Looking “Wayback” for Postcard Gems

By Mike Smith

When publisher-editor Sandy Neilly told me that this would be the Wayback Times’ *final issue, my first reaction was sadness of course. Not only has it been a privilege for me to be invited to submit postcard articles to such an outstanding antiques and collectibles guide, working with Sandy over the past 15 years or so has been pure joy. When my mood improved and I started thinking about a topic for this final article, I remembered all the email exchanges Sandy and I had over the years as she helped me come up with something interesting for Wayback Times’ readers. Since she left the topic entirely up to me this time around, I’ve decided to take the nostalgic route. In other words, I’m going to dive into the past 62 articles and present some of the shiniest gems.   

Figure 1. Toronto’s Brigden’s Ltd. published this anti-free trade postcard that helped sink the Wilfrid Laurier government in the 1911 election.

In one of the first articles I sent Sandy back in 2007, I included an image of terrific cartoon postcard that lampooned the Laurier government’s attempt to negotiate a reciprocity (free trade) deal with the USA (see Figure 1). Published by Brigdens Ltd. of Toronto, this was among many anti-free trade cards in circulation during the 1911 federal election. The card is signed by editorial cartoonist E. N. (Elisha Newton) McConnell (1877–1940), who inscribed it as follows, “N. Newton McConnell with apologies to Emile Renouf.” As it turns out, McConnell’s cartoon was based on an acclaimed 1881 painting of a fisherman in a rowboat with his granddaughter by French artist Emile Renouf. Incidentally, Renouf called his painting “The Helping Hand,” while McConnell called his cartoon “Helping Uncle.”   

Figure 2. 
A young Princess Elizabeth is shown at the bottom of this 1936 King George VI coronation postcard by England’s Rotary Photographic Co

With 96-year-old Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June of this year, I sifted through many back issues of the Wayback Times to see if I’d ever submitted a card with an image our Queen. Although most of the images I’d sent Sandy over the years were from the postcard’s golden age (1900–1914), in a 2008 article I found Princess Elizabeth’s portrait on a superb King George VI 1936 coronation postcard (see Figure 2). At the bottom of the card you’ll see a very pretty 10-year-old Princess Elizabeth in a heart-shaped frame. What a dutiful gal she’s been. 

Figure 3. This circa 1906 Goderich CPR station card, by Toronto’s Warwick Bros. 
& Rutter, was made from a Reuben R. Sallows photo

With respect to the view card images I’ve included in my articles over the years, I have to admit I’ve been a little biased. For example, there was no way I wasn’t going to include an image of the Goderich CPR station (see Figure 3) in an article on trains and railway stations submitted back in 2014. There was more than my natural affinity for Goderich view cards in this case though. As you can see, this particular train station card is a real beauty! And its pedigree explains everything – it started life as a photo by renowned Goderich shutterbug Reuben R. Sallows.   

Figure 4. Reuben R. Sallows’ daughter Flo is shown in this attractive 1907 view card by Valentine & Sons of Dundee, Scotland.

Reuben R. Sallows was responsible in more ways than one for another wonderful postcard I submitted to Sandy, this time as part of a 2017 article (see Figure 4). The card was published by Valentine & Sons of Dundee, Scotland and its caption says “A Toronto Snow Shoe Girl.” Well, Valentine & Sons played a little fast and loose with the caption as our snowshoe girl wasn’t a Torontonian at all – she was none other than Reuben R. Sallows’ daughter Flo. While compiling Sallows’ biography for a postcard handbook that Larry Mohring and I authored in 2016, we discovered that our crafty Goderich photographer repeatedly conscripted Flo when he needed a female model. She was certainly an excellent choice – very attractive and undoubtedly came cheap.

Figure 5. This circa 1917 First World War postcard was published by the Toronto Women’s Liberty Association. The publisher remained a mystery for decades. 

Now I’d like to describe two “eureka moments” that I’ve experienced during my 41 years as a postcard collector. Eureka moment #1 has to do with a First World War (1914–1918) patriotic postcard included in another 2017 Wayback Times article (see Figure 5). I had this little rascal in my collection for over 30 years before I learned its publisher. You see, the only reference to the card’s source is contained in a few words at the bottom left corner – “Copyright Canada 1916 by T.W.L.A.” No matter how much sleuthing I did over the years, I just couldn’t come up with an early 20th century firm with those exact initials. As unbelievable as it sounds, about 10 years ago an identical card turned up at a postcard show with this amazing message on the back – “Merry Christmas from the Toronto Women’s Liberty Association.” Eureka!’

My eureka moment #2 is even more important to me. This occurred when I met Sandy for the first time in 2007 at the Toronto Postcard Show. After a little conversation, she very politely asked if I would like to submit an article on postcard collecting for the Wayback Times. Well, that was 63 articles ago and as I said earlier, it’s been a real privilege. Thank you Sandy!

*Note from editor:  Mike Smith wrote this article prior to the sale of the WT.  A sincere and huge thanks to you, Mike, for your consistently excellent work and many contributions to the WT. I hope readers will continue to see you here in the WT for a very long time!

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