Autumn in postcards

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Fall-Themed Antique Postcards
By Mike Smith
It made perfect sense that I was asked to contribute a Halloween-themed postcard article for this, the WT’s September/October issue.
After all, when it comes to symbolizing the fall season, jack-o’-lanterns are right up there with turkeys, horns of plenty and chlorophyll-drained maple leaves.
However, although I have oodles of cards with maple leaves (this comes with being a Canadian patriotic postcard collector), I am in woefully short supply of Halloween postcards.
So, as a compromise, I'm going to present a bit of a mixed bag in this article, but all the cards will certainly be fall-themed.
For those who collect Canadian WWI (1914–1918) postcards, the card shown in Figure 1 is both a delight and a letdown. The fact that it mentions the 166th Battalion of the Queen’s Own Rifles (Q.O.R.) of Toronto makes it a good fit in any WWI collection. The letdown, if you could call it that, is the military reference was a marketing afterthought.
This is an American-made, fall-themed postcard that was overprinted with a Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) reference to boost sales in Canada. I have dozens of cards like this one, which were given new lives by adding some cleverly-constructed text. Although they are very collectible, purists often prefer cards made specifically to highlight the war effort.
The Figure 2 postcard, with its large reddish-gold maple leaf, is from a terrific series of cards printed by Toronto’s Atkinson Brothers. Atkinson Bros. was one of Canada’s most prolific publishers of early patriotic postcards (e.g., cards with flags, crests and maple leaves) and are thus very desirable.
I say “early” because many of the Atkinson Bros.’ cards were in circulation before the “divided-back” era, which began in 1904. (As stated in previous articles, from 1904 onward both a message and an address could be written on the stamp side of a postcard. Before then, only the address was allowed.)
Thus, it is quite common to have Atkinson Bros. cards in one’s collection with the stamps cancelled in 1902 and 1903. The card shown is from a lengthy series appropriately titled: “From the Land of the Maple.”
The postcard shown in Figure 3 was published by Montreal’s J. T. Henderson, another publisher who issued some classic cards prior to 1904. The card is from a sports series in circulation around 1903 and is a really tough group to put together. I only know one collector who has them “all,” and it took him decades to accumulate them.
Note that I have put “all” in quotation marks because only seven cards from this series have been recorded. And since most Golden Age (1900–1914) publishers issued series with even numbers of cards, I’m pretty sure there’s a least one more card to be discovered.
For the record, the captions on the six other cards recorded in the series are: Course En Raquettes, Skating, Snow Shoeing, Snow Shoeing “On the Run,” Tobogganing, and Traine Sauvage. Whether or not there are English equivalents to the French-captioned cards and vice versa, is unknown.
There’s one other interesting tidbit about this Henderson series. If you look closely at the bottom right corner of any of the cards, you'll see a tiny inscription that says “Toronto Lithographing Co.” Toronto Litho, as it is known to collectors, was an iconic Golden Age publisher who printed postcards, maps, calendars, greeting cards and other fancy paper goods. For J. T. Henderson to contract Toronto Litho to print its sports series postcards is no surprise.
The Figure 4 postcard made this article because of the brilliantly coloured, autumn maple leaf on the back. In fact, the back of the card is arguably more appealing than the front, which has a black and white image of champion canoeists Blackburn & McNichol.
Although an Internet search of Blackburn & McNichol didn't pan out, I did learn that Walter Dean Canoes & Boats, the publisher of the card, was in business in Toronto until 1923.
The Internet article also stated that Walter Dean created two famous canoes in Toronto: the Sunnyside Cruiser, which you can see in the postcard image, and the Klondyke Sectional canoe. All Walter Dean advertising cards are very collectible and at least nine different types were issued at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) from 1905 through 1908.
Finally, I couldn't put together article on fall-themed postcards without including the pretty little item in Figure 5. This card was published by the International Art Publishing Co. of New York and its harvest scene was drawn by American artist/illustrator Ellen Clapsaddle. Clapsaddle, by the way, is a highly-collected artist, especially south of the border.
According to Wikipedia: “Not only is her style greatly admired and well recognized, today she is recognized as the most prolific souvenir/postcard and greeting card artist of her era.”
Halloween postcards with her signature are particularly sought after and fetch some pretty impressive prices at shows and auctions. Even on this side of the border I've seen Clapsaddle Halloween cards with $50 price tags.
Fortunately, for me, I became a Clapsaddle fan because so much of her postcard art contains maple leaves. Thus, for Canadian collectors at least, they are patriotic. If her jack-o’-lanterns had maple leaves on them I'd be in the poorhouse.
Figure 1 This “pumpkin” postcard was overprinted by a U.S. publisher to boost sales in WWI-era Canada.
Figure 2
Printed by Atkinson Bros. of Toronto for Immanuel Wurster of Preston, Ontario, the image is of Preston’s Hurlbut Shoe Co.
Figure 3
Two lacrosse players stand on a fall-coloured maple leaf in this scarce postcard published by Montreal’s J. T. Henderson. The printer was the Toronto Lithographing Co.
Figure 4
The back of a Walter Dean Canoes & Boats card issued free at the 1908 Canadian National Exhibition
Figure 5
A Harvest Greetings postcard by popular American artist Ellen Clapsaddle. Clapsaddle’s cards, especially the Halloween types, are very popular in the U.S.
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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