20th Century Travel Aptly Recorded on
By Mike Smith
One of the great things about antique postcards is the amount
of social history recorded on those little 3½ inch by
5½ inch pieces of cardboard.
From the Paris Exhibition in 1889 to the present day, picture
postcards have recorded and continue to record millions of images
showing mankinds interaction with the world.
The 1889 Paris Exhibition is significant in deltiology because
it was at that event that the worlds first official picture
postcard was introduced to the world.
(Please note the distinction between postcard and picture
postcard. Postcard geeks all know that the worlds first
official postcard was issued by Austria in 1869.)
Sold at the summit of the newly-built Eiffel Tower and meant
to be posted at that location, the Paris Exhibition card has
a nice vignette of the Eiffel Tower and is a terrific collectible,
especially with summit postmarks.
The first time I
saw an example was in the collection of a dear friend, Bill Angley
of Toronto. The Angley card, which was posted from the Eiffel
Tower summit on Aug. 29, 1889, is shown in Figure 1.
Ten years after the Paris Exhibition, a young entrepreneur
from New Brunswick named W. G. (William Godsoe) MacFarlane started
a publishing business in Toronto, where he initially specialized
in souvenir view albums.
Within a couple of years however, W. G. MacFarlane shifted
priorities and soon became one of Canadas most successful
Since this article is supposed to have a 20th century transportation
theme, its a lucky coincidence for me that the earliest-known
postmark on a MacFarlane postcard is on a card showing an old-time
country conveyance the oxcart (see Figure 2).
From my experience,
oxcarts are mostly likely to be seen on Golden Age (19001914)
postcards from Quebec, Nova Scotia and P.E.I.
In a previous article, I wrote about the wonderful postcards
and other collectibles associated with the return of the Canadian
Pacific Railways (CPRs) S.S. Keewatin to Port McNicoll,
Postcards of steamships are very popular with collectors
and the CPR published oodles of cards showing its ships as well
as its great locomotives. One ship from its Atlantic fleet, the
S.S. Lake Manitoba, is seen on the very attractive postcard shown
in Figure 3.
This 10,000 ton steamer
was launched in 1901 and initially operated by the Beaver Line,
a transportation company that ran a steamship service between
Montreal, Quebec City, New York and Liverpool, England.
The CPR purchased the Beaver Line in 1903 and added the Lake
Manitoba to its growing fleet of ocean-going vessels.
In 1883, the then two-year-old CPR printed the first of what
would be a long series of immigration and travel posters to drum
up business for its railway and steamship service. All of these
posters are very collectible today, and many were reproduced
as equally-desirable postcards.
The Figure 3 example is one of several showing the CPRs
rail service through the Canadian West.
The train illustrated on the card is the Trans-Continental
Express and the advertising on the back says, among other things:
The Canadian Pacific Railway controls rail and track over
19,000 miles long, and its lines reach every important farming
and manufacturing district in Canada. The Canadian Pacific Railway
has the most picturesque route to Australia, New Zealand, China
This card and other poster-types like it often fetch $50
to $100+ on eBay and at dealers tables, so if you can find
one at a bargain price pick it up. Note that I have included
this particular CPR postcard in the second edition of my Canadian
patriotic postcard handbook because of the great slogan at the
For those interested, the new handbook will be launched at
the Golden Horseshoe Postcard Club Show in Dundas in the fall.
Figure 4. The
Empires Greatest Railway is illustrated in this CPR
postcard which started life as one of the CPRs classic
Since Ive already discussed land, sea and rail travel
postcards, its only fitting that I include a sentence or
two about 20th century air travel.
Although domestic air travel didnt really take off,
so to speak, until after the First World War (19141918),
transatlantic passenger service via winged aircraft was still
a long way away.
Airships, or zeppelins as they are often called, did make
transatlantic trips from Europe prior to the Second World War
(19391945) but these were few and far between.
Although it took a backseat to Pierre Elliot Trudeau (formerly
Dorval) Airport decades ago, Montreals St. Hubert Airport
made international headlines in 1930 when Britains famed
R100 airship docked at its specially constructed mooring mast
(see Figure 5).
According to the
Internet, the R100 flight was the first non-stop passenger flight
across the North Atlantic to Canada.
The airship spent 12 days at St. Hubert and was visited by
thousands of Quebecers before flying to Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara
Postcards documenting the exploits of the R100 are very collectible
Figure 1. This Eiffel Tower postcard was printed for
the 1889 Paris Exhibition and is the worlds first official
Figure 2. This Nova Scotia oxomobile postcard
by W. G. MacFarlane is postmarked 16 July 1902, which is the
earliest-known mailing of a MacFarlane card.
Figure 3. This CPR postcard, showing the S.S. Lake
Manitoba, was mailed on May 18, 1906.
Figure 4. CPR's The Empires Greatest Railway
Figure 5. The famous R100 airship is shown tied up
at St. Hubert Airports mooring mast in this 1930 postcard
by the Photogelatine Engraving Co. of Ottawa.
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