Panoramic Postcard Reveals the Other side of Charlottetown

As a city, Charlottetown looks south. The town was built to face the harbour and as the ground gently rose to the few modest hills given grand names by country estates such as Mount Edward and Sidmount the well-planned street pattern began to break up.  In the ideal of Charles Morris’ plan the town lots were edged by a common and then, further out, the royalty which was a band of country lots. Perhaps it was envisioned that each of the 500 town lots would also have a 12 acre royalty lot to provide for crops and grazing for the town residents.  The system soon broke down as there was ample space within the slow-growing town for gardens and pastures. The colonial officials sold off the common and royalty lots and farms were created at the edge of the town.   When the City of Charlottetown was incorporated in 1855 it was comprised of the Town and Common. The royalty was beyond the fringe.

Prince Street School (right) was the site from which the postcard view was taken. Raphael Tuck postcard. Murray Collection.

Almost all postcards of the Edwardian era follow the harbour based approach. If there is a an overall view from the tall building the view is toward the harbour. This is the case for a Haszard and Moore postcard showing the view from the Colonial Building noted in an earlier posting.  But there was an exception. One tall building was located in the north part of the City. Prince Street School, built by the Methodists, was a four-story structure which peered out over the residential area.

Overlooking Experimental Farm, Charlottetown. P.E.I. Valentine & Sons postcard #111402. Because the eastern part of the card is often detached and has no postcard markings on the reverse it is often lost.

This rare double card shows the view to the north as the city bleeds out into the countryside.  The school was built in the northern part of the Common and the view goes beyond the city limits. The vista runs from the Newlands Estate in the west to St. Avards in the east.

The left half of the card shows a cluster of houses, many still standing, at the north end of Prince Street.  Malpeque Road can be traced extending out past St. Dunstan’s College, whose brick mass is seen squatting on the horizon.

This no-man’s land of mainly modest houses, tiny lots and narrow streets was Gaytown. It had been settled by those who sought the lower costs and lower taxes outside the city limit which ran just to the north of Gerald Street.  Businesses sprang up along Malpeque Road and Allen Street.  The area acquired its name when J.J. Gay, who had a market garden and nursery in Pownal moved to the area in the 1890s to better serve his town customers both at the downtown market and directly from the nursery.  Gaytown became a neighbourhood and then a community. Although administratively linked to the Village of Spring Park it had an identity all its own. By the 1930s the area had a number of sports teams playing hockey, baseball soccer and volleyball. The newspapers mentioned the Gaytown Rovers, Gaytown Ramblers, and Gaytown Hawks.  The fields at the edge of the community included the grounds of the Charlottetown Athletic Association near Allen Street.

The right half of the card looks out from the school roof to the grounds of the experimental farm with its thicket of woods around Ravenwood and Ardgowan. Many of the houses on Gerald and School Street (now Walthen Drive) are still standing.  A hint of industrialization can be spotted by the presence of oil tanks bordering the P.E.I. Railway line as it headed out of the city.

As the area outside the city grew so did the problems.  Without the benefits of municipal water and sewage systems and dependant for the most part on Charlottetown for fire protection the area was seen as a health and safety risk. As late as the 1950s there was still a public well at Spring Park.  In 1957 the Village of Spring Park amalgamated with Charlottetown and became ward 6 of the city. Parkdale continued on its own for several more years.

Although in common use well into the 1950s the name “Gaytown” has all but disappeared. While other neighbourhoods such as Brighton and Parkdale are still identifiers only a one block long street – Gay Avenue, where the nursery was located – remains to remind us of the settlement.

A postcard depicting the fields of the experimental farm which almost accidentally captured the view of rooftops may be the only view we have of a vanished community.

Seasonal Rarities – P.E.I.’s Iceboat Postcards

If there is one commonality between current postcards of Prince Edward Island and those created prior to the Great War it is scarcity of images taken in winter. The postcard collector might be excused if, based on the subject matter of the cards, they though that there were only three seasons on the Island – summer, spring and fall – and very little of the latter two.

