Collecting postcards Part 3

 
 
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A lifetime of collecting - an antique postcard affair Part 3
 
By Mike Smith
The first thing you notice when sifting through dealer boxes at postcard shows is that there is an incredible variety of WWI (1914-1918) postcards available.
 
WWI, it seems, inspired more postcard designs than any other world event since the creation of the postcard in 1869. The magnitude of the conflict and propaganda requirements of the protagonists resulted in a profusion of cards, especially from the British Empire (Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India), France and Germany.
 
British publishers were the undisputed masters at anti-German propaganda and, as shown in Figure 1, mercilessly lampooned Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm at every opportunity. (The importance of the propaganda war was not lost on a young Austrian corporal named Adolf Hitler, who made sure the German propaganda machine was well oiled the next time around.)
 
With so many WWI cards available, it certainly makes sense to specialize. As an avid collector of Canadian patriotic postcards, I am especially keen on cards that glorify our men and women in uniform.
 
The postcard shown in Figure 2 is from a large series of “Daily Mail War Pictures” cards that were created from actual photographs taken at the Western Front. The soldier and officer in the card are unidentified but the caption, “Decorating a Canadian on the Field of Battle,” attracted me like honey to a bee. Note that the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror newspapers in London, England produced hundreds of different postcards from war photographs.
 
Anyone with a complete set of these cards would have a top notch photographic record of the conflict, at least from the Allied Powers’ perspective. (To refresh your memory: the Allied Powers were the British Empire, France and the Russian Empire; the Central Powers were Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey.)
 
Although the United States didn't join the Allied Powers until 1917, many WWI-themed cards were produced in American prior to that year. One of the more interesting postcards in my WWI propaganda collection is an American card published in 1915 by The Henry Heininger Co., New York (see Figure 3). In this card, an American Bull Terrier tells the reader, including his Allied and Central Powers counterparts, that: “I’m Neutral, But - Not Afraid of any of them.” This is one heckuva statement about American military might in addition to her neutrality.

Fortunately for the Allied Powers, America’s initial hesitancy to enter the fray was soon overcome by the desire to “do her bit.”
 
Like the British, French publishers employed artists, illustrators and cartoonists to create anti-German propaganda for their WWI postcards. One of the talented artists working in France at the time was a Belgian named Albert Beerts. Beerts, who would have been in a heap of trouble had he created anti-Kaiser propaganda while still living in German-occupied Belgium, was responsible for the wonderful postcard shown in Figure 4.
 
The translated caption says: “William (the Kaiser) weeps; Joffre laughs.” Joffre, for those who’ve forgotten their high school history, was the French General overseeing the Allied effort until 1916, when the huge losses at Verdun and the Somme led to his replacement by General Nivelle. Both the Kaiser and Joffre had reason to weep during the war.
 
At the beginning of WWI, thousands of young eagerly lined up at recruiting centres throughout the British Empire, volunteering to serve the and crush the “evil Hun.” As the war dragged the lethal marriage of antiquated tactics with modern weaponry, especially barbed wire and the machine gun, resulted in an obscene amount of casualties on both sides. The Allied and Central Powers armies thus required a continuous supply of fresh recruits to maintain their various offensives.
 
WWI postcards with recruiting themes would played an important role in helping to sway volunteers. The bilingual postcard shown in 5, drawn by legendary British comic artist Donald McGill, shows a young lady leaving her fiancé man in uniform. The caption, “No Gun – No says it all.
 
By shear coincidence, I completed the first draft this article on April 9, the day we celebrated 90th anniversary of Canada’s great WWI victory Vimy Ridge, France.
 
During this heroic battle, Canadian divisions fought together as one corps, under Canadian General Arthur Currie, for the time in the war. The Canadian Corps had accomplished the impossible; for two years the Germans on the ridge had held back repeated onslaughts the French and British armies. It is said that learning of the victory, a French soldier exclaimed, "C'est impossible!" ("It's impossible!"), and upon learning it was the Canadians who had won replied "Ah! Les Canadiens! C'est possible!" (Oh, The Canadians! It's Possible!")
 
Mike Smith is an RMC graduate and ex-naval officer who has been an avid collector of Canadiana” for most of his life. Canadian sports cards (especially CFL football) were his favourite items as a youngster. In his teens, Canadian coins and stamps took over. His current passion is collecting Canadian antique postcards, especially those with patriotic/military themes.

If you would like to learn more about postcards, in 2003, Mike authored The Canadian Patriotic Postcard Checklist 1898-1928, which is a full colour handbook and price guide for all Canadian patriotic postcards in circulation in that eventful 30-year period. His second postcard book, The W.G. MacFarlane Picture Postcard Handbook 1902-1910, hit the streets in 2006 and focuses on the amazing variety of postcards published by one of Canada’s most prolific early 20th century printers. Update: Mike's latest book, The Warwick Bros. & Rutter Picture Postcard Handbook 1903-1912, was released in July 2007 in limited quantities. Mike currently resides in Mississauga with his wife and “three” kids (one son, one daughter, and Mooch the cat). Visit postcard-directory.com/mikesmithbooks
 
 
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