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Cataloguing Canada’s Real Photo Postcard Backs: A Modest Proposal

This is not a post so much as a proposal to begin the long-needed effort to catalogue the real photo postcard backs used in Canada. While most “Canadian” postcard blanks were manufactured by U.S. manufacturers, their inscriptions were often modified to suit Canadian tastes and postal regulations. Today, most people rely on Playle’s, a U.S. site, for information about dating RPPCs without recognizing that what that (excellent) site says might not apply to Canada. Also, it is much more useful to catalogue the entire back rather than just the stamp box — as Playle’s does –, since backs often differ even when the stamp box doesn’t (not to mention that the stamp box on many cards is covered up with a stamp).

With this in mind, and as a starting-point and/or place-holder, I’m uploading a Word copy (link below) of a classification system that I’ve used in cataloguing RPPCs from one company, the Winnipeg Photo Co. of Napinka, Manitoba, which produced RPPCs across southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan (as well as Alberta’s “Western Canada Ranching Series”) under a number of names from about 1905-1912. There are many other backs, of course, but this is at least a beginning. 

My medium-term intention is to turn this lowly blog post into a page on the TPC website, complete with illustrations of the back types. But for the moment, this will need to do (and may generate some discussion). 

WPC Appendix – Postcard Backs (classification scheme)

Below are examples of AZO backs 1(a), 1(b) and 2, from the attached.   — Andrew Cunningham



Voting Yes To Political Postcards

(1) Rt. Hon. H. H. Asquith, Prime Minister of Great Britain (1908-1916) in a Valentine & Sons card posted at Pakenham, Ontario on 6 November 1914.

(2) Christian Kloepfer of Guelph, Conservative candidate for South Wellington, 1904. Warwick Bros. & Rutter card no. 616.

Don’t know why, but now seems like a good time to talk about political postcards. Canadian postcards promoting candidates for office can be found from the early 1900s right through the 1950s and 60s — indeed, some candidates may still be using them today. Many postcards also featured leading political figures of the time, whether in a reverent tone or in a negative one.

Reflecting the fact that the postcard’s Golden Age roughly coincided with the Edwardian era (1901-1910), the use of political postcards seems to have peaked around the time of the 1908 federal election. A majority of early election cards date to that campaign; cards from the preceding (1904) and subsequent (1911) elections are significantly less common. I have never seen a postcard from the 1900 federal election, although there must surely have been some.

For an example of a political postcard, we can look to the U.K. as well as Canada – Figure (1) shows British Prime Minister H.H. Asquith (1852-1928) in a patriotic “Men of the Moment” series. In those days it was still something of a novelty to be able to see what the leaders of one’s country looked like, and postcard collectors of the time collected series showing public figures. Some series of images would focus on leaders of one party while others were more inclusive.

Canadian Campaign Postcards

In a Canadian context, Warwick Bros. & Rutter produced many cards of this type. Whether the company decided which politicians would appear, or whether it was more of a “pay to play” arrangement, is not known. There is certainly a fascinating mixture of well-known politicians of the time and men who are now extremely obscure figures — learning the stories of the latter is definitely one of the most interesting side-benefits of this type of collecting.

The election of 1904

In Figure (2), we have an early Canadian example. Dating from the federal campaign of 1904, this Warwick Bros. & Rutter postcard depicts Christian Kloepfer (1847-1913), “The Right Man With The Right Ideas” for the riding of South Wellington. Kloepfer, a Conservative, had been elected MP for the riding in 1896 but was edged out in 1900 by Liberal Hugh Guthrie (1866-1939), who narrowly defeated him again in the 1904 rematch (despite the appealing postcard). 

The election of 1908

(3) The Laurier-McIntyre postcard, with vignettes of the Liberal leader and the local MP printed on a pre-printed image of the original Centre Block.

As noted above, 1908 was the peak year for Canadian political postcards. Warwick Bros. & Rutter came out with a design in a popular format that featured headshots of a party’s national leader and a local candidate. Not a firm to play favourites, Warwick created election postcards in this format for both the Liberals and the Conservatives. Figure (3) shows a Liberal example, with Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier (1841-1919) featured alongside Gilbert H. McIntyre (1852-1913), MP for the Ontario riding of South Perth.

