Most postcards are about places rather than people. In fact it is somewhat rare that the identity of individuals appearing on the face of cards is known. If seen at all they are usually innocent bystanders captured by the photographer. But sometimes an individual is depicted because they have become as much an institution in the community as the public buildings, parks, and street scenes. Such was the case with James Murphy, “Charlottetown’s Popular Cabman.”
James Murphy was born in Ireland in 1850 but unlike many of the Irish immigrants to Prince Edward Island, he came late, arriving with his wife Letitia in 1882 when he was already over thirty years old. He appears to have established his business at an early date being identified as an expressman, which we might now characterize as a deliveryman, in the 1901 census. Certainly by the early 20th century he was already a well-recognized figure on the streets of Charlottetown with his Irish jaunting cart in use as a cab. This was an uncommon rig in the province.
At the time of his death the Charlottetown Guardian identified him as a “veteran cabman” and stated “Mr. Murphy was one of the best known on the street of past years, his occupation bringing him into contact with all classes, especially the travelling public with whom he was most favourably known.” James Murphy died on 18 January 1910 predeceased by his wife and leaving an adult son, Michael J. Murphy.
He is memorialized on at least two postcards and images of him and his horse and jaunting cart appeared in picture books produced as souvenirs.
My copy of the card shown above has the following flippant message on the back: “This is Murphy but he is dead. The town is nearly dead but pretty. Having a pretty good time so far but quiet.” Perhaps not the most eloquent testimonial for Charlottetown.
The list of images of P.E.I. postcards published by the Pugh Manufacturing Company has been updated with the inclusion of more than twenty additional images bringing the total to more than seventy-five views of the Island. Most of these confirm or fill-in previously identified gaps in the numbering sequences. Based on the assumption that other gaps identified are for still-missing images there are likely another half-dozen Pugh cards for Prince Edward Island which have not been identified. Thanks to Phil Culhane and other postcard collectors who have shared images in order to make this listing more complete. Any collectors having cards filling in these missing numbers are asked to contact the blog author.
In an earlier post I wrote about Grocer R.F. Maddigan’s venture into postcard distribution and provided a visual guide to the cards I knew of at that time. Since then I have acquired images of a number of additional cards and have revised the visual listing of Maddigan cards for Prince Edward Island to show all 60 of the cards that I have been able to locate.
From this it is clear that he was a major player in the postcard business in the province, likely serving as a wholesale distributor. He certainly did not publish his own cards and those appearing with his name came from a large number of publishers. The listing shows cards with the Maddigan name that were clearly the same as those from Pugh, McCoy, Valentine and even one card from Warwick & Rutter. To date I have identified nine different card backs suggesting that he changed suppliers frequently. Trade publications suggest that it was easy to acquire cards and simply by sending images to the publisher one could arrange to have them printed under your own name. Selecting an image already appearing on cards with another’s name on them was not considered a barrier as with limited exceptions copyrights were not filed.
This makes it doubly difficult to get a handle on how many different Maddigan cards are out there. To date I have identified 60 cards under the R.F. Maddigan name but I have little doubt there are many more in collections that have not been discovered. The current listing includes images from my own collection, from public holdings available on-line and those of other collectors. I am particularly indebted to Phil Culhane of Ottawa who has graciously permitted use of information from his site at http://www.peipostcards.ca As always I am interested in learning of images that I have not included to date.
The latest listing has cards sorted by location and then alphabetically by title. If the card contains a catalogue number it has been posted to the entry.
As the central square of the City of Charlottetown, Queen’s Square was a frequent subject of Edwardian postcards. The Square housed most of the Province’s major public buildings and was bordered by the main commercial streets of the city. Most cards publishers of the period showed one or two views, with the Provincial Building being easily the most common.
However the cards of the Pugh Manufacturing Company have a remarkable deviation from the norm. Of the 80 or so Pugh cards for Prince Edward Island published before WWI at least fifteen show Queen Square or the streets surrounding it. There was certainly much to see on the Square. In 1905 there were four large buildings which represented the major public and government presence in the city. At the west end of the square was the William Harris designed market building (1903) with its adjacent weigh scale house. The land in the square to the north and south was the public market square.
A street, now vanished separated the market from the cluster of government buildings. The central section of the Square consisted of three uniformly large brick or stone buildings. These were; the Cabot building (1887), also designed by William Harris, which was the post office and Dominion Government building, the Provincial (or Colonial) Building (1847) now erroneously referred to as Province House*, which contained the provincial legislature, most government offices and land registry; and the Thomas Alley designed Law Courts Building (1876) which replaced an earlier law courts destroyed by fire in 1884, on the site of the Cabot Building This part of the Square also contained the band-stand and the public gardens designed by Arthur Newbury.**
Another street cutting the square separated state from church with the Church of England (1896), Sunday School and Anglican Rectory, all in harmonious sandstone occupying the remainder of the public land in the centre of the city.
