By H. T. Holman
Because almost no company records from postcard publishers have made it into archival collections, much information about the production process has been lost. The names of photographers, the nature of the contracts, wholesaling arrangements can be added to the loss of catalogues of images produced. One of the continuing questions is how many cards were produced. Historians have identified the collapse of interest following the card mania, and the subsequent withdrawal or failure of companies is attributed to over-supply but we don’t how many cards were being put into the marketplace.
For Prince Edward Island, there are a few tantalising clues. The province was certainly not immune from postcard fever and both local publishers and almost all of the national companies produced cards for the Island. The distributor for many of these companies, as well as the producer of cards under their own company name was Carter’s Bookstore (appearing as “Carter & Co.” or “C. & Co.” on later cards), who handled both retail and wholesale business in paper goods and souvenirs.
In 1904 they advertised a series of gummed stamps and souvenir photo books as well as a shipment of 5,500 postcards they had just received from their printer. However, three years later the newspaper advertising boasted that they had contracted with European manufacturers for half a million souvenir post cards “of the Beauty Spots of Prince Edward Island.” That represents more than five cards for every man, woman and child in the province. The number appears to include only view cards and does not include the many comic, holiday and topical postcards that would have rounded out their stock.
The number may be “mere puffery” but if accurate probably does not include postcards from Canadian printers such as Warwick Bros. & Rutter or McCoy Publishing in nearby Moncton and the numbers of cards could be much higher.
With numbers such as these, it is small wonder that a hundred years later there are so many surviving cards from the province.
While I am astounded by these overall numbers I still have no indication as the size of the press run of any individual card or set of cards and no idea if these numbers are reflected in other parts of the country. I would be interested in learning more about the numbers game. Perhaps TPC members could share their findings through the medium of this blog or Card Talk.
Editor’s note: We’d be interested to hear what other TPC members (and readers who are just stopping by) have learned about the volume of postcards produced and sold in their areas. To have hundreds of thousands of surviving manufactured articles from over a century ago, as anyone can see at our Club’s annual sale, one would have to think that the original “supply” must have been many, many multiples of that. But how many is a tough question to answer in the almost complete absence of records that Mr. Holman notes. You can read more of Mr. Holmes research on PEI vintage postcards in his blog “straitpost”