Winter scenes are scarce if not rare. Even with the photographic advances with dry-plate negatives, winter photography could be difficult. While winter photos of Prince Edward Island are not common, postcards with winter scenes are even less so. With only a few exceptions those photographs that can be found mainly show ice-bound winter steamers.

2675004
Crossing Northumberland Strait by Ice Boats. Warwick Bros. & Rutter postcard #2675. This images was probably taken close to shore where the ice was pushed by the tide changes up on the Island shores. This card was also published in an uncoloured edition.

As an island in the northern latitudes the winter posed unusual challenges for transportation and the bulk of visitors (and postcard purchasers) never experienced the barrier that the Strait became in winter. From Confederation in 1873 until near the end of the Great War Prince Edward Island’s relations with the Dominion Government seemed to follow a predictable pattern. The Island would complain that the Confederation promise of continuous steam communication was not being met by Ottawa. A new and more powerful steamer built to tackle the ice would be promised and eventually built. The steamer would fail the test posed by Northumberland Strait’s tide-packed ice. The Island would complain. Another steamer would be built and then another and another. Some of the most attractive postcards of the period are shots of these vessels in the icy grip of winter, stuck between Prince Edward Island and the mainland.   An account of the steamer passage in winter can be found on the Sailstrait blog site.

Ice Boat Service003
Ice Boat service from P.E.I. to Mainland. Haszard & Moore postcard. This card more accurately depicts the struggles to wrestle the boats across the uneven ice surface.

At the same time a unique and more interesting mode of transportation was forced on the Island. The nine mile distance between Cape Tormentine in New Brunswick and Cape Traverse on the Island was the shortest passage across the strait although the fast running tidal currents could also create towering ice-jams. In the mid 1880s the ice-boat service which had begun as contracted passage of the mails was improved by the Dominion government following a disaster on the ice which saw passengers and crew marooned on the ice by storm conditions.  As the passage of the strait was seldom a simple stroll across the ice the boats had to contend with open water, slush, slurry, small ice cakes, floes, pans and board ice.  Using a locally-developed design special ice-boats had been developed. The heavy boats had two iron runners on the boat bottom so that the boats could be hauled and pushed across both flat ice pans and wrestled over pressure ridges with the crew linked to the boats by leather straps which allowed them to pull but also served as a primitive safety mechanism when they slipped or fell through the ice. As well the boats had to be seaworthy to cross open water that might exist almost the whole distance one day and disappear the next.  Professional ice-boat crews manned these boats.  However the addition of passenger traffic to the handling of the mails introduced a new element. There was a two tier pricing system. A premium price allowed the passenger to sit in the boat all the way across battling the bitter cold. A lesser price required the passenger to help haul the boat, usually at some considerable risk of getting wet.

2669002
Striking Board Ice, Crossing at the Capes from Prince Edward Island to the Mainland. Warwick Bros. & Rutter postcard #2669. Board ice is the ice which attaches to the shore and is not normally moved by wind and tide. In this image open water can be seen beyond the boats.

To date I have found only three postcard images of the iceboat crossing.  Two are carefully posed photos, quite possibly taken by W.S. Louson and used on Warwick Bros. & Rutter cards printed in Toronto.  The other was printed in Belgium and published under the Haszard & Moore imprint. This is more of an action shot and is a rare image in itself as it shows the small sails which were sometimes used when conditions allowed.

Even after more powerful ice-worthy steamers were developed the ice boats were called on from time to time as the ships did not always battle with the ice successfully.  The service did not end until 1917 when the powerful railcar ferry S.S. Prince Edward Island began service at the Capes. The iceboat postcards soon became images of an obsolete response to the winter isolation of Prince Edward Island.

Victoria Park in Early Postcards

Visiting naval vessel seen from Victoria Park. Bathing huts can be seen just to the right of the seated figure. R.F. Maddigan postcard.

Charlottetown’s Victoria Park was established in 1875. It was carved from a property on the western side of the city designated as the Governor’s Farm.  When Charlottetown was laid out it had five squares: Queens, Kings, Pownal, Hillsborough and Rochford. By the mid 1800s these were becoming inadequate to the city’s needs. Queens Square was occupied by the market and other public buildings, Pownal Square housed the city jail. A chance to set aside public space on the waterfront was lost when the Imperial government gave up the ordnance grounds at the west end of Water Street. The colonial authorities decided to auction the lots off instead of establishing a park. The possibility of turning over part of the Governor’s Farm for a park was raised in 1869 and was discussed during the negotiations leading to the Island’s entry into Confederation.

