Postcards from the Sky: Aerial images of the Charlottetown Waterfront 1930-2000

Before the invention of the airplane residents of Charlottetown would have had little idea of what their city looked like from the skies. In 1878 they got a hint of the City’s appearance with the publication of a panoramic view of the city1. The Semi-Weekly Patriot noted its publication ” We do not know how the artist got there but the sketch seems to have been taken from an elevated position over the the head of the Railway Wharf. You have a view of part of the harbor and all of the wharves.” More on this view will be the subject of an upcoming blog posting.

Real aerial images were taken of the city in the late 1920s by the Royal Canadian Air Force but these would not have been freely available to the general public. Instead they had to wait for images of the city to be published as postcards. Over the years from the late 1930s to the present a number of air photos of the city were made available. Unfortunately the quality of postcard images had deteriorated considerably from the cards of the golden age of postcards in the years before the beginning of the Great Depression. Nevertheless these cards are one of the better sources to document the changing nature of the Charlottetown waterfront over the last eighty years.

Click on any highlighted text to see pages dedicated to the history of the wharf or company.

Charlottetown. P.E. Island. Photo Gelantine Engraving Company, Ottawa [PECO] card #12

This appears to be the earliest air photo of the Charlottetown waterfront to appear on a postcard. It shows a city not much changed since the years immediately following the publication of Meacham’s Atlas in 1880.2 While the names attached to several of the wharves changed over the years their basic configuration did not.

Charlottetown Waterfront, P.E. Island. Photo Gelantine Engraving Company, Ottawa [PECO] card No. 21

This detailed view was obviously taken at the same time as the more distant card above and can be dated before 1938. It shows an industrial waterfront in the closing days of the the age of sail. The Charlottetown Yacht Club clubhouse at Lords Wharf has not yet made its appearance although a number of small boats can be seen moored to the sheltered east side of Pownal Wharf. Indeed small craft can be seen at almost all of the wharves. The lot at the head of Pownal Wharf appears to be cleared for erection of the Eastern Hay and Feed Warehouse which was opened in 1940 and the rail spur which was extended along Lower Water Street does not appear to have been built. Judging by the number of warehouses Pownal Wharf seems to be in active use although no large ships can be seen there. Pickard’s Coal Wharf to the east is busier with at least three schooners tied to the wharf. Next is Queen’s Wharf , one of the smallest in the city but it has a vessel tied to each face of the wharf. At the Buntain and Bell Wharf with its distinctive warehouse a large schooner is either arriving or departing. The Marine and Fisheries wharf is quiet with all of the vessels stationed there on patrol although several smaller craft can be seen hauled out on the marine railway between that wharf and Buntain and Bell. The MacDonald Rowe woodworking plant can be seen just to the west of the end of Great George Street. In contrast with the neat and tidy arrangements on the Marine and Fisheries Wharf the Steam Navigation Wharf is a jumble of warehouses and out buildings (more than a dozen), most of which were associated with Bruce Stewart and Company’s industrial operations. Although the regular steamer service provided by the Harland had come to an end this was one of the busier wharves in the city. Between it and the Ferry Wharf at Prince Street another coal yard was in operation. Beside the Ferry Wharf itself a small building can be seen, probably the Hillsborough Boating Club building. Note how close the shoreline is to the railway shop building, now Founders Hall. The eastern approaches to the city are dominated by the tank farms of Imperial Oil and Irving.

Aerial View, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada N.F.B. Photo

The Photo Gelantine Engraving Company of Ottawa [PECO] has a well-deserved reputation for poor quality of colouring and reproduction and the card above is one of the worst. However enough information can be gleaned from this view of the waterfront to date it from about 1952. In this view Dundas Esplanade has not yet been gobbled up by the expanding Charlottetown Hospital. Paoli’s Wharf is no longer in use and his begun its long deterioration which continues to this day. Some of the structures have disappeared from Pownal wharf and the Charlottetown Yacht Club occupies the area although Pownal Wharf itself still extends to the channel giving good protection for a number of moored yachts. Further along the scene is much the same as in the pre-war view. However, there is a distinct absence of shipping at the several wharves. Queen’s Wharf appears to be abandoned and crumbling.

Aerial View of Charlottetown. The Capital City of Prince Edward Island. Population 18,000. Aerial Photo by Maritime Skyways, Ltd. Published by the Book Room Halifax # BR-652

This image from the south appears to date from the early 1960s. The air photo has poor resolution but sufficient detail can be gleaned to pick out a number of features. The addition to the PEI Hospital appears on the left. Along the waterfront from the west we can see that the Pownal Wharf has been cleared of the salt shed and warehouses and is now much shorter than in earlier views. Pickard’s coal wharf seems intact but the stub of Queen’s Wharf does not appear to be in use. Next to it the Buntain and Bell Wharf has at least one smaller vessel tied up. The Marine wharf is the busiest in the harbour with Coast Guard vessels on both sides. At the foot of Great George Street the former Steam Navigation Wharf is now being used as the Texaco terminal although only four tanks have built at this date. The northern end of the wharf still houses several of the Bruce Stewart & Co. buildings. The tanker mooring structures still standing off the Confederation Landing Park date from this period. The Prince Street Ferry Wharf has deteriorated as the service to Rocky Point was halted with the completion of the West River Causeway at New Dominion in 1958. Infill has pushed the shoreline south from the railway yards and structures. A freighter can be seen at the east side of the Railway Wharf.

