• SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER – WE’RE TAKING THE SUMMER OFF

    September is also when postcard shows resume – in Merrickville (Sept. 9th) and Dundas (Sept 24th).

    Details on our show calendar page.

CARD TALK – SPRING 2017 HIGHLIGHTS

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.

Figure 1. Beautiful Halifax Church, Mile and a Half Away, Wrecked by Explosion [no. 525]

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. 

Figure 2. Canadian Bank of Commerce, Granum, Alberta.

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).

 

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.

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[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]

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[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. 

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[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!

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[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! 

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

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[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.

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[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 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.

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[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.

 

 

 

 

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”.

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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.

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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.