The Dunk River wanders through the woodlands and farmlands of Prince Edward Island a few miles east of Summerside. It was named in 1765 by surveyor Samuel Holland for George Montagu Dunk, Earl of Halifax. At the beginning of the 20th century it was the province’s leading trout stream and its pastoral appearance made it an ideal subject for postcard photographers. While there are images of the Dunk from several publishers including Valentine & Sons and a number of the uncredited images were copied and re-copied it seems to have been the ideal subject for W.S. Louson and several cards show his particular style. Louson’s work which was published by the Toronto firm of Warwick Bros & Rutter depicts a sympathy with the tamed landscape of a largely agricultural province but contains an element of wistfulness for a wilderness largely absent.
In the later 19th century trout fishing emerged as a sporting activity suitable for men and women alike and in Louson’s work, as in that of his fellow Warwick & Rutter photographer William Cumming the idealized locations for the activity are featured. Louson especially liked to use the brooks and streams of Prince Edward Island in his pictures.
Warwick & Rutter card # 2621 bearing the title “Angler’s Joy Dunk River P.E.I.” shows a single fisherman on the bank of the slowly flowing river framed by a tree trunk and backed by a forest grove. Like so many of the postcards of the period the colours added by the publisher are invented and in some cases are far from reality but still give magical sense to the scene. There are several editions of the card with slightly different wording and placement of information. The image is one that pre-dates the Island’s tourism department use of the slogan “the gentle Island” but might well have been used as a scene typical of the province. There are many locations on the Dunk which look the same today as they did in the early 1900s when the photograph was taken. However siltation from heavy agricultural use and forest clearing has had a negative impact on the fish population as has a number of instances of fish-kills from farm pesticides.
What then to make of another Warwick & Rutter card from the Dunk? Although my copy is slighty cropped it is clear that it bears the same number and title. In this card, which may indeed depict the same river the background is of newly cleared land and split-rail fences making it more of a pioneer landscape. What is more puzzling however is the figure in the foreground. Notwithstanding the “Angler’s Joy” title the main figure is not a fisherman but the silhouette of a hunter, his gun cradled under his arm and ready for action. Is this an attempt to broaden the appeal of Prince Edward for sportsmen or to suggest that trout are so numerous that they can be shot easily? More likely it simply an error, either a mis-labeled “Hunters Paradise” card to bracket the fishing image or, more likely, simply the insertion of the wrong image in a re-publication of the card. Absent a change of title and another catalogue number I lean toward the latter explanation.
Several other Dunk River images appear below from both the Warwick & Rutter listings and those of other publishers. It is worth noting that in at least one case, the image of the two women fishing, the image has been “borrowed” from another location and re-labelled as the Dunk. The original image is a W&R card #1828 located at Souris, P.E.I.