Historic City of Charlottetown P.E.I. Premiere Post Card. No 21793R. Alex Wilson Publications. Distributed by Atlantic Imports, Kensington, P.E.I. Photo by George Hunter.
Charlottetown The Capital City of Prince Edward Island. Cavalier Postcard # 14891R . Alex Wilson Publications. Distributed by Island Wholesale Kinlock P.E.I. Photo by George Hunter

Although differing in production qualities and distributed by different entities the two cards above are both by the same photographer, George Hunter, and were taken on the same flight. Although the wharf detail is not clear in some cases both cards show identical vessels tied up at the Railway Wharf. With shots taken from the west the cards show details which do not often appear in postcards. The Armories on Kent Street are prominent in the top card which also shows West Kent School which was demolished in 1966 to make way for the government office complex. The card itself dates from after 1978 but the image is more than a decade earlier. The entire block bounded by Haviland Street, Water Street, Sidney Street and the harbour is occupied by the Charlottetown Hospital, the School of Nursing and the Sacred Heart Home. Dundas Esplanade which appears on earlier postcards has completely disappeared. H.M.C.S. Queen Charlotte is located on what had been the upper section of Connolly’s or Paoli’s Wharf while the wharf itself is in complete ruins. The large City Barn can be seen just north of the Yacht Club. The new Department of Transport Wharf is under construction, incorporating Pickard’s Coal Wharf, the ruin of Queen’s Wharf and the Buntain and Bell Wharf. To the east of the new construction the Marine and Fisheries Wharf is still in use and the former Steam Navigation Wharf now sports an additional two tanks for Texaco Oil. The ruins of the Ferry Wharf lie to the west of the Railway Wharf and tank farms for both Imperial Oil and Irving dominate the eastern entrance to the city from the Hillsborough Bridge.

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada .Premiere Post Card. No 23187R Alex Wilson Publications. Distributed by Atlantic Imports, Kensington, P.E.I. Photo by George Hunter.

The re-development of the Charlottetown waterfront in the 1970s and 1980s brought more changes to the area than the previous half-century. One of these changes was the development of Harbourside on the site of post-industrial buildings on the waterlots south of Water Street. This 1978 image centers on the Charlottetown Yacht Club where almost all vessels were still moored off and were reached by dinghies or the club tender. The club building itself had been enlarged with an extension and deck which house a bar for members and guests. The dinghy launch ramp and the jetty at the stub end of the Pownal Wharf provided landing spots. The Department of Transport Wharf has been completed and is in use and the apartments and commercial spaces north and east of the yacht club are being landscaped.

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island Published by Allied Sales Charlottetown Card No. PEI21H. Photo by Ron Garnett.

This image was taken after the completion of the Harbourside buildings and shows the Yacht Club Property before the addition of the marina although some fingers have been added to the inner basin protected by a floating barrier which eventually sank and remains close to the end of Lord’s Wharf. The hotel and convention centre occupy the foot of Queen Street and the Marine and Fisheries wharf is still in place to the east. The Texaco tank farm is still in use and Confederation Landing Park has not yet been built.

Peake’s Wharf. Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island Published by Allied Sales Charlottetown Card No. PEI34H. Photo by Ron Garnett.

Although this photograph is from the same source it follows the previous one by several years. The removal of the Texaco tank farm paved the way for the development of the 6 acre Confederation Landing Park which was completed in 1995.This image dates before that project but does show the major 1990 development at Peake’s Quay following the removal of the Marine and Fisheries Wharf. At the Charlottetown Yacht Club the inner basin marina (the ‘hood) has been developed.


  1. See H.T. Holman “Panorama for Sale: The Bird’s Eye Views of Prince Edward Island” The Island Magazine No. 24 (Fall/Winter 1988) pp. 14-18. Can be downloaded from this site:
  2. A series of fine articles on the creation and publishing of the Meacham’s Atlas have recently appeared in Reg Porter’s blog found here

Anywhere or Somewhere? Finding the North Shore of Prince Edward Island

The card shows a stretch of beach curving in an arc toward a point. The card title reads “North Shore, Prince Edward Island.” There is a lot of shore on the north side of Prince Edward Island and it could be almost anywhere, but it certainly isn’t. Just where was this scene?

100919 North Shore
North Shore, Prince Edward Island  Valentine postcard # 100,919

In many years of exploring the backroads and beaches of the Island I have become a bit of a geographical nerd and an image without a location is just the sort of challenge that I savor. To have a postcard location, even one more than a hundred years old, that I could not find, made my internal compass spin. Where was this nameless beach?

I began with what I could see on the postcard. Assuming that the information in the title is correct I could eliminate a lot of coastline which is either broad sandy beaches or rocky cliffs.  This is a shore that has not been shaped by the full brute force of northern gales. The fact that the  trees seem to grow almost to the narrow beach suggests that this is a more protected shore. The beach itself has a different character from those at Cavendish or Dalvay or Kildare. Even in the uncertainty of an undated black and white photo one can tell that this is not the pristine white sand of a coastal barrier beach. Colourized editions of the post card give the shore a brown or grey tone but this is a product or artists who have never seen the red soil of the Island.   It looks more like a protected shore such as one might find in a bay or along a river.  But there are no shortage of those spots on the Island’s north shore either.  Cascumpec, Malpeque, New London, Rustico, Tracadie and St. Peters bays and the streams flowing into them are all candidates for placing the image.

North Shore 2 background
Detail of North Shore postcard showing the point and houses in background.

