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.
One of the more popular areas for topical postcard collection is the depiction of ships on cards. While the ports of Prince Edward Island were hardly major destinations for steamers the fact of being an island meant a dependence on vessels for connection to the mainland and there are a number of interesting cards showing these essential vessels.
One group of cards centres on the unique needs of the province for “continuous steam communication” sought by the Island Government in 1873 as a condition for confederation. The struggle for links across the winter ice-bound Strait of Northumberland gave rise to a series of ice-breaking steamers and later car-ferries whose images are captured on early postcards. Ships such as the Stanley, Minto and Earl Grey are frequently shown imprisoned in the ice. The irony is that many of these cards were sent by summer visitors who had no direct knowledge of the difficulty and boredom of the winter passage.
These tourists and residents were much more likely to have reached the Island on one of the ships of the Charlottetown Steam Navigation Company which provided service while the strait was ice-free, usually between April and December of each year. The Company had been incorporated in 1890 but was successor to the Prince Edward Island Steam Navigation Company, formed in 1863, and so had a near-monopoly for decades before the postcard boom.
At the turn of the 20th century the Charlottetown Steam Navigation Company had two vessels; the S.S. Northumberland, launched in 1891 and the S.S. Princess, built five years later. Increased passenger travel and freight led to the sale of the Princess in 1905 and the launch a new vessel, the S.S. Empress the same year. The Northumberland normally served the Charlottetown-Pictou route while the Empress travelled between Summerside and Point de Chene New Brunswick. Schedules of both vessels were linked to railway timetables to provide good communication to Halifax, Boston and Montreal. On my companion marine history blog, Sailstrait, I have provided details about thePrincess, Northumberland, and Empress.
Although the Princess may well have been the subject of a postcard as it was still in the service in 1905 I have not been able to find any examples and indeed any photographs of the vessel are scarce. This was not the case with regard to the Northumberland and the Empress.
Although built fifteen years apart the two ships were of a similar appearance and size. Indeed, as shown below, in at least one case a card shows one ship incorrectly identified as the other. A clue to help determine the correct identification may be found by examining the smoke patterns of the two ships in the galleries below. One additional key to sorting them out is that the Empress had more lifeboats than the Northumberland.
Almost all the major publishers that had cards of Prince Edward Island had at least one showing a ship of the Charlottetown Steam Navigation Company and some publishers such as Valentine and Warwick & Rutter had images of both. Often the cards drew on the same photographic imagery although the photographer is not identified – with one exception. The Summerside image of the Empress at dock is noted as a W.S. Louson image on a Warwick Bros. & Rutter card and although the ship is not identified in his card titled “Anticipation” the Empress was the steamer servicing the Prince County port.
The identification is confirmed by a Carter & Co. “red letter” series card showing the same scene and undoubtedly taken at the same time (there are differences in the placement of the boy fishing and the spectator). These two cards are also an excellent illustration of the different treatment given to similar images by publishers. Title, cropping and most particularly shading, clarity and colour can result in cards that initially appear to be quite different but in reality are almost identical.
An action photo of the Empress steaming is the most commonly seen image as it is used in cards from at least three publishers. Indeed Warwick Bros. & Rutter uses the same image on two cards with different titles. The image is also used on a card by McCoy Publishing and another produced for Maddigan.
Publishers with Northumberland Strait steamer cards to their credit include Kennedy, McLellan, McCoy, Maddigan, Valentine, Journal Print, Pugh, Stedman and Warwick & Rutter. I have been able to find only one card showing both vessels, the Stedman card #2572 probably published for J.D. Taylor and shown to the right.
The cards depicted in following galleries do not exhaust the possible varieties of Northumberland Strait steamer cards but offer a representative sampling of the cards most often seen. Clicking on any of the cards will show an enlarged image.
Cards showing the S.S. Northumberland
Cards showing the S.S. Empress
The activity of the two vessels coincided with the golden age of the postcard. With the beginning of the ice-breaking rail-car ferry service in 1917 both ships were sold and the company wound up. Henceforth postcards detailed the loading, unloading and sailings of the S.S. Prince Edward Island and her successors.
