A Rare Real Photo Postcard: Commissioning the Earl Grey

Although I have tried to limit my collecting to postcards with Prince Edward Island scenes, sometimes an item comes along that is too good to exclude. Such is the case when I discovered a card recently offered in the Toronto Postcard Club members auction.

Unlike most of the items in my collection this one is a “real photo postcard” (RPPC). There are not many real photo postcards from Prince Edward, especially from the period before the Great War and this card proved to be a treat both from a technical and a subject perspective.

Real Photo Postcards were made through a photographic process rather than by conventional printing. They put many photo studios and a number of amateur photographers in the postcard business.

Commissioning of the H.M.C.S. Earl Grey in Halifax 1914. Note the iceboat on the stern davits. While the hull appears to be painted in a dark colour, in reality it was white as can be seen in other photos, taken in Halifax and on arrival in the White Sea, posted on my Sailstrait pages noted below.

Although some RPPCs exist from the late 1890s the creation of Velox photo paper by Kodak in 1902 was the real beginning of the RPPC. This paper came with a pre-printed postcard back. That, coupled with a new folding camera design, launched a year later, which produced negatives in the postcard format, made the production of postcards a simple process. A few cards or even a single card could be produced from a photographic negative and could be sent through the mails without an envelope.

Real photo postcards were often created to record local events or places of local significance because they could be produced in small quantities unlike printed cards which required the creation of printing plates and a press run and so were not economical unless a larger quantity came off the presses. More technical information about Real Photo Postcards can be found on the excellent Metropolitan Postcard site 

Because it was difficult to add information to the photo negative, and the back of the card came pre-printed, most RPPCs have no identifying information which can pinpoint the subject, the scene or the publisher.  This makes them both attractive and frustrating for collectors. Sometimes the card message holds the only clues as to the subject of the card.  Such is the case with my latest acquisition.  Although not mailed the original owner has recorded the event pictured: “Hoisting the British ensign, when we commissioned the H.M.S. Earl Grey at Halifax”  The inscription suggests this was a souvenir retained by a member of the ship’s crew.

Back of the Earl Grey card.; The information dates the event.

Even without the inscription I was able to name the vessel. She was quite familiar as in my blog Sailstrait I had done two long postings, one dealing with the Earl Grey’s Canadian history and the other concerning the ship’s adventures after she was sold to Russia in 1914.

The real photo postcard neatly bridges the two chapters as it captures the ship in the process of being transferred to the Russians. On 1 August 1914 the ship was transferred to the Canadian Navy. Four days later she became H.M.C.S. Earl Grey of the Royal Canadian Navy. The postcard is the picture of the official raising of the Royal Naval ensign symbolizing the commissioning of the ship. The postcard shows the ratings in their naval whites assembled overlooking the stern of the vessel while the officers in darker uniforms salute the ensign.

While the card was obviously produced in Halifax and is not technically a P.E.I. card the content is related to a vessel which was very important to the Island. I trust that purist collectors will forgive me.

Note – an earlier version of this page suggested that the vessel was commissioned as the H.M.S. Earl Grey of the Royal Navy rather than the Royal Canadian Navy.

 

 

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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.

 

 

Groceries, Soft Drinks and Postcards; R.F. Maddigan & Co.

 

Victoria Park001
Victoria Park, Charlottetown, P.E.I.

During the golden age of postcards national printers, publishers and distributors blanketed the country with penny  images. National firms such as Valentine, Stedman, and Warwick & Rutter made sure they had postcards from every province and territory.  But there were scores, or perhaps hundreds, of others who got in on the game at a local level.  On Prince Edward Island firms such as Haszard & Moore and Carter & Company had an easily understandable link to the cards; the former as a printer and publisher and the latter as a stationer.  However there were also less obvious connections and some merchants gave posts cards a whirl even though it may have been somewhat removed from their core business. Until recently these local publishers or distributors have attracted little attention from collectors and it is difficult to find information about them.

One such businessman on Prince Edward Island was Richard F. Maddigan.  Born in 1867 Maddigan worked in the grocery business with W. Grant and Company in Charlottetown and in 1900 he took over the operation on the west side of Queen Street between Dorchester and Sydney streets changing the business name to R.F. Maddigan and Co.  He operated a conventional grocery business but by 1906 had branched out into the manufacture of “Temperance Beverages” (soft drinks) and advertised that he could supply “everything required for fitting out saloons.”  The following year he took over the rival Ferris and Frederickson Aereated Water Business.  Today bottles from both of these companies are greatly sought by collectors.

Maddigan
Charlottetown Guardian 26 August 1911.

Four years later an advertisement appeared suggesting thatMaddigan had once again expanded his interests.  Directed at country post offices and stores he advertised that he had 80 varieties of cards available.  Richard Maddigan had gone into the postcard business.   It is not clear if the 80 varieties referred only to view cards or to other cards which might have been comical or topical in nature.  I have been able to identify about 25 cards with the Maddigan name and there are no doubt others about. I would be interested in hearing of other Maddigan titles. The cards show images from a number of different Island communities.

Victoria Park Back002
Detail of one of several different Maddigan card backs
6707
St. Dunstan’s Cathedral. Warwick Bros. & Rutter card published for Maddigan

Maddigan seems to have purchased his cards from a variety of suppliers. Many of the images appear on cards identified with other publishers and in several cases these names appear on the cards along with that of Maddigan.

The card backs indicate at least 5 different designs appear suggesting a variety of printers/publishers were used.  One of the more common of the designs has a unique card number in the format XXX-XX on the lower right bottom edge of the card back which may give a clue as to the printer. The same card backs and number system are found on cards from the Pugh Manufacturing Company, recently the subject of new information on the Toronto Postcard Club site. Some other cards are noted as “Printed in Great Britain”, others are from printers in Saxony.  Because of the variety of images and printers and lack of consistency in type faces on the card captions it is difficult to identify a typical “Maddigan card”.  Images of a number of cards bearing the Maddigan imprint are shown below to illustrate the design and colour ranges. Click on any image in enlarge. A more complete catalogue of known Maddigan cards can be found here.

After the postcard boom died away there is no indication that Maddigan continued in the card business. He no doubt eventually sold off his stock and returned to concentration on the grocery lines. Richard Maddigan died on 24 February 1928 and by the end of April the shop fittings and equipment in his store had been auctioned off.

Note:  The Toronto Post Card Club web site has a number histories of Canadian postcard publishers as well as checklists of cards from some of them.