One of the more important clues lies in the background to the image.  In the distance there are farmsteads on the horizon atop a gentle slope and it is probable that they are adjacent to a road running along the slope. However buildings can appear or disappear over time and while useful they are not always the final determination of a location. In addition there is a thicket of woods on the slope above the shoreline.  Again,  woods can be harvested and made into fields and the reverse process of fields growing up into woods must always be a possibility.   As is often the problem with shore views, the passage of a century often means that both the views and the viewpoints can be altered through coastal erosion. Even the loss of a few inches a year can add up to a substantial change over time. Lacking specific land marks one must look toward more general land forms.

The postcard series in which this image appears, published by Valentine and Sons, dates from 1906, more than 110 years ago, and it could have been an even earlier photo used by the publisher so a change in the view since then is a real possibility.  That being the case I began to look for likely locations.  There are surprisingly few photo images of the north shore area. Because of travel limitations folks did not visit the shore as casually as they do today. As early as the 1860s a few spots began to be developed but as all-inclusive destination resorts rather than day visit locations. There were a few farm-house inns in areas near spots such as  Malpeque and Brackley and full blown summer hotels were constructed at Stanhope and Tracadie. 

Screen Shot 04-02-21 at 10.10 AM
Seaside Hotel 1880. Meacham’s Atlas

One of the earliest of these hotels was at Rustico  where John Newson operated the Seaside Hotel. The hotel faced across the mouth of the Clyde River towards the fishing port of North Rustico and had its main bathing beach just across the channel at Robinson’s Island where bathing houses were located.  The hotel had been opened in the 1860s but really began to thrive after 1874 when the railway opened a station in Hunter River which meant that the resort was only a short carriage ride away along the Clyde River road which was crossed the river at New Glasgow and continued to Anglo Rustico. 

100927 North Shore Hunter River
On the Road, North Shore to Hunter River. Valentine postcard # 100,927

While there seem to be few photos of the hotel itself there are photographs from the surrounding area dating from the early 1900s.  The route from Hunter River to Anglo Rustico is seen in a photo taken was one approached New Glasgow which dates from the first years of the 20th century.  Showing neat stone walls and trimmed spruce hedges it is a superb example of tourist promotional material of the period.  Another image from the period which also appears in a Valentine & Sons card is from a little further along the road between New Glasgow and Anglo Rustico where the Clyde River can be seen meandering in the background of a striking farmhouse high atop a hill on the south side of the river.

100920 Island Home
An Island Home, Prince Edward Island. Valentine postcard #100,920

The location of this image was hard to determine until Phil Culhane, another PEI postcard collector posted a question on-line and the crowd-sourced responses showed the building was still standing and is easily recognizable in size and shape  (albeit with some unfortunate window replacement) and is located on the Dickeson property near what was in 1880 called Doironts Creek. Although the trees around the property now obscure the view of the river it is without doubt the same property as in the Valentine postcard. This photo continued to be published in both black and white and colour versions for many years and served as the quintessential Island farmstead image. 

There was another postcard image from the same series actually taken from the Seaside Hotel looking north over a white rail fence looking toward the fishing stations on the sandbar at the entrance to what was then Grand Rustico Harbour. (Little Rustico harbour was at the other end of Robinson’s Island.)

100928 Rustico Beach
Rustico Beach, Prince Edward Island. Valentine postcard # 100,928
Screen Shot 04-02-21 at 10.11 AM
Detail of Lot 24 Meacham’s Atlas 1880 showing Seaside Hotel.

The Seaside Hotel was totally consumed by fire in January of 1906 and had not been in operation for the previous two years but before that it had been regarded as one of the most significant and successful of the Island’s summer resort destinations.  Could the mysterious “North Shore” postcard be related to the three other postcard images in the series which came from the same general area?

There were a few possible clues in the postcard image itself which relate to the site of the Seaside Hotel. If, instead of looking north towards Rustico one turned to the west what would one see?  There was a slight indentation in the shoreline in the middle of which in 1880 a trackway came through the Benjamin Buntain farm down to the shore and around the point to the hotel wharf. In the North Shore card a similar trackway can be seen emerging from the woods.  Further, if one looked across the point towards the north shore of the Clyde River a number of farms could be seen near the crest of the hill. 

5055-76 3
Detail from 1936 aerial photo showing woodland coverage.

In the 1936 aerial photo of the area, taken some thirty or more years later, the wooded land is similar to the postcard image with woods following the slope towards the unwooded point of land.  There even seems to be a small outcropping of rocks in the same location in both views.  

A recent visit made to the point where the Seaside Hotel once stood to the point shows many changes. The previously open  fields and wooded areas of the Buntain farm have been built over with cottage lots and there has no doubt been some erosion of the points at both ends of the stretch of beach making it impossible take a photo from the exact same location as the postcard image. Even the state of the tide can make views of the same spot seem unalike.

That being said, the present-day photograph shown below still shows some striking similarities between the view today and the postcard image from more than century earlier. The pattern of vegetation, with a surviving thicket of spruces coupled with a treeless point seems to have persisted over a century.  That along with with the view across the river toward the north shore of the Clyde, the similar curve of the beach and cliffs, and the existence of other photos from the same tourist region popular in the 1900s make it highly probable that the site of the postcard image has been located as South Rustico, Lot 24,  46.44.56 North, 63.29.18 West. Prince Edward Island. 


North Shore. Prince Edward Island. March 2021. Photo by the author.

The Real McCoy… Really?

I have recently been looking at the early Valentine and Sons view post cards of Prince Edward Island, especially the two series  that the company did for the Inter-Colonial and Prince Edward Island Railway which I explored in an earlier posting. A closer look at some of these cards has thrown up an interesting variant series (or perhaps two). 

