Where ever two or three are gathered…

#1543 Public Gardens, Charlottetown P.E.I. publisher not identified

In post card collecting, as in so many other things, if there are more than two of something then there is a series. If the items are numbered then there is a hope of  gaining some appreciation of how large or long the series is. Suspicious gaps might just be filled with a missing card.

For example there is a run of Pugh Postcards with numbers 42-1 to 42-12 and I have found images of all except 42-1 and 42-9.  These are all P.E.I. cards.  This suggests that a missing card will also have a similar subject, in this case scenes of Prince Edward Island. I am willing to bet that the two missing images are also Prince Edward Island   But it is easy to be fooled and as Mike Smith demonstrates in his terrific book on the Warwick and Rutter cards (soon to be published in a new and even more complete edition) a gap in the series of PEI cards could just as easily be filled by a card from somewhere else.

Standard back of the cards illustrated

The problem is compounded where there is a very short run of cards and the publisher is not identified. These “no publisher” cards are sometimes the work of local publishers but are more likely to be an unidentified national publisher. A case in point is the series of three cards shown in this blog posting.

Detail of card # 1541 showing textured finish. http://haggis.mccullochcentre.ca/document/2503

The stand card back is a simple upper-case “PRIVATE POST CARD” divided back card with no identifying serial numbers or unique printer’s information. The cards have an interesting slightly textured finish of fairly high quality and the colour work is subtle. For the cards in my collection the postmarks are all from 1905 or 1906.

The images do not provide a source for the photographs used but at least two of them, #1541 and #1542, show up on other cards from the period – again with no publisher noted.

#1542 View on Great George Street, Charlottetown, P.E.I. publisher not identified.
The same image being used on another “no publisher” card, albeit with a different caption
#1541 St. Dunstan’s Cathedral, Charlottetown, P.E.I. publisher not identified.

The issue for me is whether these three cards constitute the whole of this series as far as Prince Edward Island is concerned. Is #1540 or #1544 another P.E.I,. card or are these three cards the publisher’s P.E.I. sole nod to a national series. It is hardly likely that there three cards represent the total series, not with those numbers.  Has anyone else looked at these cards as constituting a series? If so have these been captured as a series by collectors.  The larger question is, of course, who was the publisher of these cards?

I would love to have responses from collectors from other parts of Canada as to whether they have collections of numbered cards of the same design from their areas of collecting.

P.S. 25 October 2020

Thanks to the miracle of the internet, part of the query that I posed above has been addressed. Andrew Cunningham, editor of the Toronto Postcard Club’s Card Talk has pointed me to Mike Smith’s book on W.G. MacFarlane. MacFarlane is almost certainly the publisher of the cards in question. The MacFarlane card titled “Public Gardens, Charlottetown, P.E.I.” is the same image as one of the cards above but lacks the card number on the face.

MacFarlane Public Gardens card lacking card number on face

However, as can be seen on the card back both the publisher name and the same card number appear at the lower left of the card.

MacFarlane card back showing publisher and number

Andrew’s comment can be seen below.  As he notes it is still not certain if there are additional cards outside the numbering sequence.

The Three Sisters

In my youth when I began work at the Public Archives of P.E.I. I spent a lot of time on the reference desk.  It seemed as if every second genealogical inquiry began with the words “There were three brothers…”  In the world of postcard collecting the catch phrase seems to be “the three sisters”.

I was intrigued by a Warwick Bros. & Rutter postcard (#5700) with this title. It seemed to be one of a number of their series of sepia cards, but it was far from clear where it was from.  There was no indication if it even showed a scene from Prince Edward Island as there was no other locational information on the card. From the look of the card it could be almost any shoreline or even a river bank.

It was therefore a stroke of luck that the copy of the card that I possessed had a message even though the card itself was not sent through the mail – unless it was sent in an envelope as there was no postmark or stamp. What is remarkable is that the card was dated 3/7/28 which could be as much as 16 years after the hey-day of the Warwick and Rutter postcard publishing came to an end.  The message helps locate the card.

Last Sunday I visited this shore near Campbelltown, P.E.I. The banks are quite high and these points of rock jutting out into the Gulf are called The Three Sisters, evidently taken when the tide was low.

A week later I stumbled across a second Three Sisters card. The card was a Pugh Specialty card and was postmarked 1915. The message on the card was certainly less explicit as to place, but it did reference “all the sights of O’Leary”. The face of the card however, left little doubt that The Three Sisters was a nearby attraction in western Prince County.


On Prince Edward Island the phrase “graven in stone” has much less meaning than in the rest of the country. The constant erosion shapes the shoreline relentlessly and once famous formations such as Elephant Rock, Cavendish’s Lone Rock, Wolfe’s Rock and Pulpit Rock have all disappeared.  The same fate was likely in store for The Three Sisters.

But even on Prince Edward Island the name has other dimensions and other locations. A W.G. MacFarlane card of Victoria Park in Charlottetown shows another application of the name but once again fame is fleeting and the park’s white birches are disappearing. This grouping is long since gone.

Three Sisters Victoria Park no. 51 MHF

There are “Three Sisters” groupings all across the postcard world; images of peaks near Banff Alberta, and other set in Central Oregon, in Hell’s Half-Acre in Wyoming, overlooking Glencoe in Scotland, a range in the Blue Mountains of Australia, a group of islands in Lake Superior and dozens of other geographical phenomena.

The main difference between these locations and the rocks and trees of Prince Edward Island is that a century later our Three Sisters have disappeared while the others are truly  set in stone.



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