Winter sports cards a Canadian collector's
By Mike Smith
Most of us are familiar with the expression "When life
hands you a lemon you make lemonade. In Canada, we could
easily modify it to say When nature hands you winter, you
play winter sports.
Let's face it, we may grumble about our long winters but
we sure love our winter activities. Even our 19th and early 20th
century governors-general and their families were chronicled
participating in winter carnival events like snowshoeing, skating,
skiing and tobogganing.
And we all know what Governor-General Lord Stanleys
favourite sport was.
Thus it's no surprise that antique postcards portray Canadians
in all types of winter amusements. In this article therefore,
I'm going to showcase some of the better winter sports postcards
Montreals J. T. Henderson is one of my favourite publishers
because of his three terrific series of early patriotic and heraldic
postcards. I say early because most of his cards
were published before 1904, the beginning of the divided-back
postcard era in Canada.
popular series with collectors is a joint patriotic-winter sports
group with seven known cards. Figure 1 shows the skating
card; the other captions include course en raquette (snowshoeing
race), lacrosse, snowshoeing, snowshoeing on the run,
tobogganing and train sauvage (tobogganing).
Since seven cards in a complete series is unlikely, there
should be at least one more card to record here and more if there
are French-captioned cards for each corresponding English-captioned
If you can find examples from this scarce series for less
than $25 each, grab them.
Figure 1. The skating card from a joint patriotic-winter
sports series by Montreals J. T. Henderson circa 1903.
winter sports postcard is shown in Figure 2. This example is
from a comic series drawn by an anonymous artist/illustrator
circa 1902. I have seen four other cards in this series by the
same artist, all with out-of-control toboggans and skaters.
Again, an odd-numbered postcard series is an exception so
there is probably another card from this delightful group to
This series is at least as scarce as the other Henderson
series I've described but not as well known. You should be able
to pick them up for $10 to $15 each at shows, which will be a
bargain once the artist is identified.
Figure 2. An anonymous cartoonist drew this comical
tobogganing card for Montreals J. T. Henderson circa 1902.
The postcard shown
in Figure 3 is from a series of 10 Footwear of the Nations
cards published in 1906 by the Woonsocket Rubber Co. of Rhode
Island, USA. I always smirk a little when I look at this card
as it contributes to the perception that Canada is a nation of
winter boots, snowshoes and moustached lumberjacks.
Oh well, maybe that view wasn't too far off the mark back
in 1906. Note that this card is collectible on at least two levels
winter sports and advertising. As such, you can expect
to pay from $10 to $20 for a nice example used in period.
Only one collector that I know of has managed to corral all
10 cards and they sure look impressive in his album.
Figure 3. Canadas national footwear
is shown on this card published in Rhode Island in 1906.
For those who collect Canadian artist-signed postcards, Montreals
C. W. (Charles Walter) Simpson is a fan favourite. Although he
is mostly known among todays art connoisseurs for his landscapes
and marine scenes, around 1906 Valentine & Sons reproduced
several of his Canadian Child Studies paintings as
Well, they must have
been popular because at least a dozen more of Simpsons
Canadian-themed paintings ended up in a Valentine & Sons
collection called: Valentines Canadian Series from
Paintings by C. W. Simpson.
One of my favourite Simpson cards, The Hockey Player,
is shown in Figure 4. Because of his popularity among artist-signed
and patriotic postcard collectors, finding cards with Simpsons
signature for less than $10 each at postcard shows is tough.
Figure 4. C. W. Simpsons painting of The
Hockey Player is shown on this postcard by Valentine &
Sons circa 1906.
Continuing with the hockey theme, the postcard shown in Figure
5 is from Raphael Tuck & Sons iconic Oilette
series, and was reproduced from a 1902 photograph by Montreals
legendary William Notman.
Tuck launched the famous Oilette series of postcards in June
1903 and more than 28,000 were printed, usually in sets of six.
As the name implies, Oilettes were high-quality cards reproduced
from original oil paintings.
To create the Figure
5 hockey card, the Notman photograph was first reproduced as
an oil painting and then reprinted as an Oilette. With the Notman
reference, this particular postcard would easily fetch $10 to
$20 at a postcard show, depending on condition and usage.
Figure 5. This Canadian hockey postcard has two great attributes
it's a Raphael Tuck & Sons Oilette, and
was reproduced from a photograph by the legendary William Notman.
Finally, don't forget to attend the only two winter postcard
shows in Ontario.
The Toronto Postcard Clubs 33rd annual show will be
held on Feb. 23 and the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge Regional
Postcard Clubs 3rd annual Postcard Memories Show will be
held March 16.
Check the clubs websites for details. With any luck,
you may be able to find all the cards shown in this article.
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