The prosperity that the Laurier Liberals wished to uphold as they sought a fourth term in office in 1908 was the theme of a series of anti-Conservative postcards featuring illustrations by popular cartoonist Lou Skuce (1886-1951), then of The Ottawa Journal. Skuce’s characteristic style, familiar from his many hockey-related illustrations, was the opposite of minimalist — highly detailed and witty.

In Figure (4), Jack Canuck — the personification of Canada — chooses the company of the dapper and dignified Laurier, who appears as the very picture of calm assurance alongside an image his signature project, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. Far behind, the Conservative leader Robert Borden (1854-1937) struggles to catch up, dragged along by Tory stalwart George Foster (1847-1931) invariably depicted in these cartoon images as the power behind the throne of a hapless Borden (replete with Mephistophelean beard). 

(4) The steady leadership of Sir Wilfrid Laurier resulted in an uninterrupted tenure of 15 years as Prime Minister of Canada, a record unequalled before or since. However, the Grand Trunk Pacific, enthusiastically promoted by his government, ultimately proved to be one railway too many for western Canada.

Thematic Political Postcards

In addition to political parties and candidates, political subjects were frequently the subject of postcards. Laurier’s promotion of Reciprocity (free trade) with the U.S. was the dominant political issue of the era. A series of cards issued in the 1911 campaign, in which Laurier was finally defeated by Borden’s Tories, featured illustrations by Newton McConnell (1877-1940) of The Toronto Daily News. Figure (5) is a typical example, playing to longstanding Canadian suspicion of American motivations. 

The reciprocity debate

(5) This anti-reciprocity cartoon by Newton McConnell, likely produced around the time of the election of 1911, also features the latest in technology, the long-distance telephone call.

Another reciprocity postcard is shown in Figure (6), where the western provinces are depicted as showing leading Manitoba Liberal Clifford Sifton the door. Distributed by The Montreal Witness, the card is referring to Sifton’s break with the Liberals over the reciprocity issue in 1911. While he retired from politics at that point, he provided a vital endorsement to Borden’s successful Conservatives. The cartoon is signed by “Phil Drew”, a name (perhaps a pen-name) that appears to have been associated with editorial cartoons in other Canadian papers around 1912.

(6) Phil Drew cartoon from The Montreal Witness, 4 March 1911. Three postcards are known in this series, which appear to have been marketed by Witness publisher John Dougall to be sent out en masse in hopes of influencing political discourse.

Prohibition (“Banish the Bar”)

Other issues of the day were also dealt with extensively, including the women’s suffrage movement, which appears primarily in English and American cards, and the related temperance movement, which is better represented in Canada. The Warwick Bros. & Rutter card illustrated in Figures (7a-b), which features the Canadian “Banish the Bar” slogan, concludes our brief excursion into the political realm. We’ve only scratched the surface, however; a much wider range of political postcards may be found in the two volumes of Mike Smith’s The Canadian Patriotic & Heraldic Postcard Handbook 1897-1945 (2013-14).

(7a) Warwick Bros. & Rutter printed this “Banish the Bar” message on one of their standard “patriotic” card blanks (normally a photo would have been printed into the rectangular area). The “Banish the Bar” slogan was also overprinted on the back of the card, in order that there could be no mistaking the message.

(7b) The back of the Warwick card, with the BANISH THE BAR overprint. Likely circa 1905.

Birth Of A Cliché, and Reflections on Postcard Writing Styles

Many books on postcard themes have titles that include the phrase “Wishing You Were Here”, undoubtedly chosen because those four words evoke postcards as much or more than any others. And yet, as other collectors may also have noticed, the classic clichéd postcard message — which in its fullest form runs, “Having a good time. Wish you were here”– is actually not found with any frequency on old postcards. Truth to tell, I’ve never seen those exact words, even once, among the thousands and thousands of postcard messages that I’ve seen. That’s not to say that I don’t have a few postcards with variations on the “Wish you were here” part, but I’ve never seen anything approaching the whole thing.

