Easter well-represented in Canadian postcards

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Easter postcards colourful, imaginative, fun
By Mike Smith
Easter, the most important event in the Christian calendar, was certainly well represented on Canadian postcards during their Golden Age (1900–1914).
As I sifted through the thousands of postcard images scanned into my computer over the past 10 years or so, I discovered more than enough examples for this article.
This isn't at all surprising. Most of Canada’s population at the turn of the 20th century was made up of church-going Christians. Consequently, religious celebrations like Christmas, Easter and to a lesser extent, St. Patrick’s Day, were popular themes for postcards.
Although many of today’s Christians lament that Christ’s birth, death and resurrection appear to have been supplanted by Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, the secularization of these events certainly isn't a modern phenomenon.
Most of the pre-First World War Christmas postcards I've seen show Santa Claus in one scene or another and the majority of Easter postcards contain bunnies, eggs, chickens and other secular symbols.
This is completely understandable of course. Postcards, like any other commodity, had to be marketed to the widest possible audience. Mangers, Last Suppers and crucifixes had and still have a tough time competing against a sleigh full of presents and chocolate Easter eggs.
For those interested in antique Christmas and Easter postcards with less secular themes, the cards published during the First World War tend to be much more religious. No surprise there.
The colourful Easter Bunny and egg postcard shown in Figure 1 was published by Toronto’s W. G. MacFarlane around 1908. According to a quickie Internet search, the Easter Bunny is actually a hare.
Hares and eggs were ancient (pagan) fertility symbols associated with spring and therefore renewal. They became part of Easter folklore in Europe during the Middle Ages, melding nicely with the Christian “spiritual renewal” experienced at Easter. The timing of Easter, celebrated shortly after the first day of spring, also helped emphasize the renewal theme.
Figure 2 shows another postcard from the same W. G. MacFarlane series. In this case, the egg has been converted into a wagon driven by children, with the Easter Bunny navigating or perhaps acting as lookout. All the postcards in this series by the way were printed by Meissner & Buch of Leipzig, Germany.
Meissner & Buch postcards are of very high quality and usually have a small “M.B.” printed somewhere on the front or back. If you come across a modestly-priced card by this German printer, I recommend you pick it up – especially if it was imported by a Canadian publisher.
In case you are wondering, Meissner & Buch’s two most important Canadian importers were W. G. MacFarlane and the McCoy Printing Co. of Moncton.
In my Stedman Bros. of Brantford folder, there were so many Easter postcards I had a tough time finding a favourite for this article. I finally decided to showcase one of the “metallic appliqué” postcards from an ever-growing series launched in the summer of 1909.
I say “ever growing” because collectors began notifying me of unlisted items shortly after my Stedman Bros. handbook hit the streets in September 2011.
The Easter postcard shown in Figure 3 has a family of chickens with a metallic rooster in the foreground and a large egg with additional rooster in the background.
I may have explained this in an earlier article, but “appliqué” postcards are those with something “applied” to them, like fabric, miniature calendars, metal pins etc. They fall into the novelty postcard category and they have a loyal following among collectors.
The Figure 4 postcard is from a series of embossed greeting cards published by Canada’s famous Warwick Bros. & Rutter.
Until the completion of my Stedman Bros. handbook, Warwick Bros. & Rutter was thought to be Canada’s most prolific Golden Age publisher. I was truly astounded when I realized the estimate for Stedman Bros. would be around 8,500 different postcards – at least a thousand more cards than were recorded for Warwick Bros. & Rutter.
Although bumped to the No. 2 position, Warwick Bros. & Rutter does have the unique distinction of having printed almost all of its postcards in Toronto. There are no other Canadian publishers that can claim this much domestic production.
Finally, I was going to showcase an Easter postcard from the McCoy Printing Co., but the Stedman Bros. appliqué types proved too hard to resist. The postcard shown in Figure 5 has no caption; just a country scene with Easter flowers and an appliqué crucifix.
At present, there are 52 different cards in this Stedman Bros. series and, as stated earlier, the number grows every month thanks to input from collectors.
Although I recently saw one of these cards sell for $30 at a show (it was a scarce design with a metallic zeppelin), most of the cards in this series are modestly priced at $5 to $10.
Great cards, modestly priced and fun to collect – need I say more?
Figure 1: An Easter Bunny postcard by W. G. MacFarlane of Toronto. Printed in Germany, this card is part of a 12-card series released around 1908.
Figure 2: Another Easter postcard from W. G. MacFarlane, this one is from the same series as the Figure 1 example.
Figure 3: This Stedman Bros. Easter postcard has an “appliqué” metallic rooster guarding the coop.
Figure 4: A highly embossed Easter card by Toronto’s Warwick Bros. & Rutter. The unusually dark colouring on this card makes it surprisingly attractive.
Figure 5: A beautiful Easter postcard from Stedman Bros. with an appliqué crucifix. This is one of the 52 cards currently listed in this popular Stedman Bros. series.
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
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