Finally in 1875 40 acres constituting the westernmost part of the farm  were handed over to the city. The grant excluded the Prince Edward Battery which was retained for military uses. By 1880 the field nearest the harbour was identified as a cricket ground and one near Brighton Road (now Memorial Field) became a parade ground for the several military units in the city.  Access to the park was from Brighton Road because the proposed roadway extending Kent Street in front of Government House was opposed by various Lieutenant Governors until 1896. The roadway to the Battery was completed a year later and was extended to join Brighton Road in 1899. In 1905 additional land was carved out of the Government House Farm and the Park reached the size it has today.

As the premier recreational space the Park was the subject of many postcards highlighting the natural setting and the activities which took place there. First and foremost it provided a vantage point of the harbour with the open channel to Hillsborough Bay.

Charlottetown Harbour from Victoria Park. This view appears to pre-date the completion of the park roadway. R.F. Maddigan postcard

An extremely popular postcard subject was the view from the Prince Edward Battery (usually misidentified as Fort Edward) back toward the city. A single image was used by a number of publishers and others appeared which were only slight variations of the view.

In the early 1900s the military installation was still very much in use. The main army drill hall and other structures were on the east side of Governor’s Pond. The Battery was used by the artillery for both training and ceremonial uses. The 4th Artillery Regiment was particularly successful in Dominion competition and frequently led the country in the national results.

The new Park Roadway in front of Government House opened the Park to easy access from Kent Street. This image or a slight variation of appear on cards from a half-dozen or more publishers. This is a Haszard and Moore postcard.
Fort Edward, Victoria Park MHF
The Prince Edward Battery site continues to be used for ceremonial salutes to this day. Taylor’s Book Store postcard.

The annual Militia camps took place in the park until the Great War and provided an entertainment for visitors and residents of Charlottetown. Militia groups came from across the Island to set up camp in the Park and engaged in drills and competition while under canvas. The patriotism of the Boer War period made membership in the militia a popular form of comradeship and interest in civilian soldiers continued through to the Great War.

3 Among the big guns
Visitors at Camp Brighton. Carter & Company postcard.
Heavy Battery No. 3 Camp Brighton MHF
The horse artillery drawn up on the Park Roadway. The white board fence bordering the Government House grounds can be seen to the east of the encampment. Pugh postcard #42-7.

But military camps were not the only users of the park. Although there were limitations on the use of the park for shows and commercial activities which had a paid admission charge, community groups were frequent users.

YMCA Camp Victoria Park MHF
YMCA Camp, Victoria Park. There were close relationships between the military and groups such as the YMCA. The latter organization frequently had a support presence in military camps. Taylor’s Book Store postcard.

The vast majority of the early postcards images of Victoria Park deal with the natural views in the park.  A number of carriage lanes, some still in use as pathways today, had been opened in the predominantly birch forest and the striking groves of white birches served as both subject and background for Charlottetown photographers. W.S. Louson, whose photos were used by the Toronto postcard firm Warwick Bros. & Rutter was particularly enamoured by the park as a photo venue. [click an image to enlarge or begin slide show]

Today Victoria Park continues to be the site of postcard views and increased use of the park had led to more and more structures; fieldhouses, a bandshell, and changing rooms. During the Edwardian era the only buildings were the battery magazine, the tennis pavilion and the keepers house. Now it becoming overbuilt and is harder and harder to pretend, as our ancestors did in the beginning of the 20th century,  that the park represents a bit of the country in the city.

 

 

The Three Sisters

In my youth when I began work at the Public Archives of P.E.I. I spent a lot of time on the reference desk.  It seemed as if every second genealogical inquiry began with the words “There were three brothers…”  In the world of postcard collecting the catch phrase seems to be “the three sisters”.

