Grade 3 fun with blotters blossomed into
By Mike Smith
I had no knowledge of what blotting was until
Grade 3 when near the beginning of the year we were handed a
list of materials to bring to class.
The list, among other things, included a fountain pen, ink
cartridges and blotting paper. It was 1963, I was eight years
old and was finally going to learn to write like the big shots.
Pencils and block letters were finished; pens and fancy ink
writing had arrived. I remember it took me ages to concoct an
acceptable-looking signature, which finally came together when
I copied some of the elegant swirls my dad used in his signature.
In kids hands, when I think back, fountain pens were
messy and blotting paper was a necessity. Ballpoint pens had
been available for years, but I suppose old teaching methods
After Grade 3, when my fountain pen and its blue-stained nib
were put aside forever, I rarely heard or saw the word "blotter"
anywhere. Of course, there were TV show police blotters
used for recording arrests etc., and some of my First World War
postcards refer to blotting out the Hun, but ink
blotters had pretty much disappeared from the lexicon.
I was very surprised
then when I came across a beautiful-looking blotter for sale
on eBay several years ago (see Figure 1). I had no idea that
long before my Grade 3 writing classes, printers had been embellishing
blotters with delightful patriotic designs and fancy advertising.
The eBay blotter, which I just couldn't resist purchasing,
has a proud place among my best patriotic postcards. Although
the printer isn't identified, I'm going to guess it was Laidlaw-McCullough
of Hamilton because of the numerous patriotic postcards they
The next time I came across a multi-coloured blotter was
the day before the annual Toronto Postcard Club Show last February.
I was at Bill Angleys house helping this renowned postcard
collector, part-time dealer and good friend get his postcards
ready for the show.
In previous years Bill would have done all the organizing
and pricing himself, but he's had to slow down a bit due to his
age. He still looks young for a 92-year-old, but at his age:
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
Anyway, I saw the
postcard shown in Figure 2 in one of Bills
specialty albums just before I left his house. Note that I put
the word postcard in quotation marks because at 6¼ by
3 inches this George V coronation souvenir certainly didn't have
standard postcard dimensions (5½ by 3½ inches).
In addition, it was made of soft porous (blotting) paper.
However, there was a receiving postmark on the front and when
I turned it over I saw that someone in Hamilton put a stamp on
it, wrote a message and addressed it to Marion, Ohio.
Although the back design was blank, just like a blotter,
it had been used as a postcard by the sender and mailed on 25
August 1911. The picture side by the way is a sight for sore
eyes. I tip my hat to Lever Brothers of Toronto for publishing
this gem, however it was meant to be used.
The opposite happened with the blotter shown in Figure 3,
which was also in Bill Angleys specialty album. This item
had standard postcard dimensions so I initially assumed it was
a patriotic postcard.
Although the back was blank, it certainly looked a lot more
like a postcard than the coronation souvenir shown previously.
I felt a little foolish when I finally noticed the word BLOTTER
printed at the lower right corner.
Regardless, it's an exceptional item and I would gladly display
it alongside any patriotic postcard in my collection. By the
way, it took some help from John Aitken at the London & Middlesex
Postcard Club but I was able to identify the blotters printer
Wright Litho of London (Ontario).
For the political pundits out there, I was also successful
in identifying Chas. R. Tuson. He was mayor of Windsor, Ontario
from 1917-1918. The blotter ad must have worked - but not for
It was a sentimental moment for me when I sold the 500th
and final copy of my first postcard book, The Canadian Patriotic
Postcard Checklist 1898-1928, last fall. It certainly went to
a good home a Timmins-born collector living in Texas.
Even though the book seemed to take forever to complete,
as soon as it was finished I started working on the second edition.
I knew from experience that no matter how hard I had tried to
make the book as complete as possible, there are always more
postcards to find.
For example, soon
after I mentioned that I was looking for unlisted cards at a
postcard meeting I attended last fall, a fellow collector handed
me a beefy stack of unlisted cards to catalogue. One of the most
colourful thus desirable items in the stack was an Allied
Flags card published during the First World War (see Figure
Alas, when I turned
the card over to see if it had been used in period (a desirable
feature on most antique postcards) I immediately saw that the
back was completely filled with an advertisement for Heintzman
& Co. pianos (see Figure 5). My very patriotic postcard was
actually a very patriotic trade card.
Finally, I just love the design of Canadas early Red
Ensign and pick up colour images of this great flag whenever
I can. When I say early, I'm referring to the design
that shows our pre-1921 crest.
When the new provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta were added
in 1905, the Canada crest was modified to include two additional
Although I'm usually
a more the merrier kind of guy, I have to admit with
nine provincial shields overall, our crest sure looked a little
busy (see Figure 6).
Anyway, I don't know whether or not the Figure 6 item was
meant to be a blotter or trade card, but it is certainly a great
Now if I could only find the same design on an antique postcard.
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. Visit postcard-directory.com/mikesmithbooks