of the pioneer aviators in the United States.
As was not uncommon in the years leading up to the Great War, Brown was doing the summer fair circuit and had arrived in Charlottetown in late September of 1913 to work the P.E.I. Provincial Exhibition. After a successful run at Halifax, the Charlottetown engagement was something of a disappointment (as Harry Holman notes) — Brown’s aircraft drifted away from the fairground on both of his flight attempts, disappearing quickly from the view of the eager crowds and not returning (not crashing either, but forced to land quite a distance away). Anyway, Brown wrote back to a friend in Massachusetts about how the trip was going — we won’t spill the beans on the contents of the note here, but the short message is an interesting artefact of the golden age of daredevil aviation and the sort of thing that, as a collector, is a great reward for the assiduous inspection of even the most nondescript postcards at sales and online.
This edition of Card Talk contains a lot more, including more 40th Anniversary “TPC Memories” photos, letters and observations from readers, Barb Henderson’s account of our meetings in the fall and winter of 2016-17 and our usual calendar of future meetings and postcard events across Canada and the northern U.S. If you’re not one of the in crowd that can proudly display this marvel of deltiology on your very own coffee table, then we strongly suggest that you sign up today for a TPC membership (if you act soon, we won’t send you a ginsu knife, or even two ginsu knives, but you will be able to participate in the latest instalment of our fabulous members-only online auction, which raises funds for the Club and begins in June 2017).
In regards to the Halifax Explosion cards mentioned, there were at least 27 Novelty Mfg. cards produced and also at least 32 by Cox Bros. These #’s reflect the findings of Ken MacDonald that he published in his catalogue “Postcards of Halifax Regional Municipality (First Edition)”.
Also of note regarding the Novelty Mfg. cards that were copyrighted by Underwood & Underwood, they are some of the only known postcard photographs taken by prolific Halifax photographer Wallace R. MacAskill. He did sign a few real photo cards but only a very few. He is however suspected of having contributed greatly to Halifax’s body of postcard images, especially for MacLachlan Studios.
Thanks for the information, which is exactly what we were hoping to find. We’re more than open to a follow-up article if anyone out there wants to write one up! Otherwise I’ll just put a note in the next CT.
MacAskill’s story sounds similar to that of Winnipeg’s Lewis Foote, who is the iconic local photographer of the first half of the 20th century while having only a handful of lithographed and real photo postcards to his name (that we know of). It’s always a thrill to find one.