By Mike Smith
Every winter since 1982 the Toronto Postcard Club (TPC) has hosted what has grown to become Canada’s biggest postcard show. The first show, which was billed as “The 1st Canadian Postcard Exposition,” was held at the Holiday Inn, Don Valley. Subsequent shows were held at other Toronto hotels, the Humber College Gymnasium and, in recent years, the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. This year’s show was held on February 25th and once again I was fortunate enough to man two of the 40 show tables. When the doors opened at 10:00 a.m. that Sunday morning the sight of 23 dealers with enough postcards and paper to fill 40 large tables would have caused any collector to salivate (see Figure 1).
For the past few years my buddy Larry Mohring has shared table duty with me at the TPC and other postcard shows in Ontario. Larry’s a keen collector with an uncanny talent for ferreting out elusive cards. At the TPC Show he was on a mission to locate several postcards attributed to renowned Goderich photographer Reuben R. Sallows. Larry and I had intended to include these cards in our 2017 handbook on the famous shutterbug but couldn’t source them before the book went to press. When Larry came over to me at the show with a big smile on his face after one of his “expeditions,” I knew he’d been successful. One of his finds is shown as Figure 2. The card is from a series of eight with black and white scenes of Huron County farms published by Toronto’s W. G. MacFarlane. Interestingly, the original photos used to make the MacFarlane series were on public display at the Reuben R. Sallows Gallery when I moved to Goderich in 2010.
The next rabbit that Larry pulled out of his hat was an unlisted Stedman Bros. postcard (see Figure 3). The scene on the card is of the “House of Refuge, Clinton, Ont.” which, according to the Internet, was constructed in 1895 with dormitories for 72 inmates. The facility was actually a “poor farm” where the inmates had to work for their keep. This was, however, a vast improvement over the previous “welfare” system which saw many indigent men and women locked up in the Huron County Gaol (jail) like common criminals. Although Larry and I haven’t attributed the Clinton card to our favourite Goderich photographer, there’s an interesting connection to Sallows. One of the more frequent visitors to his studio was a fairly successful writer (poetry and music) named Eloise Anne Skimings (see Figure 4). Miss Skimings, who appeared on several golden age (1900–1914) postcards as the “Poetess of Lake Huron,” fell on hard times and died at Clinton’s House of Refuge in 1921. It was certainly tough for unmarried women back then.
One of the dealers at the show, Dave Moore of Waterloo, always has a batch of cards for me to sift through whenever we meet. True to form, shortly after the show began he traipsed over to my table with an envelope full of goodies. One of the little masterpieces in the envelope was a highly embossed, multi-coloured novelty card with an appliqué (add-on) metallic streetcar, a silk red rose and two white doves (see Figure 5). The card was published by Toronto’s Rumsey & Co. and is one of the finest examples of its kind I’ve ever seen. Since Rumsey & Co. had the bulk of its cards printed by C. G. Roeder of Leipzig, Germany, I have to assume that credit for this highly collectible gem belongs to Roeder. When I see postcards as attractive and complex as this, I always wonder how they could be made cheaply enough to earn a profit for both the printer (manufacturer) and publisher (retailer). They’re little golden age miracles if you ask me.