Sunnyside (a section of Grafton street) to the north, Victoria Row (Richmond Street),south, and Queen Street, west, provided the sites for the city’s major businesses. The east side of Queen’s Square was Prince Street which was, and is, a residential street.
Oddly the Pugh series of cards does not contain a card showing the Colonial Building, except in combination with other buildings, a view which was invariably included in the offerings of other postcard publishers. Perhaps even then the image was too common to be remarkable.
For architectural historians post cards can be frustrating for they usually show only a single elevation the backs and sides of buildings rarely make the cut. The Pugh cards show images from all around the square. Perhaps it was the well-maintained gardens which were being featured but we have rare views of the bandstand which later vanished from the Square and something other than the usual elevations of the Market and Cabot Buildings. One event at the Boer War memorial is a card subject but the memorial itself features on another.
Today most of these views could not be taken. The building of the Confederation Centre of the Arts in 1964 eliminated the street separating the market square from the rest of the block, reduced the Cabot Building to rubble and forced the disappearance of the Gardens. The brutalist structure elbowed its way to the edge of the streets and forced what little public open space was left up onto a plaza visibly at war with the surrounding streets.
The Pugh views speak to a much different time when the city centre was open and welcoming. We are fortunate that it has been so well documented.
Thirteen other Pugh images of Queen’s Square are available. Click on any image to start the slide show and enlarge the images.
Empire Day, Charlottetown, P.E.I. Pugh card #524-5. The Boer War monument became a focus for patriotic activity. This aspcet of the square is little changed
Rear of Cabot Building and Bandstand. Pugh card #524-12
Market Square showing the city weigh house. Pugh card #524-10
Market building and weigh house from Queen Street. The market had a large public hall upstairs and was the site of a movie and vaudeval theatre which bore several names including the Wonderland, the Strand, and the Empire. Pugh card #524-8
Gardens in front of Provincial Building. The cannon to the right had been retrieved from the waters near Fort Amherst. Pugh card #524-9
Gardens looking towards St. Paul’s Church. This circular bed was immediately behind the Provincial Building. Pugh card #524-3
Victoria Row from Provincial Building. The fountain in front of the Cabot Building continued to operate until the building of the Confederation Centre. Pugh card #898-21
Queen Street west of Market Square. Pugh card #898-24
“Sunnyside” Grafton Street. Pugh card #524-17
* The name Province House rarely appears in printed sources before 1964 and when it did the reference was usually to the Legislature Building in Nova Scotia.
** For information on the Queen’s Square Gardens see The Island Magazine Fall/Winter 1990
Two cards with family photos are among the most well-known of early Prince Edward Island postcards. However, the cards are somewhat of an anomaly. Published by the Toronto publishers Warwick Bros. and Rutter, the Garden of the Gulf Series of cards more often showed the traditional fare of landscapes and buildings. This is even more evident when dealing with the cards attributed to amateur photographer William Steel Louson who produced scores of P.E.I. images for Warwick & Rutter. In fact, people are conspicuous by their absence in most of the Louson cards.
However two cards stand out from that group as exceptions and they both stem from a visit by Louson to the western P.E.I. community of Tignish in 1903. He was probably there in his capacity as a commercial traveller for the Greenshields wholesale firm of Montreal but it was not unusual for him to carry his camera on his visits to rural stores across the province. While in Tignish he visited with the family of Colo [Nicolas] Poirier, the patriarch of a branch of the large Poirier family, descendants of Prosper Poirier of Malpeque and later of Tignish. What was remarkable about Colo Poirier was that in 1903 five generations of his family were living in the community. Colo was 97 years old and his wife was 93. Married for over seventy years the couple had twelve children, seven of whom were still living in 1903. At the time there were 201 living descendants of the pair.
Louson photographed the couple at “their clean little home by the sea-shore,” the residence of their eldest son Gilbert. By special request of the couple the prayer-book and cross were included in the photo posed in front of a flag hung to protect them and to hide the shingles on the side of the house. Both were pipe smokers and Louson brought a gift of tobacco for them. He found them in remarkable health, Colo still worked on the cod flakes and cut and sawed his own wood. With them in the photo was their great-great-grandson Master Joseph Poirier.