Both of these vessels continued to be the subject of postcards after they left Prince Edward Island waters. The Northumberland sailed on Lake Ontario until destroyed by fire after World War II and there are many cards showing the vessel. An excellent history of her life on the lake can be found here. The Empress was put on the Saint John to Digby route across the Bay of Fundy and there are a number cards of her in this role.
As always, I would be interested of learning of other postcards which show the Northumberland Strait steamers, especially the Princess.
There seems to be a thing with four-leaf clovers. When you start looking you can’t find them anywhere. So you stop looking. Then you find one. Suddenly there are four-leaf clovers everywhere.
The same phenomenon occurs with post cards.
When I first stumbled across a reference to the large Nerlich & Co. output of post cards I knew of not a single one with a P.E.I. image. Then a fellow collector suggested I look at some Summerside cards he had found and I started finding Nerlichs all over the place. By the same token it was a long time before I made the connection between drug stores and postcards in Summerside but when I discovered it there seemed to be a lot of examples that had been right under my nose.
Now these occurrences have converged. This time it is in relation to a card depicting the High School in Summerside. The school itself had been opened in 1879 as the Davies School. Louis Henry Davies (later Chief Justice of Canada) was premier at the time and among his accomplishments was the passage of a Public Schools Bill which created a provincial Board of Education and non-sectarian schools. The eight-classroom structure in Summerside offered grades one to ten. Ten years later the school was renamed as the “Summerside High School” and provided only the upper grades. The building was enlarged in 1915 and again in 1932 when it was renamed o0nce more as “Summerside High School and County Academy.” A fire in 1935 destroyed the part of the building shown on the early postcards.
The first postcard showing the building that I had seen was a Warwick Bros. & Rutter card showing the front of the school.
This black and white card was printed for Summerside merchant W.H. Jardine and may actually have been a later image as the cards noted below do not show several small trees seen in the picture.
As well as the Jardine card, there was another showing the school in the Warwick Bros. & Rutter line. This was one which had probably been published earlier and bore the name of well-known amateur photographer W. S. Louson. It is one of the few cards identified as Louson’s work which depicts a civic structure. Most of his cards are of rural scenes with more of an emphasis on “artistic” settings.
The card shows the building with more of a side view as seen from the top of Summer Street.
However the same photograph is used for two other cards which appeared at about the same time (dating the sequence of these cards is all but impossible). Neither of these cards give credit to Louson but the images actually show more of the scene with additional foliage seen on the left side of the card so they were not derived from the Rutter card which has different cropping owing, in part, to the characteristic title band on the card bottom. (click to enlarge images)
High School,from Summer Street, Summerside, P.E.I. published for P.N. Enman, Druggist. Nerlich & Co., # 782 B/40
Central High School, Summerside, P.E.I. Published for Wm. Kennedy, Druggist, Summerside, P.E.I. publisher not identified.,
While these two images have slightly different cropping, different titles, and different clouds and colouration the real difference is on the card back and this is where we get back to the clovers. Not only is there another addition to the list of Nerlich cards but there is the name of yet another drugstore in Summerside that was in the card business.
The P.N. Enman card (left) clearly shows the Nerlich wordmark
…and on the left side of the back the publication notice
The Kennedy card (right) likewise has significant information on the back of the card. However Mr. Kennedy has proved to be a little more elusive that others in the drug business in Summerside as I have been unable to find information about his business, or about him for that matter.
I expect, however, that there are a few more four-leaf clovers in the field yet to be found and that this exploration will not end with the postcards of the Summerside High School.
Since I began collection early P.E.I. postcards I have learned that it is not unusual for the same images to appear on cards produced by a number of different publishers. It is often not clear if the photos were simply copied from one card to another or were different images from the same vantage point. Sometimes the images are simply cropped and so appear to be slightly different. For example most of the Warwick Bros. & Rutter cards had an aspect which allowed for a title bar to appear at the card bottom. If those images were printed on a card where the full face of the card was used they would have to be cropped so that the image filled the space.