I was intrigued by a Warwick Bros. & Rutter postcard (#5700) with this title. It seemed to be one of a number of their series of sepia cards, but it was far from clear where it was from.  There was no indication if it even showed a scene from Prince Edward Island as there was no other locational information on the card. From the look of the card it could be almost any shoreline or even a river bank.

It was therefore a stroke of luck that the copy of the card that I possessed had a message even though the card itself was not sent through the mail – unless it was sent in an envelope as there was no postmark or stamp. What is remarkable is that the card was dated 3/7/28 which could be as much as 16 years after the hey-day of the Warwick and Rutter postcard publishing came to an end.  The message helps locate the card.

Last Sunday I visited this shore near Campbelltown, P.E.I. The banks are quite high and these points of rock jutting out into the Gulf are called The Three Sisters, evidently taken when the tide was low.

A week later I stumbled across a second Three Sisters card. The card was a Pugh Specialty card and was postmarked 1915. The message on the card was certainly less explicit as to place, but it did reference “all the sights of O’Leary”. The face of the card however, left little doubt that The Three Sisters was a nearby attraction in western Prince County.

 

On Prince Edward Island the phrase “graven in stone” has much less meaning than in the rest of the country. The constant erosion shapes the shoreline relentlessly and once famous formations such as Elephant Rock, Cavendish’s Lone Rock, Wolfe’s Rock and Pulpit Rock have all disappeared.  The same fate was likely in store for The Three Sisters.

But even on Prince Edward Island the name has other dimensions and other locations. A W.G. MacFarlane card of Victoria Park in Charlottetown shows another application of the name but once again fame is fleeting and the park’s white birches are disappearing. This grouping is long since gone.

Three Sisters Victoria Park no. 51 MHF

There are “Three Sisters” groupings all across the postcard world; images of peaks near Banff Alberta, and other set in Central Oregon, in Hell’s Half-Acre in Wyoming, overlooking Glencoe in Scotland, a range in the Blue Mountains of Australia, a group of islands in Lake Superior and dozens of other geographical phenomena.

The main difference between these locations and the rocks and trees of Prince Edward Island is that a century later our Three Sisters have disappeared while the others are truly  set in stone.

 

 

A Blog becomes a Website – the Evolution of StraitPost

Folks who have visited this site before may observe that the format or theme of the site has changed.  The change has been brought about in order accommodate an expansion in my reason for writing for the site in the first place.

Screen Shot 05-05-17 at 10.43 AMWhen I first began collecting postcards it was simply the delight I experienced in seeing these artifacts of life on Prince Edward Island a century ago. As a researcher and historian I had discovered that postcards were an excellent but often overlooked was to discover the values of the past. Simply telling the stories of the cards about the cards seemed to be enough. However my experience as an archivist soon informed my thinking and I began to see a value in providing increased access to the information about the collections of cards and well as the information on the cards themselves. I moved from disorganized bundles of cards order based on little more than location to a more detailed listing of card information, identifying, where possible, the publishers and the order they imposed on the cards through their own cataloguing.

Screen Shot 05-05-17 at 11.24 AMWhile the old layout of the blog was pleasing it did not allow for the easy inclusion of the different type of  information I wanted to present by creating several pages in addition to the occasional blog postings.  The current format is somewhat of a compromise, retaining the access to the blog but also allowing for the creation of new pages relating to the postcard publishers.  On large devices such as laptops and desktop computers the change is most easily seen on the right hand side of the page where there is now a clickable listing of additional pages, a search box that can be used to easily find blog postings and a listing of recent postings. On pages viewed on tablets or phones these additional features will appear if you scroll to the bottom of the page.  Actually the cell phone viewing plays havoc with almost all of the formats except for plain text.

As a relatively uninformed web user I have been restricted to the ready-made formats provided by the WordPress program. I have used several formats in the past and find them excellent and I suspect I shall continue to tinker with variations. I ask my readers to be patient as I experiment.  While the new format provides the functionality I have been seeking it lacks a certain something and I continue to search for a format that will better present what I am trying to accomplish.

In the meantime please explore the new pages (which will continue to be edited and evolve as time passes).

