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.
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?