At the same time, although possibly in a later visit, Louson posed the family in a number of carefully composed group shots, two of which were to become postcards. The first, seen as a photograph above, was taken on the shore near Tignish with a fish stage in the background and male members of five generations of the family holding the painter of a small, beached vessel, a type used for both lobster fishing and hook and net catches. The cropped and coloured image, titled “Five Generations All Pullers Together” became Warwick and Rutter card # 2730.
Another image, which was published as Warwick & Rutter card # 1801, shows the four adult men, their spouses and the child. Louson described the image in an article written for the Guardian newspaper in November 1903. “Here is our third picture, the husbands and wives with little Joseph are represented. What a happy reunion this is, surrounded by lobster traps all appear as happy as clams.”
There were probably no later photos of the group. Colas died at Skinner’s P0nd in the fall of 1904 and his wife followed him less than a year later.
There is an interesting feature of this card which can be seen under closer examination. The image supplied to the publisher by Louson apparently could not be cropped to fit the landscape format of the Warwick & Rutter cards with their title block at the bottom without losing detail from either the heads or feet of the subject. The solution arrived at was to manually add to the width of the image. Carefully drawn images of the lobster traps and background were extended in order to fit the format of the cards. Once the alteration is notice it can be easily spotted on both the left and right of the image of the card.
Louson made good and repeated use of the images. He was an occasional contributor to the Montreal Standard and the Poirier story and images appeared on its pages. Besides coverage in the Charlottetown Guardian in an article written by Louson the images also were included in two souvenir albums of P.E.I. scenes published by Carter & Co. in 1904. The cards themselves were very popular and the family “Five Generations” card exists in at least four editions with minor variations including one where the location is misspelled “Tidnish.”
For Louson, who was a tourism booster for his adopted province, the Poirier story and photos served as an example of the healthy life-style of the Island and longevity of Islanders. He promoted the bringing together of the extended families of the province such as the Poiriers, which could provide tourism benefits flowing from what he referred to as “Come Home Excursions” and which later emerged as “Old Home Week”.
During the 19th century a constantly recurring complaint of both travellers and the merchants of Charlottetown was the lack of quality accommodation for visitors to Charlottetown.
However, by the end of the century there were two large hotels strategically located on Water Street at the head of the Steam Navigation Wharf and bracketing the southern end of Great George Street. To the west was the modest Queen Hotel. On the other side of the street was the far more impressive Hotel Davies with its impressive five-storey corner turret overlooking the steamer wharf and Great George Street. The eastern block of the Davies was built first with the corner section added before 1900.
The Davies was the leading hotel in the city with rooms at $2.00 a day or $10.50 a week. The dining room was the site of major banquets and meetings. It also earned a reputation as one of the few where one could get a drink in the time of increasing temperance sentiment. This was to prove more of a problem after the passage of a Prohibition Act in 1900. Early in 1903 the proprietor, Patrick Doherty, faced his third offence under act and was sentenced to six months. In his absence his wife ran the business. In the fall of that year he closed the hotel and alarm spread within the business community that it would not re-open leaving the city once more without first-class accommodation.
The gap was filled when R.H. Sterns bought the business, changing the name to the Hotel Victoria. He undertook a number of improvements to the building with Bruce Stewart & Co. providing plumbing for 15 bathrooms in the structure. It would later have telephones in each room with a private switchboard, the first in the City. Sterns also took steps to promote the hotel and in June 1904 the following note appeared in the Charlottetown Guardian
R.H. Sterns, the energetic proprietor of the Victoria Hotel is issuing very tasty booklets and souvenir postals. They contain excellent views of the golf links, scenes from Tea Hill, Great George street looking towards the hotel and the Hotel itself.
The following year a new card of the hotel appeared, this one with views of both the exterior and interior of the building.
It is probable that both of these cards were locally produced as the printing firm of Haszard and Moore published a not-dissimilar series at this time.
As the biggest and best hotel in Charlottetown and, indeed the province, it is not surprising that the building is the subject of quite a number of postcards. Almost without exception they highlighted the turreted corner block of the structure with its harbour views but as the years passed there were subtle differences in the view, and in the hotel itself.
In September 1919 Sterns indicated an interest in selling the Victoria . A local company was quickly formed with many leading businessmen coming forward to acquire shares and take over management of the operation. By June of 1921 the Charlottetown Hotel Company had also taken on ownership of the nearby Queen Hotel. Sterns concentrated his attention on the Beach Grove Summer Hotel, located not far from the city.
Renovations and improvements at the Victoria meant that within a year fifty of the hotel’s rooms had baths. However it seems that part of the hotel was closed in the off-season. In summer the hotel could accommodate 200 guests, in winter the number was half that. One feature of the public rooms of the hotel was a display of Island views by photographer W.S. Louson.
