Thanksgiving postcards dazzle with colours

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Thanksgiving postcards, U.S. and Canada, a colourful choice
By Mike Smith
With the exception of Halloween postcards and certain Christmas postcards portraying Santa Claus, greeting-type postcards are often overlooked by antique postcard collectors.
Postcards proclaiming birthdays, Easter, Christmas, Valentine’s Day etc. can sit for years in dealer boxes even though their excellent designs and brilliant colours make them wonderful collectibles.
Ironically, some of the best postcard printers in the world learned their craft by printing greeting cards and other fancy stationery in the days before the birth of the private postcard.
The Toronto Lithographing Company and England’s Raphael Tuck & Sons were two such printers renowned for the quality of their greeting cards well before they got into the postcard game.
When it comes to Thanksgiving postcards, there's no doubt that American publishers ruled the roost, at least in terms of the number of different designs. This makes perfect sense of course when you think of the size of the American market and how important the Thanksgiving holiday is to Americans.
Thus in this article, the first two of the five cards I'm going to showcase were published in the good ol’ USA.
The Thanksgiving postcard shown in Figure 1 is from a beautiful series published by the International Art Publishing Co., New York. Although the maple leaf motif was no doubt meant for the New England market, there's no country mentioned on the front so the card fits quite nicely in my Canadian patriotic postcard collection.
In fact, every one of the 20 cards I have recorded from this particular International Art Publishing Co. series has one or more fall-coloured maple leaves. The net result was that I shamelessly “Canadianized” the lot of them and put the series in my Canadian patriotic postcard handbook in 2003.
By the way, this card and six others from the series show Ellen H. Clapsaddle’s signature in gold script. For those who collect artist-signed postcards, a signature from this popular American artist adds another level of collectability.
The Figure 2 postcard is another American-made Thanksgiving gem I hijacked for my patriotic handbook. And how could I not? The focal point is a beautifully embossed, brilliant-red maple leaf.
Would American collectors not react in a similar fashion if Canadian-made cards were emblazoned with the great bald eagle? All kidding aside, I would have collected this postcard with or without the maple leaf because the quality is spectacular.
I wasn't surprised when I saw the inscription at the bottom – “Design Copyrighted John Winsch, 1912.” John Winsch Co., N.Y. postcards, like those printed by Britain’s Raphael Tuck & Sons, are in a class by themselves and are very popular with collectors.
For those with Internet access, type “John Winsch postcards” in any search engine and you will see what I mean. Winsch postcards are among the best anywhere.
The postcard shown in Figure 3 was published by England’s Rotary Photographic Co. Ltd. and has the classic “Rotary Photo” look – a glossy finish with a real photo as the centerpiece of the design.
This particular card is from a set of three Thanksgiving postcards published for the Canadian market. The design is a hodgepodge of patriotic symbols with two main images – a larger view in a gear-shaped frame, and a smaller view of an unsuspecting turkey.
Interest for this particular set has grown over the past few years since it is now thought the country views, which unlike the turkey image are different on each card, were taken by renowned Goderich, Ontario photographer Reuben R. Sallows.
That said, if you come up to Goderich for a swim this summer, I highly recommend a visit to the Reuben R. Sallows Gallery in the Goderich Public Library. Note that many of Sallows’ wonderful photographs of Canadian farm life are turning up on British-made Golden Age (1900–1914) postcards.
The Figure 4 postcard is from a large and growing series of novelty greeting cards by Stedman Bros. Ltd. of Brantford, Ontario with metallic images fastened to them.
When I published my Stedman Bros. postcard handbook last year, I had recorded 31 of these “metallic appliqué” cards. Today, thanks to input from readers of my book, I am aware of at least twice that amount.
Made in Germany for Stedman Bros. from 1906–1914, these cards are fun to collect and the designs that turn up keep getting better and better.
Note that a similar type of novelty postcard was also published by W. G. MacFarlane of Toronto, who also had most of his cards made in Germany. The key difference in the MacFarlane cards is the metallic images have a “bent pin” fastener at the back that allows them to be removed from the card and reused. Whether or not the same German manufacturer was involved is still unknown.
The Thanksgiving postcard shown in Figure 5 is from an 82-card series published by renowned Toronto publisher Warwick Bros. & Rutter. Without the caption, this pretty little card could have been used for any festive occasion as the food items are hardly symbolic of Thanksgiving – grapes, wine, lobster and a goose?
It sounds more like a feast at a Nova Scotia ceilidh than a Thanksgiving dinner. Regardless, this and the other greeting cards in the Warwick series are highly embossed, very colourful and sure look great in an album.
Note that until my Stedman Bros. research, I touted Warwick Bros. & Rutter as Canada’s most prolific Golden Age postcard publisher. With over 7,300 different cards recorded, I reckoned there wasn't another Canadian publisher that could touch the Toronto behemoth.
Boy was I surprised when, with the help of the Kitchener Waterloo Cambridge Regional Post Card Club, I started to record Stedman Bros. postcards. The Brantford wholesaler and retailer, which at one time had more department stores in Canada than any other merchant, published at least 8,000 different cards. For collectors, that’s something to be thankful for.
Figure 1 - With the exception of Halloween postcards and certain Christmas postcards portraying Santa Claus, greeting-type postcards are often overlooked by antique postcard collectors.
Figure 2 - This high-quality Thanksgiving postcard was published by the John Winsch Co., New York. Like the Figure 1 postcard, the bright red maple leaf gives it a Canadian flavour
Figure 3 - Although this British-made Thanksgiving postcard has a hodgepodge design, the Reuben R. Sallows’ photo makes it quite desirable.
Figure 4 - This Stedman Bros. Thanksgiving postcard is known as an “appliqué” postcard because of the “applied” metallic turkey.
Figure 5 - A very colourful and highly embossed Thanksgiving postcard from Toronto’s renowned Warwick Bros. & Rutte
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
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