Groceries, Soft Drinks and Postcards; R.F. Maddigan & Co.

 

Victoria Park001
Victoria Park, Charlottetown, P.E.I.

During the golden age of postcards national printers, publishers and distributors blanketed the country with penny  images. National firms such as Valentine, Stedman, and Warwick & Rutter made sure they had postcards from every province and territory.  But there were scores, or perhaps hundreds, of others who got in on the game at a local level.  On Prince Edward Island firms such as Haszard & Moore and Carter & Company had an easily understandable link to the cards; the former as a printer and publisher and the latter as a stationer.  However there were also less obvious connections and some merchants gave posts cards a whirl even though it may have been somewhat removed from their core business. Until recently these local publishers or distributors have attracted little attention from collectors and it is difficult to find information about them.

One such businessman on Prince Edward Island was Richard F. Maddigan.  Born in 1867 Maddigan worked in the grocery business with W. Grant and Company in Charlottetown and in 1900 he took over the operation on the west side of Queen Street between Dorchester and Sydney streets changing the business name to R.F. Maddigan and Co.  He operated a conventional grocery business but by 1906 had branched out into the manufacture of “Temperance Beverages” (soft drinks) and advertised that he could supply “everything required for fitting out saloons.”  The following year he took over the rival Ferris and Frederickson Aereated Water Business.  Today bottles from both of these companies are greatly sought by collectors.

Maddigan
Charlottetown Guardian 26 August 1911.

Four years later an advertisement appeared suggesting thatMaddigan had once again expanded his interests.  Directed at country post offices and stores he advertised that he had 80 varieties of cards available.  Richard Maddigan had gone into the postcard business.   It is not clear if the 80 varieties referred only to view cards or to other cards which might have been comical or topical in nature.  I have been able to identify about 25 cards with the Maddigan name and there are no doubt others about. I would be interested in hearing of other Maddigan titles. The cards show images from a number of different Island communities.

Victoria Park Back002
Detail of one of several different Maddigan card backs
6707
St. Dunstan’s Cathedral. Warwick Bros. & Rutter card published for Maddigan

Maddigan seems to have purchased his cards from a variety of suppliers. Many of the images appear on cards identified with other publishers and in several cases these names appear on the cards along with that of Maddigan.

The card backs indicate at least 5 different designs appear suggesting a variety of printers/publishers were used.  One of the more common of the designs has a unique card number in the format XXX-XX on the lower right bottom edge of the card back which may give a clue as to the printer. The same card backs and number system are found on cards from the Pugh Manufacturing Company, recently the subject of new information on the Toronto Postcard Club site. Some other cards are noted as “Printed in Great Britain”, others are from printers in Saxony.  Because of the variety of images and printers and lack of consistency in type faces on the card captions it is difficult to identify a typical “Maddigan card”.  Images of a number of cards bearing the Maddigan imprint are shown below to illustrate the design and colour ranges. Click on any image in enlarge. A more complete catalogue of known Maddigan cards can be found here.

After the postcard boom died away there is no indication that Maddigan continued in the card business. He no doubt eventually sold off his stock and returned to concentration on the grocery lines. Richard Maddigan died on 24 February 1928 and by the end of April the shop fittings and equipment in his store had been auctioned off.

Note:  The Toronto Post Card Club web site has a number histories of Canadian postcard publishers as well as checklists of cards from some of them.

Where was “Three Miles from Charlottetown”?

Note: This post originally appeared in my blog about Charlottetown Harbour – Sailstrait

The plain-looking sepia-coloured postcard is cryptic to say the least. The caption simply says “Three Miles from Charlottetown” but it doesn’t say where the photo was taken. There is a pond framed by trees and a rowboat with three aboard, and strangely what appears to be a fence in the water.  The card is simply one of what may have been as many as 500 different postcards depicting P.E.I. scenes that were published before the Great War. This card was from the Toronto firm of Warwick Bros & Rutter which created over 7000 postcards during the period – about 150 of which contained Prince Edward Island scenes.

