Five Generations Postcards Became an Early Tourist Promotion

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.

Uncropped “All Pullers Together” image. Photo: Public Archives and Records Office.

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.

Detail of Pioneer Family card showing added artwork at card edge.

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.

Page with Poirier photos from Charlottetown, The Beautiful City of Prince Edward Island. Carter & Co. [1904]
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”.

 

 

 

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Carter and Company’s Souvenir Series

Probably the most frequently encountered name in the century-old history of P.E.I. postcards is Carter & Co.  Although they were not printers they commissioned series of postcards over an extended period. From the beginning of the postcard era until the 1950s Carter’s was easily the most important name in Island cards.

They do not, however, seem to feature highly on the interests of collectors. This may be owing in part to the large number of identifiable series – several with small numbers of cards – or because the designs they used were often associated with other publishers.

George Carter, originally of Winsloe, P.E.I., started in the seed business in Charlottetown in 1879 but quickly moved into other lines of business including books and stationary, soft goods and notions. In 1903 he met with financial difficulties and he had left the Island by 1905 but his brother Isaac continued the business under the Carter name. With the increase in tourism late in the 19th century the firm adapted quickly to the desire of visitors for souvenirs and was soon advertising the availability of products at their Charlottetown store. They published a number of souvenir  photo books of the Island and in 1908 had a line of non-postal gummed stamps with Island scenes which could be affixed to envelopes. Carter & Co. were early adopters to postcards. In 1907 they indicated that they had 500,000 cards in stock and were likely providing wholesale lots to smaller merchants across the province.

One of the earliest series identified with Carter & Co. clearly identifies the cards with an unusual vertical text on the left side of the face of the card. I have chosen to call this the “souvenir” series to separate them from other Carter & Co. cards.

Michael J. Smith in his 2010 2nd edition of The W.G. MacFarlane Picture Postcard Handbook 1902-1910 identifies these cards as the work of Toronto publisher W.G. MacFarlane.  Other MacFarlane cards for Prince Edward Island are part of a numbered series but the cards identified as “Carter & Co. Limited, Souvenirs, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island” have no number, nor does the name MacFarlane appear anywhere on the cards.  The card have an asymmetrical divided back design which is identical with another series of P.E.I. cards which Smith does not identify as MacFarlane products.

The cards were certainly in use by 1906. Nineteen images have been identified in various collections although I believe there are additional cards as nineteen would be a very unusual number of cards for a printing run.  The majority of the known cards are of public buildings and street scenes in Charlottetown. Several views also appear on cards from other publishers and some may be the work of Island photographer  W.S. Louson.

A gallery of examples of the souvenir series cards follows. Click on any image to start a slide show. A full listing of known images appears as an illustrated checklist accessed here.  I would be very interested in learning of any cards which I have not listed in the checklist.

 

 

Carter, Nerlich and the Red Letter Postcards – updated

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”.

Typical Red Letter Card “Keppoch Shore”
Portrait format. “Table Rock Near Bedeque, P.E. Island”

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.

Standard Card Back. This example from “Provincial Building, Charlottetown, P.E. Island”
Crown Series back

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.

Nerlich Card back

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.

Carter White letter series “Prince Edward Island Hospital, Charlottetown, P.E. Island”

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.

 

Version 4
Nerlich Red Letter card “Provincial Building, Charlottetown, P.E. Island, Canada” Culhane collection

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.

Nerlich card  “Fort Edward” Culhane collection

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.

Version 4
Nerlich card back “Provincial Building” – Cuhane Collection

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?