My longstanding conclusion, so far as I’d given the matter any thought, had been that “Having a good time. Wish you were here” must have become a go-to message for hurried postcardists well after the Golden Age (pre-1920) period that is the focus of my and many other collections. Well, I’m pleased to be able to say that that analysis might not be entirely true — it appears that I gave up too soon. On the reverse of a recently acquired (and very early) Canadian Valentine & Sons card — “A Young Enthusiast on the Humber, near Toronto”  (no. 100,111) — there is, lo and behold, this simple message from “Leah”, written in the late summer of the year 1906:

Having a good time here. Wish you were here.

But for the first “here”, my prayers would have been entirely and perfectly answered, but (not being a fussy type) I think I can still declare victory. The greatest cliché in postcard history can in fact be traced to the earliest years of the fad. The mysterious “Leah”, who tantalizingly enveloped her own uncommon name in mysterious quotation marks, thus enters the ranks of the deltiological immortals.

The elusive message, finally found (almost!). Did Miss Maggie McNulty appreciate the significance of what she’d received? Did Leah’s sentiment sound fresh and clever to her, rather than hackneyed? Wish we were there to find out!


The postcard image is worth noting in its own right. It’s a charming example of an uncommon early style of Valentine & Sons postcards — a simple, uncoloured collotype.

Early 20th century writing styles and conventions, as commonly seen on postcards

That brings to mind a question about what we learn from the letters on early twentieth century postcards, in general — not from the content of the messages themselves, but from the handwriting, spelling, grammar, forms of address and so on. Here are a few examples that I’ve noticed over the years:

  • The very common use of the colon-dash (or maybe colon-hyphen) after the salutation, as “Dear Maggie :-” — this has totally disappeared but must have been a staple of children’s lessons around the turn of the 20th century;
  • The tendency to omit punctuation almost entirely from brief messages. This is not simply a function of being poorly educated: punctuation is often lacking even in notes penned by writers who spelled well and were clearly men or women of some sophistication. Commas were barely used and anything more esoteric than that — even a question mark — was quite unusual (as was the use of paragraphs);
  • It’s unusual for there to be even a P.O. box number in small-town addresses until around 1910 or after – almost always did the name of the town suffice;
  • On the odd occasion that we still write letters, and also in emails, we often write “Dear Mom” and “Dear Dad” — but in the Golden Age days it was equally common to include lateral relationships like “Sister” or “Aunt” in the salutation in exactly the same way, without appending the addressee’s given name. Other than for direct forebears (parents and grandparents), we have lost that reluctance to “first-name” people;
  • Grown children sometimes signed letters to their parents in a rather formal fashion, using their full first and last names, which would seem odd to us today. 

What other bygone conventions have you noticed in postcard letters? We’d be glad to get your examples and/or to hear about any other early examples of postcard messages that say “Having a good time; wish you were here”, or something close to it.  

(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


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


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)


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).





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 Canada. The exhibition, curated by Harry Holman (TPC#1534), features photographic images produced by Louson including images from his original negatives, copies of views which were featured 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 with the colours added by the postcard publishers.  This 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.


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


Our annual Seasonal Party 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.



Corner King & Yonge Sts., Toronto, Canada (Nerlich & Co.)

Harbor, Toronto, Canada (Nerlich & Co.)

The Fall 2017 edition of the TPC magazine Card Talk is now out: our members should be receiving their copies in the next day or two. Because July 1st represented the 150th anniversary of Confederation (“Canada 150”), the issue has several articles of a “patriotic” nature, beginning with some reflections by veteran member Joe Rozdzilski on what Canada means to him as a son of immigrants who came to Toronto in the 1930s. Joe provided us with some illustrations, including a couple of lovely patriotic cards from Nerlich & Co. This design, which is embossed and beautifully printed, must surely be the single most elegant of the large and common series of lithographed Canadian cards published by the major manufacturers after the turn of the century. These Nerlich cards recall familiar Toronto scenes of the early 20th century — the corner of King and Yonge streets downtown and the busy (and very industrial) harbour. 