However sometimes the changes between seemingly identical cards are not so easily explained. A case in point is a card dating from about 1908 showing the northern end of Government Pond in Charlottetown taken just where the brook from Spring Park enters the pond under a bridge under Euston Street as it turns into Brighton Road. I first became aware of the card when searching for images illustrating the architectural works of Charles B. Chappell. The building to the right is a house he designed for Charlottetown photographer (and sometime postcard producer) James A.S. Bayer. The card was printed by the Pugh Manufacturing Company in Toronto
This Pugh card carries the same image as a Rumsey & Co. card shown below and is identical except for the title lettering and the artistic license taken in the colouring ….or is it?
Clearly the image is the same and the cropping is within a hairbreadth. Even the ducks are in the exactly the same position.
Except that on the Rumsey card one of the ducks has completely vanished with barely a ripple left behind!
Another difference between the two cards becomes visible only through close examination and may be spotted in the enlarged detail. Just showing and tantalizingly undecipherable, the image reveals a card title in block white letters which has been almost re-touched out of sight. Although skillfully done a shadow of the original remains.
So, was the duck removed from the Pugh …or was the duck added? In any event this was a very high quality alteration and must have taken a good deal of time and effort. And whatever the case, why bother? My suspicion is that there is a third postcard out there, probably from a different publisher – an ur-card if you will. However even if it is discovered it may not go far in revealing the bizarre secret of the missing Brighton Pond duck.
Note – The Rumsey firm, is now the subject of a brief company history recently published on the Toronto Postcard Club website found here.
It seems that many of the small merchants who were early to take advantage of the postcard craze were booksellers or stationers or those already selling souvenirs or perhaps all of the above. For them it was an easy fit and postcards seemed to be a logical extension of the existing business lines. At least that seems to be the case in Charlottetown where firms such as Taylor’s Bookstore, Haszard and Moore, Maddigan, and Carter’s all had cards produced under their names.
Things appear to have been a little different in Summerside. In the Prince County capital druggists and drugstores were the ones to cater to the postcard enthusiasts with local products. Perhaps in the smaller community the pharmacies served then (as they often do today) as mini-departmental stores carrying a variety of small goods in addition to the medical supplies which formed the core of their activities.
Of course many of the national publishers such as Warwick & Rutter, Pugh, Stedman, and Valentine all had postcard images of Summerside and the surrounding communities and these would have been available from a variety of sellers in the town. However some of the merchants in Summerside also placed orders with publishers in Ontario and elsewhere and had cards published under merchant’s names with cards identified either as “published by” or published for.”
P.N. Enman was a Summerside druggist. In 1904 he took over control of a firm that had been founded in 1881 and accordingly was one of the oldest pharmacies in Prince County. The Enman name continued to be carried by a Summerside drug store for decades after Enman’s death in 1931. Percy Enman was also involved in the Summerside Improvement and Tourist Association and served in 1904 as the chair of the organization’s Tourist Committee. He probably recognized the value of postcards as tourism advertising. Enman appears to have been a customer of the Nerlich Company of Toronto because the postcards published for Enman and bearing his name also carry the Nerlich wordmark. While I have found only three cards of this type it is likely that a number of other images exist.
P.D. Enman Cards – click on any card to enlarge
Methodist Church, Summerside, P.E.I. – published for P.D. Enman, Druggest card # 732 H/21
Summer Street, Summerside P.E.I. – published for P.D. Enman, Druggist card # 732 A/25
Lighthouse, Summerside Harbor, P.E.I. – published for P.D Enman, Druggist card # 732 A/22
Enman was not alone in having postcards printed by Nerlich. The Red Cross Drug Store was in operation during the same period. It was operated by the McLellan family until 1915 when J.E. Gallant, formerly of Tignish purchased the business. Most of the Red Cross Drug Store cards carry the Nerlich logo while several cards for which the publisher is not identified were published for M. J. McLellan or Mrs. M.J. McLellan.
Red Cross Drug Store & McLellan cards – click on any card to enlarge
Water Street Looking East, Summerside, P.E.I. published by Mrs. M.J. McLellan
Central Streeet, Summerside, P.E.I. – published for The Red Cross Drug Store, Summerside, P.E.I. card # A368
Central Street, Summerside, P.E.I. – M.J. McLellan, Summerside. P.E.I.