Typical Valentine Black and White image but lacking the characteristic reference to the Inter-Colonial and Prince Edward Island Railway. The reference appears on neither the front nor the back of the card.

These monochrome cards have the white card-bottom stripe with the title but without the railway reference. However a bigger surprise is to be found on the card back.

McCoy Archambault back001
Card backs showing McCoy and Archambault overprints

These cards have an overprint of the publisher credit, in some case completely obscuring the “Valentine Series (Britain)” wording, but more frequently showing the Valentine information as well as that of another publisher. Most of the P.E.I. cards that I have found have the words “McCoy Printing Company, Moncton, N.B.”  as seen in the above illustration. In Mike Smith and William Angley’s 2010 volume McCoy Printing Company Picture Postcard Handbook 1900-1910, seven items are listed as McCoy cards using the Valentine image numbers which also appear in the railway series.  Several additional cards with this format have been found and it now appears that at least nine of the Valentine images appear with the McCoy overprint and it is probable that, as with the colour series, all ten of the cards appeared in this alternate format.  Use of Valentine images, complete with image numbers, by other publishers is not uncommon but this is a clear indication that Valentine may have actually been the publisher for some of these other series. 

What is somewhat surprising is that McCoy may not have been the only publisher which took advantage of these early Valentine cards. At least one card (again seen above) bears the words “R. Archambault, P.O. Box 108, Montreal”  In this case the wording appears on the back of the “Near Souris” card with Valentine image # 100,925, illustrated at the head of this posting     

I am not aware of any other P.E.I. cards with this Archambault imprint or credit. Was this a “one-off” or is there yet another ten-card series with the Valentine images out there somewhere?  Having looked only at P.E.I. cards it is difficult to state whether or not this publisher mixing and matching was common elsewhere. 

The impressive number of Valentine cards now has another collecting dimension as more variant series are identified.    

The P.E.I. Railway postcards of Valentine and Sons

Valentine and Sons (later Valentine-Black) was the largest publisher of postcards in Canada. Between 1905 and 1964 when they ceased business, they issued more than 12,000 postcards. Of these, over 140 were of different Prince Edward Island scenes and the Valentine cards document the Island over almost sixty years.

Fortune Harbour, image # 100,925

In the earliest years Valentine had a unique arrangement which saw them produce a series of view cards co-labeled with the Intercolonial and Prince Edward Island Railway. Although both lines were operated by the Government of Canada they each maintained a somewhat  independent identity. The Intercolonial was very active in the promotion of tourist travel and a number of guidebooks touted travel to the area served by the government lines.

Cover of Summer Provinces by the Sea

These guidebooks were well written and well-illustrated. The most well-known was Summer Provinces by the Sea which contained a large number of PEI views from photographer W.S. Louson, who also supplied many postcard images to Warwick Bros. & Rutter.  Postcards were a natural fit for the promotion-minded railroad and Valentine published two series bearing the names of the companies.

These series seem both to have been issued in the same year, 1906. The listing of image numbers for the Valentine company shows a total of 10 photographs for this set of Prince Edward Island postcards. The black and white images are clear and all depict rural scenes already associated with the themes of landscape and leisure activities.  Interestingly the scene on only one of the cards, Morell River, is actually on the line of the Prince Edward Island Railway.

Card back used for Valentine railway black and white cards.

These cards have a white title band at the bottom of the card with the words Intercolonial and Prince Edward Island Railway. The back of these cards was a standard Valentine design for the period. The divided back card was headed Souvenir Post Card while the words “Valentine Series (British)” are on the left edge.

Black and White cards. Click on any image for larger view.

Several of the scenes continued to be used by Valentine for several years but without the railway connection.  Most of the scenes can be located: Rustico, Morell,  Dunk River, Hampton Beach, and the road between New Glasgow and Hunter River. One card labeled “Near Souris” is actually Fortune Harbour, and a “Pastoral Scene” is, with little doubt, where the Green Road crosses the Eliott River near Crosby’s Mills.   It is more difficult to place the other cards. The Island Home could be one of several places on the north shore estuaries, while the North Shore beach is extremely difficult to place – if you look closely you can see several farms in the background on the extreme right of the card.

Fortune Harbour image #100925 colour series

There was also a coloured series with the same scenes but with an additional card depicting a wildflower field overlooking Pownal Bay. (Spelled “Pownall” on the card)

Colour cards. Click on any image for larger view.

These cards lack the bottom white band but the left hand side of the card back provides the information linking the cards with the two railways . The remainder of the card back is the same as the back for the black and white cards.

Card information on left side of back.

The fact that there are ten cards listed in the table of image numbers and that ten colour cards have been found suggests that there is an additional black and white card depicting the field overlooking Pownal Bay which does not appear in on-line collections.  I would be interested in hearing from any collectors who have seen such a card or who can provide location information for the cards titled “An Island Home Scene” or “North Shore.”

Several of the cards illustrated are from images from Phil Culhane’s excellent PEI postcard web site found here.

One Postcard – Many places

Quick! What do Lanoraie, Quebec; Forest, Deseronto, and Loring, Ontario; and Clinton, Prince Edward Island have in common. Answer: All of these places are apparently home to the pastoral scene below.

Valentine & Sons postcard # 113081

In an earlier posting I noted the use of multi-location cards by the Miller Art Company to increase their sales and illustrated a number of Prince Edward Island cards with distinctively un-Island views. With this posting I celebrate a scene on Prince Edward Island which was used in relation to other Canadian communities, mostly villages and small towns,  in order to reinforce their rural and pastoral character.