Shields and Arms

The provincial shields on these cards are of some interest. Nova Scotia’s, at the extreme right, isn’t the familiar blue cross of St. Andrew on a white background, but the province’s older design centered – understandably enough – on a fish (salmon?). Also, because they are post-1905 (likely not by much), the cards show Alberta and Saskatchewan as provinces, but at this point Alberta was still using the shield of its predecessor – the North West Territory – which featured a polar bear (rare in Alberta!) over four sheaves of wheat. Saskatchewan was apparently more on the ball, as it had already come up with its own exclusive design, featuring a more modest three sheaves of wheat. 

Curiously, the coat of arms depicted at lower left is not that of Canada but rather the United Kingdom’s coat of arms (which was of course that of King Edward VII, who was also King of Canada – so not at all inappropriate). 

Granary of the World

Also (partly) on a Canada-Britain theme, Barb Henderson has contributed an article on postcards with the theme “Granary of the World”, “Britain’s Granary” or the “Granary of the Empire” … that sort of thing. Among these are several of the ceremonial arch that the Dominion government erected in London in 1902 at the time of Edward VII’s coronation. There is also a fine example (see below) from the well-known series of twelve postcards issued (seemingly) by the federal government around 1906 to encourage immigration from the U.S. The illustrations on these cards originally appeared in a pamphlet published in 1903 by the Interior ministry of Sir Clifford Sifton.

The Granary of the World. (Government of Canada, c. 1906)

Repatriation of Lost Treasures

In another article, long-time member Bob Atkinson writes of his latest travels to postcard shows far and wide. This time his journeys took him to Vancouver and Nottingham, where he met organizer Brian Lund, for many years publisher (with his wife Mary) of the British periodical Picture Postcard Monthly and still at work on the Picture Postcard Annual. As usual, Bob was on the lookout for hidden Canadian treasures and (having forewarned dealers to his visit) came back with quite a handful. Below is a photo of Bob (at right) with his English cousin Malcolm Henderson and Mr. Lund in the middle. 

Malcolm Henderson, Brian Lund and Bob Atkinson at the Nottingham (U.K.) show. (courtesy R. Atkinson)

 Theatre Cards from New York City

In not-specifically-Canadian news, we have accounts of some of our club talks, including Kyle Jolliffe’s “Broadway Ballyhoo”, an examination of New York City theatre postcards from 1900 to 1916. Kyle’s many postcards include the Korean comic opera “The Sho-Gun”. Many of the cards were produced by the Rotograph Co. as publicity for upcoming shows. Kyle, who focuses on New York postcards, also highlighted rarely-seen sets of Canadian cards by Warwick Bros. & Rutter – the “Celebrated Actor” series, which featured 36 or 37 cards – and by W. G. MacFarlane, who used Rotograph images in another hard-to-find series of cards.

And Much More…

Other articles recount a talk by Ralph Beaumont – author of Heckman’s Canadian Pacific, an outstanding volume of early 20th century railway images not no Canadian history buff (or railway buff) should be without – and our own Mike Smith’s talk on his (and Larry Mohring’s) equally fascinating volume on the Canadian photographer Reuben Sallows, whose photographs were used on hundreds of Canadian postcards illustrating “scenes from ordinary life” in the young country of 1900-1910, in addition to numerous covers of the Canadian magazine Rod & Gun and illustrations in many U.S. periodicals of the day as well. Mike’s book may be ordered here

John Sayers contributed articles on the ongoing TPC auction and the Canadian National Exhibition, while Andrew Cunningham added an article about the use of Esperanto in postcards and postcard exchanges. 

 Join Us!

As always, we conclude by noting that Card Talk is not available on newsstands – it’s only to be had by joining our Club (or, I suppose, by craftily befriending someone who already is … but in that case why not join anyway and stop being such a mooch?!) Sign-up details are available here. We hope everyone had a happy “Canada 150”!

(By Andrew Cunningham)