We don’t know how many of the cards were published but an Island firm, Carter and Company boasted in 1907 that they had 500,000 cards in stock.  Postcards had become a mania. Changes in postal regulations in the late 1890s allowed for the cards with a scene on one side and address and message on the other, and people immediately began collecting. While some of the cards were used for postal communication thousands were gathered into albums.

Unlike most of the cards from the period we know the photographer for this one. The picture was taken by William S. Louson. a travelling sales agent for a Montreal dry-goods company who lived in Charlottetown. Louson played a very important role in P.E.I. history as he was one of the leading “boosters” of the Island as a tourism destination. His images appeared in leading American and Canadian magazines and his photographs were printed on hundreds of thousands of postcards. Louson has a habit of eschewing locating his images, instead he provided titles like “Rustic Scene.” “A Morning Walk,” and “Border of the woods.”

We know who. We can imagine why. But can we determine where?  There appears to be some sort of pond and my first thought was that it was one of the many creeks flowing into the rivers near the city. Several of these had been dammed to create millponds. If we look at the three mile distance from the city (or even somewhat beyond), we have Wrights (Bird Island) Creek, Gates Mills at Ellen’s Creek, Hermitage Creek and on the Southport side of the river there is the Hatchery Dam on the way to Keppoch but nothing seems to fit the topography shown in the postcard .

The penny did not drop until I had another look at my recent posting on Range Lights and looked closely at the photo below:

Looking across Warren Pond to Warren Rear range light ca. 1910.

Here we have a lighthouse, a boat and a pond, and behind the boat what could be the rails of a fence in the water. This caused me to look much closer at the initial post card image. Although the cards are the product of two different publishers could they be taken in the same location and by the same photographer?

 

 

Enlarged detail of "Three Miles from Charlottetown" Lighthouse can be seen above boat bracketed by tree branches.

And then I spotted it! One tiny detail and the matter was resolved. Just above the horizon is a small dark rectangle and beneath it a barely perceptible shape that can only be a lighthouse.  When you know what you are looking at you can even see a window in the building. But this lighthouse is seen from the rear and it is definitely not the same as the one in the coloured postcard. What does look suspiciously the same is the boat and also the fence line in the water.  Both photos seem to be taken from the Ringwood side of the creek flowing into Warren Cove. The coloured postcard shows the rear light clearly and the sepia card positions the front range just behind the boat.

One thing that makes the photo difficult to locate is the fact that there is no pond at Warren Cove now, nor does it appear to have been one there for some time. A 1734 drawing shows a small pond behind the beach but it is not clear how long it lasted. None of the charts or maps of the area show a pond and yet it clearly exists in the photographs from about 1910. The 1935 aerial photograph of the area shows the place looking much as it does today with a small spring-fed creek barely trickling through a swampy area and seeping out onto the beach of Warren Cove.  One possible interpretation is that through winter storms or some other reason the outlet for the creek became blocked, or perhaps the cottagers at the Cove dammed it up  and this pond was temporarily created.  That would account for the fence line which appears in the pond. Under normal water conditions a lane may have followed the edge of the creek but as the water rose it overtopped the bank and captured the fence.

So “Three Miles from Charlottetown” is not along the banks of the Hillsborough or North River but instead the scene is across the harbour just below Fort Amherst. And it is not so surprising as Rocky Point and the Fort Lot was a popular day trip for ferry excursionists – one of whom took his camera along.

Location of Louson photo today. Front range Light is not visible but lies behind trees on south shore of marsh.

Today standing at the point from which the photos were taken one is greeted by a swampy marsh and a wall of White Spruce trees which block any sight of the range lights.  An area which was one of the first cleared of trees in the early settlement of the Island is reverting to the forest.

Parks Canada has elected to dismiss more than two hundred years of human habitation on this site which would have left this area cleared of trees. The early Acadians and English settlers soon used the trees on the site for fire wood and building materials and turned the land to agriculture uses. Rather than maintain the agricultural aspect of the site  the balance of convenience for Parks Canada appears to have been to ignore the human history and dismiss the impact of settlers on the land.

 

“Three Miles from Charlottetown” is one of a series of sepia postcards published by Warwick Bros. & Rutter, mostly using images taken by W.S. Louson. For more on these cards click here.