Most of the photographic scenes captured by prolific Charlottetown photographer William Steele Louson which were turned into postcards by Toronto Publishers Warwick Bros. & Rutter have the full colour treatment. With little guidance from reality and with an artistic flourish colour was lavishly, if not luridly, applied. While this enhanced the marketability of the cards it was one step removed from the black and white images that Louson supplied. The coloured cards were the norm for the period although it is not unusual for the colour to obscure some of the detail found in the images. A number of Louson’s photographs are in the collection at the PEI Public Archives and Records Office but none are images found on the cards from Warwick & Rutter, or from other publishers who pirated Louson’s images.
However, there is one series in the Warwick & Rutter output which may be closer to what the photographer provided or perhaps intended. There are a dozen or so P.E.I. cards that are printed in sepia tones. While it has not yet been possible to document all of them, the cards seem to fall in the catalogue number 5240 to 5260 range. There are gaps in the number of known cards which suggest that there may be other cards in the series which have not yet been identified. One such card is titled “Scene at Crapaud” and the photo I have seen of the card certainly suggests that it is part of the sepia series but I have been unable to find a copy to check the card number which appears on the card back. The card is not noted in Mike Smith’s encyclopedic listing of Warwick & Rutter cards. Its style, colour and typeface place it among the W.S. Louson sepia images. There appear to be at least two listed cards (captioned “Indian Basket Makers Camp” and “Go easy I had a Bite”) for which I have been unable to locate images. The sepia cards are from communities right across the province, many of which Louson would have visited in connection with his work as sales agent for the Montreal wholesale firm of Greenshields. It is worth noting that none of the cards, with the exception of the Exhibition Building, are located in the province’s capital. Indeed, the Exhibition Building may not properly belong in the series as it has a different style and caption typeface.
Louson was very keen on positioning his images using dramatic cliffs, trees and foreground foliage to frame the scene and the sepia series has some excellent examples. The gallery below contains many of the sepia cards in the series. Click on any image to enlarge and create a slide show. Unless otherwise noted the cards are from the author’s collection.
For those interested in more information about William Louson, his postcards, and early tourism images of Prince Edward Island, an article about the man and his work has just been published in the most recent (Fall/Winter 2016) issue of The Island Magazine. Another recent article regarding his postcard activities “William S. Louson (1860-1921); Image-maker of Prince Edward Island” by Andrew Cunningham, appears in the Spring 2015 issue of Card Talk, the journal of the Toronto Postcard Club.