The First P.E. Islander – published for The Red Cross Drug Store, Summerside, P.E.I. card # A371 – Culhane Collection
One of the Natives, Richmond near Summerside, P.E.I. – published for Red Cross Drug Store. card # A370 – Culhane Collection
Central Street, Summerside P.E.I. – published for The Red Cross Drugstore card # A367
Water Street Looking West, Summerside, P.E.I. – published for The Red Cross Drug Store, Summerside, P.E.I. card # 732 A/23
I am indebted to collector Phil Culhane of Ottawa who alerted me to the Nerlich cards from Summerside and for sending images of several cards in his collection.
Several of the Nerlich card appear to have a code or catalogue number which suggests there are several additional images for the series which have not yet been located.
Additional note – 29 August 2017. Since posting this item I have discovered a couple of cards which show a continuation of this drugstore/postcard link. There is one additional Enman card puiblished by Nerlich & Co. and a new-to-me drugstore, Wm. Kennedy, which also had cards under its name. See the posting here
Arguably the largest producer of postcards on Prince Edward Island was Carter and Company. Hundreds of different cards from the beginning of the postcard era into the 1960s bear the name of the company which was active for more than a century. Carter & Co. (more often than not abbreviated to C. & Co.) appears on many of the cards, others are unidentified as to publisher but contain clues and have a striking similarity to those that are.
Collectors love numbered series because they can more easily identify items they are lacking and the numbers can give a sense of completeness to a run of cards. Carter and Co. cards provide a more difficult cataloguing challenge. Only by amassing information and sharing it among card aficionados can one hope to get a sense of the range of cards. Carter cards appear as a number of different types, not identified on the cards as a series, but rather differentiated by style of the cards.
One of the earliest of the several styles is what I have chosen to call the “Red Letter Cards”.
These cards have the title in red ink with the lettering in block capitals. They also have a characteristic colour palette most noticeable in the sky colour which is almost invariably a light aquamarine shade. The series includes both landscape and portrait formats and the title can appear on either the top or bottom of the card. The card title seems always to contain the name of the province as “P.E. Island”.
The back of the cards in this series is in a standard format identified as a divided back “Souvenir Mailing Card”. The name “C. & Co.” appears on the bottom left of the card.
A slight variation of the card appears as “The Crown Series” printed just under the word “Mailing” on the card back. This sub-series has “Published for C. & Co, Ltd.” on the left side of the card. Several of these cards are in the Red Letter series but most of those in the White Letter run (see below) bear the Crown Series mark.
The Carter Red Letter cards are usually identified as to location but several are more generic with titles such as “Hay-making”, “Pastoral Scene”, or “Morning Dip” – perhaps the Island’s first nudie card.
In early cards the words printer and publisher were often used interchangeably. While Carter and Co. had many lines of business, being a printer was not one of them. George Carter had emerged as one of Charlottetown’s leading seedsmen by the mid 1890s and before the end of the century was operating as a bookseller and stationer as well.
With the development of tourism on the Island Carter developed a sideline in souvenirs and as early as 1903 was advertising postcards for sale. A few years later advertisements would boast that the company has a stock of 500,000 cards on order. Carter’s served as a wholesale distributor for several lines of goods including souvenirs and postcards which continued to be distributed through the firm into the 1970s and later. Although specializing in later years in stationery and office supplies the stock in trade for Carter and Co. for much of the twentieth century was what was, at the time, termed “smallwares”
One of the largest wholesale distributors of smallwares in Canada was the Toronto firm of Nerlich and Company and much of the Carter stock may have come from them. This large firm had been founded in 1858 and continued in business for more than a century. The impressive building that housed the company at 146 Front Street in Toronto still stands.
Nerlich & Co. also were in the postcard business. Their cards have a distinctive Souvenir Mailing Card back with a wordmark with an intertwined N & C. in the same location on the card as the Carter crown series cards.
It is worth noting that the Nerlich cards state “Published by” rather than “Published for” as in the case of the Carter Crown Series cards. The face of the Nerlich cards also include the same design elements and colour palette as seen on the Carter cards. Nerlich cards are relative common for Ontario and a large collection exists for western Canada. Initially I believed that no cards of P.E.I. bore the Nerlich wordmark, but I have since received information to the contrary. [see addendum following example images below] Nerlich had salesmen across the country and wholesale links with manufactures in Japan and Germany. Many pre WW I postcards came from German printers and at least one Nerlich card (from an Ontario location) bears the words “Printed in Germany.” There does not appear to have been any published research to date on Nerlich’s postcard operations in spite of the fact that they were a major producer.