Small-wares Distributors logo

While the Miller Art cards were from the 1920s and 1930s these cards were mostly in use two decades later. The cards shown below (and there may be others like them out there) were published by a firm called the Small-wares Distributors Company  of Toronto which seems to have operated during the 1940s and into the  1950s.

BRING ON THE SUSPECTS: (click on any card for enlarged images)

With a number of locations identified on the cards how  does one determine in which, if any, of the places the scene can actually be found? Here I can fortunately claim local knowledge as my family owned the farm in question for a brief period in the 1960s, and at that time it looked much the same as it does in the cards, an image probably dating from the 1920s.  The view is of a farm on Harding’s Creek which flows into the South-West River at Clinton in the New London area of P.E.I.  The image is taken from the highway which is on one of the tourist routes to Cavendish.  We were very proud that another photo of the same scene appeared in an issue of Look Magazine (a one-time competitor of the better-known Life).   Unfortunately a later owner removed all of the buildings and the view is now fully obscured by the growth of spruces along the highway and marred by the construction of cottages along the waterways.


Differences in the cards are not restricted to the several locations to which the scene is attributed. All of the cards immediately above, with the correct location, were published by  Valentine and Sons or Valentine-Black.   Even when correctly located there are production differences in retouching, tinting, title wording and placement,  and clarity between different editions of the same card.  The oldest copy of the image on a postcard is a Valentine card with the image number 113081, and in fact this number continued to be used on the Valentine cards for a number of editions. According to the very useful listing of Valentine cards  on the Valentine and Sons check list at The Toronto Postcard Club site images in the 113000 series began to be used in 1928. The several versions of the Valentine cards cover the period from the late 1920s to the 1960s and display a number of the several card backs used by the company over the period.

The P.E.I. postcard image collection at the Robertson Library of the University of Prince Edward Island was very useful in locating images of the P.E.I. cards. Creative googling uncovered several of the other editions of the cards.

Unloved and unlovely – the Miller Art Company’s generic view cards

Every collector has stumbled  across them – cards that are not what, or more specifically, where, they seem to be. Some require more than a second glance to point up the transfer of an image from one place to another. Sometimes it is a plausible confusion such as the Warwick and Rutter cards noted here and here.  In other cases the publisher has a record of slipping a few generic images into an otherwise series of legitimate views as is the case with many Stedman cards such as in this posting. Publishers such as Tichnor and Valentine also occasionally used generic cards for several locations

However there are some cards where all pretense of legitimacy is abandoned.  It requires only a quick glance to determine that no matter what the title may say these cards are not as advertised and the same image appears on card after card from a number of locations, usually small towns without a striking identifiable feature. The desire to meet the market for a card which travelers could send to show that they had been somewhere, overrode the need to actually depict something of that place.  It unlikely that anyone was fooled by cards showing mountains where none existed or forests in the midst of farmlands. On the other hand some of the images could be anywhere. Given the utilitarian nature of the cards where was little need for quality production – what was important that the card had the name of the place.

One major seller of these multi-location cards was the American publisher,  the Miller Art Company of Brooklyn, New York which was in business from 1922-1941. Although the name of the company does not appear on the cards they can be identified by what one collecting colleague characterizes as the “Steaming Cup” mark. While the company did issue a range of quality cards, including a large set of 1939 New York World’s Fair cards,  the multi-location cards exhibit remarkably inept and crude retouching work. The face of the card generally contains an image number and the back has a series and landscape design number. The card back design has a certain elegance lacking on the face.

The cards below show show some of the Miller Art cards for Prince Edward Island but the cards are interchangeable for the same images for small towns across eastern Canada and the United States. Perhaps they exist for hundreds of locations but unlike real landscape cards they tell us absolutely nothing of the places they purport to depict.  Here, for example, is a Miller card from Bridgeport Ohio with the same anonymous aura  of smooth pothole-less roads and trees eternally in flower – it could be anywhere, or perhaps nowhere at all.

There are more than a dozen Miller cards for Prince Edward Island from places such as Tyne Valley, Montague and Summerside but for some strange reason the overwhelming location for Miller cards is the eastern town of Souris. Click on any card to see larger images in a slideshow format.

A sub set of the Miller cards used a pennant device to pinpoint the alleged card location. These would have been popular with collectors at the time and today represent a popular thematic approach to postcard collecting.

To see how the cards can be used in numerous locations have a look at these examples:

Outside of a collection based on geographical names or perhaps “pennant” cards there is little that is attractive about the Miller cards. They seldom appear on the favourate, or best card lists that postcard clubs often ask members to create. They are the unloved step-children of the postcard world –  in the family, but not really of it.

While these white border cards are hardly scarce they seldom appear on sale lists as their value hardly reaches the cost of cataloguing and listing them. And they can be confusing. The format of the Miller cards is mirrored in the series of similar cards with the Canadian “S.D.C.” mark (Small-wares Distributors Company) , Tichnor cards, PECO, and other un-named publishers which continued to supply generic-location cards through the 1940s and 1950s.

As is frequently the case I am indebted to Phil Culhane for allowing me to use several of the images from his excellent P.E.I. Postcard site

Where ever two or three are gathered…

#1543 Public Gardens, Charlottetown P.E.I. publisher not identified

In post card collecting, as in so many other things, if there are more than two of something then there is a series. If the items are numbered then there is a hope of  gaining some appreciation of how large or long the series is. Suspicious gaps might just be filled with a missing card.

