Strait Steamers on Cards

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.

One of the earliest cards showing Steam Navigation Company steamers was one printed in Summerside by the Journal Publishing Company

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 the Princess, 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.

Anticipation at Summerside P.E.I. Photo by W.S. Louson, Garden of the Gulf Series. Warwick Bros. & Rutter card#2620

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.

“S.S. Empress” Summerside, P.E. Island C.& Co. [Carter]
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.

Postcard of the Northumberland on Lake Ontario after WWI.

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.

 

 

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Suddenly they’re everywhere

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.

High School Summerside, Prince Edward Island. Published for W.H. Jardine. Warwick Bros. & Rutter # 3617

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.

High School, Summerside, P.E.I. Warwick Bros. & Rutter #2641S

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)

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

Detail from the back of the Enman postcard

…and on the left side of the back the publication notice

Detail from the back of the Enman postcard

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.

Detail from the back of the Central High School postcard

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.

A Lobster Factory – Somewhere on Prince Edward Island

Normally postcards depict the visual delights available to visitors. On Prince Edward Island it is unusual for a card to show images of the primary industries. While agricultural scenes may abound it is because of the landscape views which include farms and animals. Prolific Island photographer W.S. Louson was particularly active in depicting what would be much later captured in the tourism slogan – “The Gentle Island”.

Also missing in many Louson photos are people, and if they are present at all they seem to appear simply as props.  The fishing industry lacked the landscape appeal of a rolling farmstead and is even less well-served by early postcard images. One of the few exceptions is a Louson card which appears in the Toronto publisher Warwick Bros. & Rutter group which I have referred to as the sepia series. This is an unusual style of photo for Louson as the focus of the image is the dozen or so workers, posed with arms folded or hands behind backs.

5353001
Lobster Factory and Crew. Warwick Bros. & Rutter card # 5253. Photo by W.S. Louson.

This card from an unidentified location shows the workers in a lobster factory appearing in front of their worksite.  Lobster factories, or canning plants, were ubiquitous to the coastal areas of the province. The canning of lobsters had begun in the 1850s but it was not until twenty years later that the activity became an industry. Changes in improved canning methods and  fishing techniques, as well as the development of export markets led to a lobster boom. By the close of the nineteenth century it had grown to include 2,353 boats and 4,655 men engaged in the fishery. They pulled over 283,000 traps with a yield of 2,420,000 pounds of lobster.  Almost all of this lobster went to the 240 lobster factories scattered around the provinces coast.

The factories were cheap to build and cheaply built. Often located on sand spits or beaches most were temporary structures in use for only a few weeks a year. Larger operations included cookhouses for the lobster, bunkhouses for the staff, a kitchen, can-making plant and storage sheds for traps and equipment. The factories provided one of the few opportunities for rural women to work outside the home and provided income beyond the chicken and egg production of rural farms.  Because of the short season work at the lobster factory was easily added to the variety of rural occupations.

Unfortunately Louson’s postcard titled “Lobster Factory and Crew” does not have  a location and so seemed to be consigned to the growing list of postcards simply recorded as “scene”.

However I was recently reviewing the holdings of Louson photos at the Public Archives and Records Office in preparation for an upcoming exhibition.  I had looked at this collection before in hopes of finding the original photos of some of the Louson postcard scenes but had had little success.

Grahams
Canning Factory, Grahams Creek, ca. 1905. Public Archives and Records Office, Louson Fonds. 3466/73.373.161

What I did find was a photo which was from the same time and place. This time the whole building was shown and the assembled crew was posed differently but it was undoubtedly taken the same day. While the photo is not of the same quality as the one used for the post card it may be a better documentary item.

Best of all it had a location noted – Graham’s Creek.  Alan Rayburn’s Geographical Names of Prince Edward Island notes a Grahams Creek in Lot 22 on the eastern shore of New London Bay, inside the Cavendish sandspit.  However, something about this location didn’t seem right. For one thing, although on the shore of the bay it was far from the lobster grounds and factories were built as close as possible to the grounds to enable the sail and oar fishermen to tend their traps.

On the eastern shore of the Island, Graham’s Pond in Lot 63 between Gaspereaux and Launching looked to be a better candidate. A newspaper search revealed that the two terms were used interchangeably. Graham’s Pond has a lobster factory to this day.

Many group photos of lobster factory exist and some even have the individuals identified.  Perhaps in a family album or scrapbook there is a copy of one of the two photos which will rescue the workers of the Graham’s Creek factory from the anonymity imposed the passage of a century.  No longer simply a “scene” we have found the place. It would be nice to know the people.

