Among the excellent resources for post card collectors are the series of guidebooks published by Mike Smith. One of these, The McCoy Printing Company Picture Postcard Handbook 1900 – 1910, by Michael J. Smith and William P. Angley, documents the postcard activities of the McCoy firm which was located in Moncton, New Brunswick. Among the hundreds if not thousands in cards the volume records some fifty McCoy postcards with Prince Edward Island images. Although a few additional P.E.I. cards have been found since its publication in 2009 it remains the “go-to” guide for McCoy postcards. Unfortunately the book is no longer in print and used copies are rare .
In addition to the illustrated card listing the volume also contains a well-researched history of the company. In the introduction to the volume a photograph of the Postcard Shop in Charlottetown appears with its proprietress Annie McCoy. With its shop window filled with postcards and a distinctive corner location and design I have always been curious as to its location and in fact have been skeptical that it was in Charlottetown at all. Most of the buildings in downtown Charlottetown date from the 1880s and 1890s and some date back to the 1840s. The area has been slow to change and this view, with its street sloping off the the left is not recognizable in the present downtown.
The business itself seems to have been somewhat ephemeral. A newspaper search revealed that an Annie McCoy was a resident of the city around 1908 and an advertising listing noting a sale of sheet music in the summer of that year confirms that there was a store with that name in the city. But was it this store, and if so where was it?
A close examination of the picture shows a placard for Dr. Bagnall, dentist mounted on the corner post. Further newspaper searching revealed a police report of a break in at Dr. Bagnall’s office at the corner of Queen and Richmond Streets. This represented some progress but each intersection has four corners. Which might the store have stood on? At Queen and Richmond one corner was occupied by the City’s Market Square. Two other corners were anchored by well-documented and photographed buildings. On the South East corner stood the Stamper Block which is still there and little changed. To the North West was the London House mercantile establishment, later to be the Royal Bank. Strangely, the South West corner does not appear in photographs and the buildings on the corner, and indeed those of the entire block were razed in the 1950s and became the site of the Dominion Public Building which housed the Charlottetown Post Office and other federal government departments.
While the structure not shown in photographs there is one resource which does depict the buildings before they were destroyed. The Goad Insurance Plans held at the Public Archives and Records Office contain details of all of the buildings in Charlottetown. The 1917 edition shows that the South West corner was occupied by a small wooden, brick veneered, building of two stories, occupied at the time by the Dominion Express Office. Could this be the site of the Postcard Shop? While the slope of the street is perhaps less obvious than in the photo it is noticeable. Because only the ground floor is shown in the picture it is not clear if the building was brick and the view down the street to the west contains nothing which is identifiable today.
The mystery was brought to a close by a previously unidentified photograph in the David Sterling album at the Public Archives and Records Office. This picture, dating from the mid 1890s, shows the building in its entirety and matches completely the details of the building shown in the 1917 plan. In the 1890s it was one of the locations for the Johnson & Johnson drugstore and the site was identified following a discussion on the Earle’s Photo Restoration Facebook Page in 2019. Fortunately there are enough details in the Postcard Store photo to match it to this building. The arched doorway, corner post, and large shop window are common to both images.
While this corner in the centre of downtown Charlottetown was an ideal location, the business does not appear to have been a success. There are no references to it beyond the few mentions in 1908 already noted. Within a few years the postcard mania had waned and many postcard publishers were out of the business before the Great War. In Charlottetown some of the suppliers such as Maddigan, Carters, and Haszard and Moore had postcards only as one part of a larger business operation and although they continued to sell cards it was only a small part of their offerings. Annie McCoy may not had had that option.
Almost as quickly as it appeared, the Postcard Shop seems to had disappeared leaving only one almost forgotten image behind.