Antique trade cards/blotters get back
of the book status
By Mike Smith
For stamp collectors, the back of the book items
typically refer to postage due stamps, air mail stamps, war tax
issues and other special postage.
The reason is these stamps are assigned a unique numbering
system and normally displayed at the back of catalogues. Since
there are no official retail catalogues in the Canadian postcard
trade, the back of the book term is not used among
In this issue of the WT then, I'm going to present a few
delightful antique trade cards and blotters that I consider great
back of the book items for any postcard album.
blotter shown in Figure 1 is from a terrific series of four patriotic
blotters that I incorrectly listed in my first postcard handbook
in 2003. Like most people my age, I know what an ink blotter
is because fountain pens and blotting paper were still being
used in elementary school writing classes in the 1960s, even
though ballpoint pens had been around for years.
In 200,3 though, I had no idea decorative blotters existed.
Thus, I assumed the four blotters I illustrated in my handbook
were just thick postcards with blank backs. Live and learn. By
the way, beautifully-coloured images of Niagara Falls, Parliament
Hill and a British dreadnought adorn the other three blotters
in the group.
As trade cards go,
it doesn't get much better than the card Charles Raymond of Guelph,
Ontario, had printed up by the Toronto Lithographing Co. to market
his sewing machine (see Figure 2).
Printed in the 1880s, there's something about the black background
and multi-coloured maple leaf design on the front of the card
that makes it particularly attractive. And the great advertising
on the back (see Figure 3) is like icing on the cake.
Although the Toronto
Lithographing Co.s main business was the printing of calendars
and fancy advertising like the Raymond card, this prolific printer
also made some very collectible postcards from 1895 until it
morphed into Stone Litho in 1909.
In fact, the Toronto Lithographing Co. is so popular with
postcard collectors in Canada it's almost always referred to
as Toronto Litho. Over the years, I've seen lots
of Toronto Lithos fancy printing and I sure wish I had
collected more of it.
In 1910, Prices Patent Candles Ltd. of Great Britain
printed 12 trade cards from a Land and Sea Battle
series that shows important victories in British military history.
For Canadian collectors, the last card in the series has a reproduction
of a watercolour illustrating Canadas contribution to the
British victory at Paardeberg during the Anglo-Boer War (18991902).
The much admired
Lord Roberts of Kandahar, commander of the British Empire Forces
in South Africa until December 1900, is also shown on the card
in a circular portrait (see Figure 4). With several more victories
under his belt after Paardeberg, Lord Roberts handed the reins
to his second-in-command, Lord Kitchener of Khartoum.
Kitchener was given orders to mop up and Roberts
returned to Britain to a heros welcome. Unfortunately for
the British, and the civilians caught in the conflict, the Boers
switched to a guerrilla campaign which lengthened the war another
Lord Kitchener would have an otherwise stellar career blemished
by being responsible for setting up the worlds first concentration
On a positive note, the patriotic memorabilia generated in
Canada and Britain during the Anglo-Boer War is very collectible
today. Even the anti-British propaganda printed up in Holland,
France and Germany during the period is fun to collect.
As for Prices Candles trade cards, it's hard not to
include them in a postcard album. They are the right size, are
packed with information on the back and really nice to look at.
When I first looked
at the Canada Packers blotter shown in Figure 5, I didn't
notice the weapon at the bow of the ship right away. My attention
was focused on the pigs waving good-bye and not the patriotic
porker manning the gun. Needless to say, when I realized I was
looking at a Second World War blotter I was thrilled.
This is a well-drawn bit of artwork and it's too bad the
artists signature, which can be seen just above the choppy
sea to the right of the ship, is illegible. It's the kind of
artwork that makes you want to find more by the same artist.
I wouldn't be surprised to find the same artists name
on a few Second World War posters as well. Thank goodness this
wonderful object was never used as a blotter because it sure
looks dandy in a postcard album.
Figure 1. This patriotic moose blotter was originally
listed as a postcard in the authors first handbook.
Figure 2. The front of a beautiful trade card made
by the Toronto Lithographing Co. for Charles Raymond Sewing Machines
Figure 3. The back of the Raymond trade card shows
some great sewing machine advertising.
Figure 4. Prices Patent Candles of Great Britain
printed this Canadian-themed Battle of Paardeberg trade card
Figure 5. This well-drawn Canada Packers blotter
underscores the importance of Canadas food exports to Britain
during the Second World War.
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