For example there is a run of Pugh Postcards with numbers 42-1 to 42-12 and I have found images of all except 42-1 and 42-9.  These are all P.E.I. cards.  This suggests that a missing card will also have a similar subject, in this case scenes of Prince Edward Island. I am willing to bet that the two missing images are also Prince Edward Island   But it is easy to be fooled and as Mike Smith demonstrates in his terrific book on the Warwick and Rutter cards (soon to be published in a new and even more complete edition) a gap in the series of PEI cards could just as easily be filled by a card from somewhere else.

Standard back of the cards illustrated

The problem is compounded where there is a very short run of cards and the publisher is not identified. These “no publisher” cards are sometimes the work of local publishers but are more likely to be an unidentified national publisher. A case in point is the series of three cards shown in this blog posting.

Detail of card # 1541 showing textured finish.

The stand card back is a simple upper-case “PRIVATE POST CARD” divided back card with no identifying serial numbers or unique printer’s information. The cards have an interesting slightly textured finish of fairly high quality and the colour work is subtle. For the cards in my collection the postmarks are all from 1905 or 1906.

The images do not provide a source for the photographs used but at least two of them, #1541 and #1542, show up on other cards from the period – again with no publisher noted.

#1542 View on Great George Street, Charlottetown, P.E.I. publisher not identified.

The same image being used on another “no publisher” card, albeit with a different caption

#1541 St. Dunstan’s Cathedral, Charlottetown, P.E.I. publisher not identified.

The issue for me is whether these three cards constitute the whole of this series as far as Prince Edward Island is concerned. Is #1540 or #1544 another P.E.I,. card or are these three cards the publisher’s P.E.I. sole nod to a national series. It is hardly likely that there three cards represent the total series, not with those numbers.  Has anyone else looked at these cards as constituting a series? If so have these been captured as a series by collectors.  The larger question is, of course, who was the publisher of these cards?

I would love to have responses from collectors from other parts of Canada as to whether they have collections of numbered cards of the same design from their areas of collecting.

P.S. 25 October 2020

Thanks to the miracle of the internet, part of the query that I posed above has been addressed. Andrew Cunningham, editor of the Toronto Postcard Club’s Card Talk has pointed me to Mike Smith’s book on W.G. MacFarlane. MacFarlane is almost certainly the publisher of the cards in question. The MacFarlane card titled “Public Gardens, Charlottetown, P.E.I.” is the same image as one of the cards above but lacks the card number on the face.

MacFarlane Public Gardens card lacking card number on face

However, as can be seen on the card back both the publisher name and the same card number appear at the lower left of the card.

MacFarlane card back showing publisher and number

Andrew’s comment can be seen below.  As he notes it is still not certain if there are additional cards outside the numbering sequence.

Call – Holman’s Guarantee Satifaction – a DXers delight

Standard Novelty Manufacturing postcard of R.T. Holman stores Summerside and Charlottetown showing CHGS call sign and antenna. Card #431935. University of Prince Edward Island collection.

Summerside’s first radio station went on the air in 1925 using the callsign CHLC, later changed to CHGS which reportedly stood for Holmans Guarantee Satisfaction, and with a signal strength of 25 watts. The operation was owned by the R.T. Holman company, a wholesale and retail business with stores in Summerside and Charlottetown. A short time later the strength was increased to 100 watts.   The station was located in the store building on Water street in Summerside and had a roof-mounted antenna consisting of two wires strung between small masts on the building’s roof.

In the early 1930s the power was reduced to 50 watts but by the end of World War II had returned to 100 watts.  Initial programming was only 2 hours and 15 minutes each day but by the middle of the decade this has increased to nearly 10 hours per weekday and 7 hours on Sunday.  In the early years at least, the station did not include advertising although the ownership of the station by the R.T. Holman company was frequently noted.

Back of standard Novelty card used by CHGS as an acknowledgement of reception.

With relatively low power most of the listeners were in western and central Prince Edward Island but it could be heard regularly in nearby Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as well. The station was also occasionally picked up as far south as Pennsylvania and into Quebec when atmospheric conditions were favourable.

A Novelty Manufacturing and Arts Company postcard from the 1930s shows an image of the R.T. Holman stores in Summerside and Charlottetown, noting the CHGS callsign on the Summerside store. The images have been re-drawn with editorial changes. The Summerside store, which consisted of three sections – one of three stories, one of four and a link between the two –  is shown as neatly designed three story building. On the other hand the three story structure of the Charlottetown store has miraculously had a story added.

The back of the card is the standard Novelty back, easily identified by the wordmark. However, there was a special edition of the card which is very much related to the early radio industry. Stations prided themselves on how large their coverage extended but this was often difficult to ascertain unless listeners wrote to the station and some early newspaper coverage includes reports of distant locations where the signals had been heard.

Many stations, including CHGS, requested information from listeners asking for reports of reception of broadcasts and in response sent what became known as DX or QSL cards. Early radio listeners, often using home made crystal sets and long wire antennas, found radio stations few and far between. With the broadcast bands uncrowded, signals of the most powerful stations could be heard over hundreds of miles, but weaker signals required more precise tuning or better receiving gear. This became a hobby in its own right, the name of the hobby coming from DX, telegraphic shorthand for “distance” or “distant.” Stations began to broadcast special DX programming to solicit information about coverage. For commercial stations this became a selling point to advertisers. In the 1930s CHGS’s DX broadcast took place from 2:30 to 3:30 am during the winter season when reception was best.

CHGS postcard back with pre-printed DX message and station information.

