A lifetime of collecting - an antique
postcard affair Part 2
By Mike Smith
When I first started collecting postcards many years ago,
I diligently searched for cards with Canadian patriotic symbols,
slogans or verses to help satisfy my appetite for Canadiana.
In many instances, the view or main image on the card was
only a secondary consideration. As long as I could find that
maple leaf, beaver, crest, etc. anywhere on a card, no matter
how obscure, I had to have it! It wasn't until I started cataloguing
postcards for my first book, The Canadian Patriotic Postcard
Checklist 1898-1928, that I realized I had inadvertently amassed
dozens of wonderful art postcards.
In postcard collecting circles, art cards are postcards with
cartoons, caricatures, or reproductions of drawings or paintings,
many of which are signed by the artist. For example, Figure 1
shows a circa 1908 Mountie postcard signed by artist John
Innes (1863-1941). John Innes was, without a doubt, the most
prolific frontier artist in early 20th century Canada. Born in
London, Ontario and educated in Canada and at Englands
Dufferin Military Academy, Innes excelled in design, drafting
and painting. After many interesting non-art careers,
which included running a ranch in Calgary and working as a correspondent
during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), Innes painted an amazing
series of frontier scenes while travelling from Ontario to Vancouver
via pack train! Many of these paintings are known to todays
collector because they were reproduced as postcards by Toronto
publisher W.G. MacFarlane.
Figure 1. A classic Mountie
postcard by London, Ontario-born artist John Innes. Six series
of John Innes postcards were published by W.G. MacFarlane of
Toronto from 1906-1908.
For those interested in collecting scenes of our majestic
western peaks, the Rocky Mountain series of postcards by F.M.
(Frederick Marlett) Bell-Smith should do the trick (see Figure
2). Bell-Smith was born in London, England and lived there until
his family immigrated to Montreal in 1867. After a stint in London,
Ontario and art studies in Paris, he finally settled in Toronto
where he would eventually become a celebrated Canadian landscape
Bell-Smith was also a founding member of the Society of Canadian
Artists, the Ontario Society of Artists, and the Western Art
League.W.G. MacFarlane published the Bell-Smith Rocky Mountain
postcards in 1909. All six cards in the
series are very collectible.
Figure 2. Fraser
Cañon, B.C. by F.M. Bell-Smith. The word cañon,
with the accent over the middle n, is not a misspelled
version of canyon. Believe it or not it's a legitimate
Another very popular artist whose paintings show up on early
Canadian postcards is George Horne Russell (1861-1933).
Russell was a highly trained artist who immigrated to Canada
from Scotland in 1889 and lived and worked in Montreal for most
of his life. During the summers he painted in New Brunswick at
St. Andrews and St. Stephen. He also accepted commissions from
Canadian Pacific to paint Rocky Mountain scenes, which were reproduced
on advertising posters, etc.
George Horne Russell painted in both oil and watercolour, and
his postcards can be easily identified by the signature GHR
(see Figure 3).
Figure 3. A beautiful postcard
of a Quebec harbour scene, signed GHR (George Horne
Russell). The card is from a series of four by the artist, all
published by Valentine & Sons, Ltd., around 1910.
Anyone who attended elementary school in Canada in the 1960s
will, with a little prodding, remember the artwork of renowned
artist and illustrator C.W. (Charles William) Jefferys
(1869-1951). Although an accomplished landscape painter, Jefferys
is best known for his illustrations of historical Canadian events,
which were reproduced in countless school textbooks, magazines
In addition to gaining fame as an illustrator, his landscape
paintings (especially the prairie canvasses) earned him a stellar
reputation both here and abroad.
Figure 4 shows a comic hockey
postcard from a 10-card set by Jefferys, published by Warwick
Bros. & Rutter of Toronto around 1906. Interestingly, I recently
learned that Jefferys apprenticed as an illustrator with the
Toronto Lithographing Company, which was one of Warwicks
local rivals in the postcard business.
A hockey postcard by renowned Canadian artist C.W. Jefferys.Warwick
Bros. & Rutter of Toronto published several series of postcards
showcasing art by C.W. Jefferys and other artists. This
hockey card is one of my favourites.
Finally, if collecting early Canadian political cartoons is your
passion, Brigdens Ltd. of Toronto published a delightful series
of postcards in 1911 lampooning Wilfred Lauriers
attempt to negotiate a reciprocity (free trade) deal with the
US. One of
the Brigdens cards, from an eight-card set drawn by Toronto
Daily News political cartoonist E.N. (Elisha Newton) McConnell
(1877-1940), is shown in Figure 5.
An anti-free trade postcard drawn
by editorial cartoonist Newton McConnell. Anti-free trade
propaganda, like that shown in this and other McConnell cartoons,
contributed to Lauriers defeat in the 1911 federal election.
The lowly postcard was once referred to as the poor mans
telephone. A collection of artist-signed postcards would
certainly qualify as a poor mans art gallery.
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