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 Germanys 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
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
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: Im 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, Americas initial hesitancy
to enter the fray was soon overcome by the desire to do
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 whove 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 Canadas
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
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 Canadas
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). Visitpostcard-directory.com/mikesmithbooks