I think there is little doubt that the Carter Red Letter series came as a Prince Edward Island variation of the Nerlich and Co. card output.
There is a related sub-series of Carter cards which carry the Nerlich-type back and other characteristics except that the lettering is in a slightly different typeface and in white letters instead of red.
A selection of Red Letter postcards appears below. Click on any card to begin slide show. For an illustrated catalogue of the 39 Red Letter and 4 White letter known cards in this series click here. As always I would be pleased to learn of any images which might be added to the listings.
Typical Red Letter Card – “New Hillsborough Bridge, Charlottetown, P.E.. Island”
2 August 2017 – In my initial posting I stated that no examples of P.E.I. images with the Nerlich wordmark were known to exist. Phil Culhane, a collector from Ottawa has proven me wrong and sent along scans of two Nerlich card with the same images as Carter cards.
The Provincial Building has the same image as a Carter card except the title of the card is on the bottom rather than the top and the title includes the word Canada. The Fort Edward card is exactly the same as the Carter example.
The back of the card is the standard Nerlich design with wordmark and the phrase “Published by Nerlich & Co. Toronto, Canada.” Since then a number of other Nerlich cards published for P.E.I. card sellers have also been located. See the posting titled Drugs…. and Postcards
The obvious question following from this discovery is how many more Nerlich cards of P.E.I. are out there?
Although I have tried to limit my collecting to postcards with Prince Edward Island scenes, sometimes an item comes along that is too good to exclude. Such is the case when I discovered a card recently offered in the Toronto Postcard Club members auction.
Unlike most of the items in my collection this one is a “real photo postcard” (RPPC). There are not many real photo postcards from Prince Edward, especially from the period before the Great War and this card proved to be a treat both from a technical and a subject perspective.
Real Photo Postcards were made through a photographic process rather than by conventional printing. They put many photo studios and a number of amateur photographers in the postcard business.
Although some RPPCs exist from the late 1890s the creation of Velox photo paper by Kodak in 1902 was the real beginning of the RPPC. This paper came with a pre-printed postcard back. That, coupled with a new folding camera design, launched a year later, which produced negatives in the postcard format, made the production of postcards a simple process. A few cards or even a single card could be produced from a photographic negative and could be sent through the mails without an envelope.
Real photo postcards were often created to record local events or places of local significance because they could be produced in small quantities unlike printed cards which required the creation of printing plates and a press run and so were not economical unless a larger quantity came off the presses. More technical information about Real Photo Postcards can be found on the excellent Metropolitan Postcard site
Because it was difficult to add information to the photo negative, and the back of the card came pre-printed, most RPPCs have no identifying information which can pinpoint the subject, the scene or the publisher. This makes them both attractive and frustrating for collectors. Sometimes the card message holds the only clues as to the subject of the card. Such is the case with my latest acquisition. Although not mailed the original owner has recorded the event pictured: “Hoisting the British ensign, when we commissioned the H.M.S. Earl Grey at Halifax” The inscription suggests this was a souvenir retained by a member of the ship’s crew.
Even without the inscription I was able to name the vessel. She was quite familiar as in my blog Sailstrait I had done two long postings, one dealing with the Earl Grey’s Canadian history and the other concerning the ship’s adventures after she was sold to Russia in 1914.
The real photo postcard neatly bridges the two chapters as it captures the ship in the process of being transferred to the Russians. On 1 August 1914 the ship was transferred to the Canadian Navy. Four days later she became H.M.C.S. Earl Grey of the Royal Canadian Navy. The postcard is the picture of the official raising of the Royal Naval ensign symbolizing the commissioning of the ship. The postcard shows the ratings in their naval whites assembled overlooking the stern of the vessel while the officers in darker uniforms salute the ensign.
While the card was obviously produced in Halifax and is not technically a P.E.I. card the content is related to a vessel which was very important to the Island. I trust that purist collectors will forgive me.
Note – an earlier version of this page suggested that the vessel was commissioned as the H.M.S. Earl Grey of the Royal Navy rather than the Royal Canadian Navy.