The hobby became more refined when an American firm developed radio verification stamps. This became a big fad as broadcasters rewarded listeners by sending out stamp in response to reception reports.

Verified Reception Stamp from CFRB, Fredericton.

The stamps usually came on a card verifying the listener’s report since signal strength and coverage could vary widely depending on equipment and atmospheric conditions. Two firms out of Chicago were involved in making the stamps and albums for them. The more prominent was EKKO Company and the lesser known P.M. Bryant Company. CHGS bought stamps from EKKO and attached them to postcards verifying  receipt of the DX reports. Stamps came in a variety of colors including red, green, purple, brown, blue, gray and orange. The only CHGS stamps that have been located are red. More than 700 stations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Cuba participated in the promotion. Canadian EKKO stamps featured a beaver instead of an eagle.

CHGS postcard with Veriofied Reception Stamp affixed.

CHGS appears to have been the only station on Prince Edward Island participating in the promotion. By the mid-1930s, radio technology had improved to the extent that listener reception reports were no long needed for the conventional A.M. broadcast band. However DX hobbyists continued to send in reports. Holmans appears to have reverted to using standard postcards to respond as the interest in the hobby waned.

The radio station was a particular interest of one of the Holman brothers, Robert Claude Holman who had trained as an engineer  and who lived in the U.S. before returning to Summerside after WW I. Family lore tells of at least one occasion when Claude, after an evening of illicit imbibing on prohibition-era P.E.I., wandered down to the store, turned on the station and broadcast an uncensored diatribe which very nearly lost the station its license when a few listeners complained. Operations of CGHS ceased on 31 March 1948 when R.T. Holman Limited exited the broadcast business. Over the nearly quarter century of operation programming had included musical renditions, sports reporting (including live coverage), talks, and broadcasting of church services.  Summerside was not long without a station as a number of former CHGS employees and local investors started CJRW which still broadcasts from Summerside.

Postcards from the Admiral’s Visit

Public events are often depicted in several different postcard views. The following story, which first appeared in my companion blog “Sailstrait“, shows how different these views can be.  It also shows that although we try, often in vain, to identify photographers, sometimes that knowledge comes to us from surprising places.   

It was not unusual for the harbour of Charlottetown to be visited by naval  vessels. Many of the ships of the Royal Navy Atlantic Fleet based in Halifax paid courtesy visits throughout the region but Charlottetown was hardly a regular port of call for an entire fleet.


On 17 September in 1905 that changed in a dramatic fashion as not one, but four, of the latest and most powerful warships in the world steamed past Blockhouse light and through the harbour mouth to anchor off the wharves of Charlottetown. Not only was the fleet commanded by a Rear-Admiral, but the Rear-Admiral was His Serene Highness Prince Louis of Battenberg.

Louis of Battenberg1905

Prince Louis was not, as many in Charlottetown supposed, a prince of the realm. His title derived from his descent from Austro-Hungarian nobility being the grandson of Louis II, Grand Duke of Hesse, a matter which was to cause no little difficulty nine years later. On the outbreak of the Great War Prince Louis was forced to resign from his post as First Sea Lord owing to anti-German sentiment in spite of the fact that he had more than forty year’s experience as an officer in the Royal Navy.

In 1905 however he was celebrated for that same service. As Admiral at the command of the Second Cruiser Squadron he led his ships on a tour of Greece, Portugal, Canada and the United States and Spain.  In the United States he was lauded for his unassuming ways and democratic demeanor. Throughout his career his advancement had been as a result of his skills and not his royal connections. He continued to be promoted to higher ranks within the service and in 1912 was made First Sea Lord, essentially head of the Royal Navy.


If the commander was impressive the ships were equally so. His flagship was the H.M.S. Drake which had been launched in 1901 and completed in 1904. The ship had an overall length of 553 feet, a beam of 71 feet and a deep draught of 27 feet.  The 14,000 ton warship was powered by two 4-cylinder steam engines, each driving one shaft, which produced a total of 30,000 horsepower and gave a maximum speed of 23 knots. She carried a maximum of 2,500 tons of coal and her complement consisted of 900 officers and enlisted men. Accompanying the Drake were the just slightly smaller H.M.S. Bedford, H.M.S. Cumberland, and H.M.S. Essex, all Monmouth Class Armoured Cruisers each carrying 678 officers and crew.  The fleet was described as the swiftest squadron in the world’s naval fleets.

HMS Drake
The admiral’s flagship, HMS Drake also appeared on a Warwick Bros. & Rutter postcard #3441.

The ships had previously visited Quebec, St. John’s and Sydney. Arriving in Charlottetown on a Sunday afternoon the fleet was viewed by hundreds on the Park Roadway and on the wharves. The Guardian welcomed the vessels  but regretted that Canada, who benefitted from the power of the navy had contributed nothing to the defence of its ports and commerce and concluded;  “The much-enduring British taxpayer pays all the bills.” Local photographer W.S. Louson was busy with his camera and two post cards were later produced using his images. That evening the Prince visited Government House.


The next day saw formal visits to City Hall and the presentation of an address by Mayor and Council. In his response Prince Louis recalled several visits previously paid to Charlottetown when he was a mid-shipman on the H.M.S. Royal Alfred which had been stationed in Halifax in the late 1860s. In the afternoon a sports day was held at the Charlottetown Athletic Association grounds. Bands from the Drake and Essex entertained the crowd and both local athletes and ships’ crews competed in conventional events such as dashes at several distances, relay, and  high jump, but also crowd-pleasing activities including sack races, a wheelbarrow race,  an officer’s race, a jumble race (where crew members had to scramble to don articles of clothing such as tunics and boots), and  a tug of war. The festivities of the day concluded with a ball.