Victoria Park in Early Postcards

Visiting naval vessel seen from Victoria Park. Bathing huts can be seen just to the right of the seated figure. R.F. Maddigan postcard.

Charlottetown’s Victoria Park was established in 1875. It was carved from a property on the western side of the city designated as the Governor’s Farm.  When Charlottetown was laid out it had five squares: Queens, Kings, Pownal, Hillsborough and Rochford. By the mid 1800s these were becoming inadequate to the city’s needs. Queens Square was occupied by the market and other public buildings, Pownal Square housed the city jail. A chance to set aside public space on the waterfront was lost when the Imperial government gave up the ordnance grounds at the west end of Water Street. The colonial authorities decided to auction the lots off instead of establishing a park. The possibility of turning over part of the Governor’s Farm for a park was raised in 1869 and was discussed during the negotiations leading to the Island’s entry into Confederation.

Finally in 1875 40 acres constituting the westernmost part of the farm  were handed over to the city. The grant excluded the Prince Edward Battery which was retained for military uses. By 1880 the field nearest the harbour was identified as a cricket ground and one near Brighton Road (now Memorial Field) became a parade ground for the several military units in the city.  Access to the park was from Brighton Road because the proposed roadway extending Kent Street in front of Government House was opposed by various Lieutenant Governors until 1896. The roadway to the Battery was completed a year later and was extended to join Brighton Road in 1899. In 1905 additional land was carved out of the Government House Farm and the Park reached the size it has today.

As the premier recreational space the Park was the subject of many postcards highlighting the natural setting and the activities which took place there. First and foremost it provided a vantage point of the harbour with the open channel to Hillsborough Bay.

Charlottetown Harbour from Victoria Park. This view appears to pre-date the completion of the park roadway. R.F. Maddigan postcard

An extremely popular postcard subject was the view from the Prince Edward Battery (usually misidentified as Fort Edward) back toward the city. A single image was used by a number of publishers and others appeared which were only slight variations of the view.

In the early 1900s the military installation was still very much in use. The main army drill hall and other structures were on the east side of Governor’s Pond. The Battery was used by the artillery for both training and ceremonial uses. The 4th Artillery Regiment was particularly successful in Dominion competition and frequently led the country in the national results.

The new Park Roadway in front of Government House opened the Park to easy access from Kent Street. This image or a slight variation of appear on cards from a half-dozen or more publishers. This is a Haszard and Moore postcard.
Fort Edward, Victoria Park MHF
The Prince Edward Battery site continues to be used for ceremonial salutes to this day. Taylor’s Book Store postcard.

The annual Militia camps took place in the park until the Great War and provided an entertainment for visitors and residents of Charlottetown. Militia groups came from across the Island to set up camp in the Park and engaged in drills and competition while under canvas. The patriotism of the Boer War period made membership in the militia a popular form of comradeship and interest in civilian soldiers continued through to the Great War.

3 Among the big guns
Visitors at Camp Brighton. Carter & Company postcard.
Heavy Battery No. 3 Camp Brighton MHF
The horse artillery drawn up on the Park Roadway. The white board fence bordering the Government House grounds can be seen to the east of the encampment. Pugh postcard #42-7.

But military camps were not the only users of the park. Although there were limitations on the use of the park for shows and commercial activities which had a paid admission charge, community groups were frequent users.

YMCA Camp Victoria Park MHF
YMCA Camp, Victoria Park. There were close relationships between the military and groups such as the YMCA. The latter organization frequently had a support presence in military camps. Taylor’s Book Store postcard.

The vast majority of the early postcards images of Victoria Park deal with the natural views in the park.  A number of carriage lanes, some still in use as pathways today, had been opened in the predominantly birch forest and the striking groves of white birches served as both subject and background for Charlottetown photographers. W.S. Louson, whose photos were used by the Toronto postcard firm Warwick Bros. & Rutter was particularly enamoured by the park as a photo venue. [click an image to enlarge or begin slide show]

Today Victoria Park continues to be the site of postcard views and increased use of the park had led to more and more structures; fieldhouses, a bandshell, and changing rooms. During the Edwardian era the only buildings were the battery magazine, the tennis pavilion and the keepers house. Now it becoming overbuilt and is harder and harder to pretend, as our ancestors did in the beginning of the 20th century,  that the park represents a bit of the country in the city.

 

 

Where was “Three Miles from Charlottetown”?