The most recent of the cards both show the conversion of the mansard roof and additional story added to the structure after the Great War, probably for staff accommodation. One card, taken from ground level is a view often mistaken for earlier cards; the other, probably photographed from the roof of the building across the street is a view with the prominent tower for the elevator serving the eastern wing of the building.
In the early morning of 12 January 1929 fire was discovered in the building. Although the twenty-eight guests and thirty staff all made it safely out of the building the fire raged for much of the day and by late afternoon the site was a smoking ruin.
In April the shareholders decided to sell their remaining asset, the Queen Hotel, and wind up the company. The expectation that the Canadian National Railways would build a large new hotel in the city was a major consideration in the decision.
Earlier this year a sepia toned card was offered on the sales market. It was one of several cards published by the Toronto firm of Warwick Bros. & Rutter which could be described as “generic” in that it did not specify location and was an all-purpose card which could be sold representing several locations across the country. Where exactly in the country had Warwick & Rutter chosen to represent Canada’s fall season?
The mystery appears to be revealed in the message on the card back. The correspondent has written: “This avenue is in Charlottetown in Park.” The message is almost right. This indeed was in Charlottetown but the writer is mistaken as to the specific location. In this generic card the photographer is not identified. Another Warwick Bros. & Rutter card revels the name of the photographer and helps point to the site of the photo.
This card, not so closely cropped, uses the same negative image enhanced with publisher-chosen colour and it not only identifies the province but, more importantly, the photographer. It is the work of talented amateur photographer William S. Louson whose name appears on more than forty Warwick & Rutter cards. Four additional cards, one from Warwick & Rutter, two Carter & Co. cards, and one over the Taylor’s Bookstore imprint provide even more details, although the location is variously named as Lovers Lane, Sydmount Avenue, and Avenue near Charlottetown. The two Carter images appear to have been taken on the same day. [click on any card for enlargement to show details]. These four cards also demonstrate the differences in colouration used by different publishers.
The common element in these cards is the line of mature linden trees bordering the roadway to the north and birches to the south. Although it might be mistaken for the road bordering Victoria Park, this was,and still is recognizable as, Sidmount Avenue, a street formed from the roadway leading from Charlottetown’s North River Road to Sidmount House. A non-postcard photo of the same scene from a souvenir book of Louson’s images is seen below.
Sidmount was one of the estates created in the Charlottetown Common which in the early 19th century had become the preferred location for the homes of the great and good. Although the house is hidden from view in the postcards the fence surrounding the buildings can be seen peeping out from between the trees.
Sidmount was built by Charlottetown merchant Sidney Dealey about 1845. The house and 41 acre estate was advertised for sale at public auction in the 4 April 1846 and featured “a much ornamented cottage, newly erected of wood, by a skillful artisan, in imitation of the Gothic style of architecture.” Forty-three feet by thirty-four feet, this “cottage” featured a frost-proof cellar, a ground floor with dining room, drawing-room, hall, store-room and office and a second floor with two bedrooms, a dressing room, bath and library. An addition to the rear of the building contained a large kitchen, laundry and servants’ bedroom accessible by the back stairs of the main building.
The estate was purchased by lawyer, and later judge, James Horsefield Peters (1811-1891) and his wife, Mary (1817-1865). Mary was the daughter of Samuel Cunard, the founder of the Cunard Steamship Line, who owned large tracts of land on Prince Edward Island. Peters was the Cunard family agent on Prince Edward Island.
Sidmount was influenced by the Gothic Revival architectural style. The style is seen most often in rural areas, but a few examples still exist in Charlottetown. Wood framed houses in this style were decorated with lacy trim and scrolled ornamentation. As an example of the Gothic Revival style in the City, Sidmount has changed very little since its construction, and remains an important link to the history of Charlottetown.
Like Victoria Park, not far to the south, Sidmount Avenue was a favourite location for Louson photographs. He, himself, lived at Birchdale, in the Brighton neighbourhood only a few blocks from Sidmount. It is almost certain that the children in two of the photos are Louson’s children.
Today the few remaining linden trees still scatter their leaves on Sidmount Avenue each fall. While Sidmount House still survives in relatively good condition, recent years have not been kind to the property. While the house is included on the Canadian Register of Heritage Places the property has been chipped away over the years by encroaching suburban development. It has gradually shrunk with the final indignity rendered by need or greed through the disposal of the front yard to create building lots for rather large but undistinguished homes which totally obscure the fine façade of Sidmount House, now hardly visible from the treed avenue.