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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Ducks and Drakes on Brighton Pond

Since I began collection early P.E.I. postcards I have learned that it is not unusual for the same images to appear on cards produced by a number of different publishers.  It is often not clear if the photos were simply copied from one card to another or were different images from the same vantage point. Sometimes the images are simply cropped and so appear to be slightly different. For example most of the Warwick Bros. & Rutter cards had an aspect which allowed for a title bar to appear at the card bottom. If those images were printed on a card where the full face of the card was used they would have to be cropped so that the image filled the space.

Brighton Pond, Charlottetown, P.E.I. Pugh Manufacturing #524-11

However sometimes the changes between seemingly identical cards are not so easily explained. A case in point is a card dating from about 1908 showing the northern end of Government Pond in Charlottetown taken just where the brook from Spring Park enters the pond under a bridge under Euston Street as it turns into Brighton Road.  I first became aware of the card when searching for images illustrating the architectural works of Charles B. Chappell. The building to the right is a house he designed for Charlottetown photographer (and sometime postcard producer) James A.S. Bayer. The card was printed by the Pugh Manufacturing Company in Toronto

This Pugh card carries the same image as a Rumsey & Co. card shown below and is identical except for the title lettering and the artistic license taken in the colouring ….or is it?

Brighton Pond, Charlottetown, P.E.I. Rumsey & Co.

Clearly the image is the same and the cropping is within a hairbreadth.  Even the ducks are in the exactly the same position.

Except that on the Rumsey card one of the ducks has completely vanished with barely a ripple left behind!

Detail from Pugh card showing missing duck and visible lettering

Another difference between the two cards becomes visible only through close examination and may be spotted in the enlarged detail. Just showing and tantalizingly undecipherable, the image reveals a card title in block white letters which has been almost re-touched out of sight.  Although skillfully done a shadow of the original remains.

So, was the duck removed from the Pugh …or was the duck added? In any event this was a very high quality alteration and must have taken a good deal of time and effort.  And whatever the case, why bother? My suspicion is that there is a third postcard out there, probably from a different publisher – an ur-card if you will. However even if it is discovered it may not go far in revealing the bizarre secret of the missing Brighton Pond duck.

Note – The Rumsey firm, is now the subject of a brief company history recently published on the Toronto Postcard Club website found here.

 

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.

Five Views of Edwardian Queen Street

The building of the Charles B. Chappell designed Stamper Building at the south-east corner of Queen and Richmond Streets in Charlottetown created vantage point overlooking the prosperous businesses which looked east onto Queen Square. A series of postcard images showing the street scene reveal changes on the street over a period of ten or so years. They also tell us a lot about what postcards do and do not show and how sometimes all that exists is not to be seen.

All of the images are from the roof of the Stamper Building looking north up Queen Street toward the 1888 City Hall with its impressive bell tower. However, in the previous statement “all” should really read “both” as close examination of the cards, although they are from five different publishers, shows they actually share only two photographic images.  What is the earliest of the series is a card printed in Belgium for Taylor’s Book Store in Charlottetown.

Looking at details we can date this card as being from an image before 1909. That year the Fancy Grocery store of Jenkins and Sons on the north-west corner of Queen and Grafton Streets was demolished and was replaced by the columned façade of the Bank of Commerce, which had recently bought out the Merchants Bank of Prince Edward Island. Prominent in the foreground of the picture is a telephone or electrical pole with dozens of insulators. The wires, for the most part, have been re-touched out of existence.  The buildings fronting the square are almost all three-story brick structures. There is one exception – next to Weeks “People’s Store” a 19th century wooden building still remains. On the right of the card the shadow cast by the W.C. Harris designed Market Building falls on market square.

The same image is the basis of the card from  Charlottetown stationers Carter & Company.  But this card has little of the quality evident in the first.

Re-touched almost to the point of becoming merely a sketch of the scene, its photograph origins are obscured to the extreme.  The subtle details of the storefronts and signage are blurred. The utility pole has disappeared as has the shadow of the market building, replaced by the retoucher by a green sward surrounded by a neat hedge. Although the figures on the street, including a horse-drawn “sloven” in the middle of Queen Street, have been allowed to remain, they have almost become stick figures. In a clumsy but easily missed detail the sign of Haszard’s Bookstore on the building to the right to the sole wooden structure has been changed from the original in the photograph to read “Carter & Co. Ltd.” The overall result is a card showing a poorly coloured sterile streetscape devoid of shadows and details.  North of Grafton Street the lack of detail is even more noticible.

A card from Toronto’s Pugh Manufacturing Company looks at first glance to be merely a copy but it is a different and later image although also taken from the top of the Stamper building.  The chief difference is the 1909 Bank of Commerce which has replaced the wooden building on the corner of Queen and Grafton Streets.

But that is not the only change. S.A. MacDonald’s store with its distinctive arched second-story show window has taken the place of the wooden store.  Streetlight standards line the western side of the street.  In this photo even some of the wiring of utility poles seems to have been left in although the large pole in the centre of the card has either been re-purposed or decapitated.

A fourth card, like many cards of the period has neither a publisher or printer identified and being unused does not even have a postmark to date it although it clearly is the same image as the one used in the Pugh card shown above.

It is more closely cropped on all sides. The offending utility pole has been re-touched out of existence but a festive line of seven flags has been added in a patriotic flourish.

The final card is from Raphael Tuck and Sons, an English firm that had been appointed official printers to Queen Victoria. The firm’s cards were printed in Germany and the output included both photographic images and a wide variety of artistic cards.

The publishing quality of the Tuck cards is extremely high with subtle colouration.  Yet this card too has been altered from the original. In this case it is not the addition of flags that is most evident but the complete removal of every utility pole in the photograph giving the appearance of a broad street unspoiled by poles, wires, or other defacing 20th century street furniture.

After the Great War Queen Street continued to be a popular scene for postcards, several of which were from the Stamper’s Corner vantage point. While there was little change in the buildings lining the streets the horses, carts and slovens were soon replaced with automobiles and trucks.

These cards are a reminder that much of what we see has been “improved” in the printing process and that postcards, like all documentation, should be viewed with a critical eye.