While on the hunt for photographs taken by Goderich, Ontarios
Reuben Sallows (1855-1937), the hero of my latest postcard handbook,
I came across an amazing fact about the Canadian Pacific Railway
(CPR) archives in Montreal.
According to one of the books on Canadian photography I flipped
through at the Goderich library, the CPR archives contain over
800,000 photos. It seems that this venerable company not only
kept a photographic record of its railway construction up until
Donald Smith drove the ceremonial last spike in 1885, it also
commissioned thousands of photographs in subsequent decades to
use in travel, tourism and immigration advertising.
With its continent-wide railway, fleets of vessels on both
the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and great hotels such as the
Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, Banff Springs Hotel in the
Rockies and, later, the Royal York in Toronto, the CPR positioned
itself as one of the worlds largest travel and tourism
companies. And in order to create a steady stream of posters,
pamphlets and postcards to lure customers, it employed some of
the best photographers, artists and graphic designers in Canada.
One of the CPRs go-to photographers was the aforementioned
Reuben Sallows. This stellar photographer was frequently hired
by the CPR to take photos of Northern Ontario and Quebec tourist
(hunting and fishing) areas as well as Prairie farms. Some of
the resultant postcards are shown as Figures 1 and 2. Note that
CPR Prairie farm postcards were used to entice homesteaders (who
would need a train ticket of course) so you will never find one
showing a brutal Prairie winter.
Although the view cards published by the railway are very
collectible, the crème de la crème for collectors
are the cards of early CPR steamships and those made from some
of the classic travel posters. One of the nicest of the early
steamship postcards I've ever seen was in the collection of the
late Wayne Curtis of Oakville. The card has an image of the Empress
of Britain (see Figure 3) and entices passengers to Go
as your letters go, and travel in safety and comfort by the Canadian
Pacific Railway Co.s Royal Mail S.S. Lines Atlantic service.
In other words, you can cross the Atlantic with your mail, but
For the record, according to Wikipedia, the company operated
32 different passenger ships from 1887 until 1971, when it shifted
focus to container ships. The first ship in service was the SS
Abyssinia (Vancouver to Australia route), and the last was the
RMS Empress of Canada (transatlantic and Caribbean routes). Although
I'd like to think there is a postcard collection out there with
every ship in Canadian Pacifics passenger fleet, it's unlikely
as the SS Abyssinia was out of service four years before advent
of the private postcard in 1895.
If one wanted to create a connoisseur category
for CPR postcards, it would definitely apply to those made from
the companys iconic travel posters. I rarely see any of
these cards for less than $25 at postcard shows and some of the
Art Deco types from the 1920s can sell for a $100+ each (yikes!).
The only example I have in my collection is one purchased quite
recently because of its very patriotic caption (see Figure 4).
In fact, since every one of the CPR poster-type cards I have
ever come across has a terrific pro-Canada caption and/or scene,
I created a special page for them in my latest patriotic postcard
Incidentally, the Figure 4 postcard shows locomotive CP2301
which, according to the Internet, was one of the engines used
to haul the Royal Train during the Prince of Wales (future
King Edward VIII) Royal Visit in 1919. The things one learns
in this wonderful hobby.
Finally, there are two great postcard shows just around the
corner. The Toronto Postcard Clubs 36th Annual Show will
be held February 26 and the Post Card Memories Show & Sale,
hosted by the Kitchener Waterloo Cambridge Regional Post Card
Club, will be held March 19 (check the Wayback Times for details).
For book lovers, the Reuben Sallows Picture Postcard Handbook
19001925 will be launched at the Toronto Show, and Father
Bauer and the Great Experiment: The Genesis of Canadian Olympic
Hockey will be launched at the Post Card Memories Show. As usual,
Ill have a table at both events so please come over for
Successful hunters with their moose head are shown in this
postcard from Quebecs Kipawa District. On Line of
C.P.R. is included in the caption.
Another On Line of C.P.R. postcard, this one
showing a bountiful Prairie harvest.
A beautiful, multi-coloured postcard of the RMS Empress of
Britain with a message enticing passengers to travel with their
mail across the Atlantic.
A CPR poster-type card touting Canadian Pacific as The
Empires Greatest Railway.
Michael J. (Mike) Smith is an RMC graduate (Class of '77)
and ex-naval officer who has been an avid collector of Canadiana
for most of his life. His current passion is collecting and writing
about Canadian antique postcards. He is currently working on
his eighth postcard handbook. Previous titles can be found at