Where was Pulpit Rock?

The soft sandstone underlying Prince Edward Island is easily sculpted by the wind waves and ice. As the cliffs are eroded they often develop memorable shapes and configurations. In recent years among the more celebrated formations was Elephant Rock not far from North Cape but the constant change in the shorelines mean that the fanciful shapes do not have a long life and Elephant Rock was no exception. Now looking nothing like an elephant, it is evolving into something quite different
When I was a child the Lone Rock at Cavendish was a local landmark. Intriguing as an island at high tide it also had the extra characteristic of having a hole in the rock though which small boys could crawl. However, like Elephant Rock it gradually changed, eventually disappeared and is gone except in memory and some late 1950s postcards.
For early postcard photographers this dramatic rocky shore was an attraction. We did not have rugged mountains or exotic landscapes but we did have this curiously changing shoreline. Certainly early postcards of rocks outnumber those showing beaches by a wide margin. There are a number of views of features such as a stone arch at Darnley, the three sisters formation at Campbelton, and outcrops at both sides of the Charlottetown harbour mouth.

Another famous (at least at the time) sight was Pulpit Rock. Not like any pulpit I have ever seen but I suppose you have to call it something. There is however a slight problem – just where was it?

We have two postcards showing the scene and they are obviously both made from the same photographic image although one is more closely cropped. The differences in the colouring applied by the two publishers can clearly be seen. In both cases the publisher has an identifiable style. Only the Warwick & Rutter card identifies the photographer – in this case W.S. Louson.  Louson had a thing for the sort of rock formation pose – see, for example, his cards of the harbour mouth found on my Sailstrait blog. But more than the difference in appearance the cards have two different locations.


Nature’s Pulpit Kildare Cape, P.E.Island – Carter & Co.

The complexity is compounded by another issue of the same image with slightly a different title. “Nature’s Pulpit” is also located at Kildare Capes as seen in the attached image of a card issued by Carter and Company.   According to Mike Smith’s book on the cards of McCoy Printing the image also appears on another of the McCoy Printing cards – but attached to a different location from the card seen above. Card #94 has a split image – “Gathering Shells” and “Nature’s Pulpit, Kildare, P.E.I.”


In the early 1900s Rustico was already a tourist destination with summer hotels and guest houses. It was easily reached from Charlottetown and from a postcard marketing perspective may have been a more attractive location for card sales. Kildare Capes was in the exotic north-west part of the province and was less likely to be actually visited by tourists. We do know however that William Louson has at least one other Kildare Capes postcard to his credit and there are a number of cards of nearby Alberton and Montrose which he could have taken.

Both locations have the eroding headlands which might have been the site of the rock formation but today any trace would be long gone so unless there are other references we may never know for sure. However I am inclined go with the Warwick & Rutter information as they seem to have taken more care with their descriptions.



Author: sailstrait

I am an archivist, historian and small boat sailor. Over the years have built several small boats, the most recent of which was a Medway Skiff. Since 2011 I have been skipper of "Ebony", a 1982 Halman 20. I sail in Northumberland Strait between Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. Member of the Charlottetown Yacht Club, PEI Sailing Association and the Northumberland Strait Yachting Association. I have also an interest in the history of the Charlottetown Yacht Club, Charlottetown Harbour, Northumberland Strait and the vessels that have sailed there over the years.

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