The ships left the following day, one being delayed as its anchor had become detached and had to be retrieved by a diver.  Following a visit to Halifax where the centenary of the death of Lord Nelson was commemorated the fleet visited the United States and was back in Great Britain early in 1906.

Although Prince Louis never returned to Prince Edward Island several of his descendants have visited over the years.  In 1917 Louis relinquished all his German titles and became Louis Mountbatten. His daughter Princess Alice had married into the Greek royal family in 1903 and her only son, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, took on the Mountbatten name when he became a British subject in 1947. Philip married into a family that had also changed its name owing to its former German connection. He became the consort of Elizabeth Windsor, later Queen Elizabeth. Louis’ grand-nephew and his wife, and several of their descendants have been welcomed in Prince Edward Island.

Postscript January 2020.

Although W.S. Louson is clearly identified as the photographer for the Warwick and Rutter postcard (shown above), the rather poor image on the Carter & Co. postcard at the beginning of this entry does not contain a photographer credit. Thanks to a serendipitous acquisition by Ottawa collector Phil Culhane (in Spain of all places) this has been remedied. He has found a photo of the Battenburg fleet in Charlottetown harbour bearing the stamp of Charlottetown commercial photographer J.A.S. Bayer on the reverse. Bayer published a number of real photo postcards (RPPCs) and his images were probably used by other postcard publishers but this image seems to exist in only the Carter and Co. version.



A scarce postcard of winter sporting activities on Prince Edward Island

Winter scenes on early Prince Edward Island postcards are rare and many of those that were published focussed on the winter steamers or the ice boat service which operated up until 1915. Although skating, snow shoeing, and hockey were popular winter past-times the difficulties of winter outdoor photography meant that there are few images, let alone post cards, of winter sports on the Island.  This postcard depicts a toboggan slide but the specific location is not given.

Winter Sport in Prince Edward Island. Published by Carter and Company.

Tobogganing was a winter activity which became popular in Canada in the 1860s and 1870s and like many such activities became somewhat of a fad. Beginning in Quebec the idea of embracing healthy outdoor activities to combat the long Canadian winters soon spread across the country. The building of a slide on Dufferin Terrace in Quebec City is still a feature of the Winter Carnival. Like any popular activity tobogganing was a fit subject for literary expression:

The hurrah for toboggans! A fine starry night;
And a jolly big moon, with its beams clear and bright.
Ready?– All Ready! Away then we go,
And we rush like the wind down the slope of the snow.
Oh! Light are the hearts that fly down with the wind;
Who rides a tobbogan leaves trouble behind.

There had been an earlier toboggan slide at Government House  and it was sketched by visiting military officer Henry Buckton Laurence while posted on the Island between 1866 and 1868.

Henry Buckton Laurence

Popular illustration of tobogganing.

One of the earliest reports in PEI newspapers appeared in February of 1883 noted a toboggan party at Tea Hill and in December of that year it was announced that toboggan slide was being erected in Victoria Park  in  preparation for the tobogganing season.  The writer of the report noted that “with a toboggan slide, a lively snow shoe club, a good skating rink, and other places of entertainment, Charlottetown looks forward to a pleasant winter.”

The slide was built for the Victoria Toboggan Club  and was opened for use just after Christmas. Built on the southern part of the Park and faced the harbour, it was a substantial wooden frame structure 100 feet long, 10 feet wide and stood 23 feet high.  The path of the slide extended three hundred feet to the breastwork on the shore of the Park and when the ice formed it would carry the tobogganers right out onto the harbour ice.  In 1885 the slide was lighted for night activities with not one but two electric lights installed! By 1887 the popularity of tobogganing was having a negative impact on attendance at the skating rinks in the city and the Club was considering making the slide higher and longer.

However all was not as well as the rosy news reports would have it, for in 1889 the toboggan slide was offered for sale  with the purchaser being required to dismantle it and remove it from the site.

It is unlikely that this was the slide pictured on the postcard. The card was not issued until 1906 at the earliest and while it was not unknown for earlier photos to be used for cards the thicket of woods behind the slide is most definitely not Victoria Park.

A far more likely location is a newer toboggan slide which was built at the Belvedere Golf Club late in 1905. This slide was considerably larger than the Victoria Park slide being 135 feet long, 35 feet high and having a double shute. The slide opened on Christmas Day afternoon with a large crowd present including the Lieutenant Governor.  This seems to more accurately describe the slide on the postcard. It is not known how long the slide continued in use.

Back of the Carter toboggan card. Image courtesy of Phil Culhane.

The card itself was one of an un-numbered series  published by Carter and Company in Prince Edward Island. Another card in the same series also contains an image from Belvedere Golf Course but showing a summer scene.

There was at least one other slide in Charlottetown, built somewhat later than the period of the postcard. The Mount Edward Tobogganing Club was formed in 1911 and there are several references to the Mt. Edward slide but its exact location is not clear. Certainly one possibility was on the crest of the hill now occupied by the Dominion Experimental Farm.  The slide was blown down during a September gale in 1932 and was probably not re-built. By this time tobogganing had ceased to be the exotic social activity it had been half a century earlier.  Increased use of automobiles in winter meant that families could leave the city in search of longer and higher hills at such places at Tea Hill. Meanwhile in the city, slopes at the Experimental Farm and what was called the “back hill” in Brighton (alas now built over and somewhat leveled) were frequented by tobogganing children; adults were seldom seen.