Note: This post originally appeared in my blog about Charlottetown Harbour – Sailstrait

The plain-looking sepia-coloured postcard is cryptic to say the least. The caption simply says “Three Miles from Charlottetown” but it doesn’t say where the photo was taken. There is a pond framed by trees and a rowboat with three aboard, and strangely what appears to be a fence in the water.  The card is simply one of what may have been as many as 500 different postcards depicting P.E.I. scenes that were published before the Great War. This card was from the Toronto firm of Warwick Bros & Rutter which created over 7000 postcards during the period – about 150 of which contained Prince Edward Island scenes.

We don’t know how many of the cards were published but an Island firm, Carter and Company boasted in 1907 that they had 500,000 cards in stock.  Postcards had become a mania. Changes in postal regulations in the late 1890s allowed for the cards with a scene on one side and address and message on the other, and people immediately began collecting. While some of the cards were used for postal communication thousands were gathered into albums.

Unlike most of the cards from the period we know the photographer for this one. The picture was taken by William S. Louson. a travelling sales agent for a Montreal dry-goods company who lived in Charlottetown. Louson played a very important role in P.E.I. history as he was one of the leading “boosters” of the Island as a tourism destination. His images appeared in leading American and Canadian magazines and his photographs were printed on hundreds of thousands of postcards. Louson has a habit of eschewing locating his images, instead he provided titles like “Rustic Scene.” “A Morning Walk,” and “Border of the woods.”

We know who. We can imagine why. But can we determine where?  There appears to be some sort of pond and my first thought was that it was one of the many creeks flowing into the rivers near the city. Several of these had been dammed to create millponds. If we look at the three mile distance from the city (or even somewhat beyond), we have Wrights (Bird Island) Creek, Gates Mills at Ellen’s Creek, Hermitage Creek and on the Southport side of the river there is the Hatchery Dam on the way to Keppoch but nothing seems to fit the topography shown in the postcard .

The penny did not drop until I had another look at my recent posting on Range Lights and looked closely at the photo below:

Looking across Warren Pond to Warren Rear range light ca. 1910.

Here we have a lighthouse, a boat and a pond, and behind the boat what could be the rails of a fence in the water. This caused me to look much closer at the initial post card image. Although the cards are the product of two different publishers could they be taken in the same location and by the same photographer?

 

 

Enlarged detail of "Three Miles from Charlottetown" Lighthouse can be seen above boat bracketed by tree branches.

And then I spotted it! One tiny detail and the matter was resolved. Just above the horizon is a small dark rectangle and beneath it a barely perceptible shape that can only be a lighthouse.  When you know what you are looking at you can even see a window in the building. But this lighthouse is seen from the rear and it is definitely not the same as the one in the coloured postcard. What does look suspiciously the same is the boat and also the fence line in the water.  Both photos seem to be taken from the Ringwood side of the creek flowing into Warren Cove. The coloured postcard shows the rear light clearly and the sepia card positions the front range just behind the boat.

One thing that makes the photo difficult to locate is the fact that there is no pond at Warren Cove now, nor does it appear to have been one there for some time. A 1734 drawing shows a small pond behind the beach but it is not clear how long it lasted. None of the charts or maps of the area show a pond and yet it clearly exists in the photographs from about 1910. The 1935 aerial photograph of the area shows the place looking much as it does today with a small spring-fed creek barely trickling through a swampy area and seeping out onto the beach of Warren Cove.  One possible interpretation is that through winter storms or some other reason the outlet for the creek became blocked, or perhaps the cottagers at the Cove dammed it up  and this pond was temporarily created.  That would account for the fence line which appears in the pond. Under normal water conditions a lane may have followed the edge of the creek but as the water rose it overtopped the bank and captured the fence.

So “Three Miles from Charlottetown” is not along the banks of the Hillsborough or North River but instead the scene is across the harbour just below Fort Amherst. And it is not so surprising as Rocky Point and the Fort Lot was a popular day trip for ferry excursionists – one of whom took his camera along.

Location of Louson photo today. Front range Light is not visible but lies behind trees on south shore of marsh.

Today standing at the point from which the photos were taken one is greeted by a swampy marsh and a wall of White Spruce trees which block any sight of the range lights.  An area which was one of the first cleared of trees in the early settlement of the Island is reverting to the forest.

Parks Canada has elected to dismiss more than two hundred years of human habitation on this site which would have left this area cleared of trees. The early Acadians and English settlers soon used the trees on the site for fire wood and building materials and turned the land to agriculture uses. Rather than maintain the agricultural aspect of the site  the balance of convenience for Parks Canada appears to have been to ignore the human history and dismiss the impact of settlers on the land.

 

“Three Miles from Charlottetown” is one of a series of sepia postcards published by Warwick Bros. & Rutter, mostly using images taken by W.S. Louson. For more on these cards click here.