A Love Token from Long Ago










This carte-de-visite is a portrait of a young woman taken in Kingston, Ontario in about 1863.  Verso, in a spikey female hand

    If there be anything in life
               That does afford me pleasure
Twill be the very happy time
                When you [became] my treasure.

The expression “affords me pleasure” was a very common one in the 19th century.  The verse is signed only “A.P.”   Alas, we do not know who she is.

I am grateful to Mike Dufresne for sharing this photograph.

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Real Photo Postcards

(RP Postcard, RPPC)

Real Photo Postcard

Real Photo Postcard. Moscow School. Lennox and Addington County Museum.

There is considerable confusion about what is meant by a “real photo postcard”.

Unless they are made from artwork or cartoons, all postcards begin life as photographs. -But they should not all be labelled as “RP”.

The change in postal regulations which permitted cards with a picture on one side and the address on the other provided an opportunity for small town photographers. For years they had sold so-called “album fillers”. Now, when work was slow, they could produce photographic prints of the right size for mailing. Photographic supply houses were quick to offer print-out papers of the regulation postcard size (3 1/2 by 5 1/2 inches). These stock photographic papers had the usual light-sensitive emulsions on one side and a handy template for the address and postage stamp on the other. At first, no message was permitted on the address side. Soon, the regulations were altered to permit a message on the left half of the address side — the so-called “divided back”.

The negatives of the day (which still included glass negatives) were not 3 1/2 x 5 1/2 in dimension, but this was not always a problem as photographers simply cropped the image to fit the card.

Photographic historians and collectors have appropriated the term “Real Photo Postcard” (or RP Postcard or RPPC) to apply to this specific type of card.

The Kodak Company was ever alert to opportunities. In 1903, Kodak came out with a film proportioned to print out onto the postcard papers with a camera to fit, the Kodak 3A Folding Pocket Camera. The appearance of this camera tells us how quickly the interest in postcard prints had grown.

Kodak used the term “Real Photo Postcard” when promoting the new film and camera, but they were not the only company to use the phrase.

Commercial card probably from a glass negative.

Commercially produced card made for bookseller, A.E. Paul of Napanee from a negative which was not 3 1/2 x 5 1/2" and not easy to crop to fit the card. Lennox and Addington County Museum.

Amateur photographers, who did not have a shop on main street, also liked the idea of making postcards to show off their work to family and friends. They ordered postcard photographic stock for use in their home darkroom, typically set up in the tool shed or the pantry. Not everyone wanted to invest in a special camera like the Kodak 3A, but like the professionals, amateur photographers could produce postcards by cropping the negatives from the camera they already owned. If they lacked skill or judgment, the resulting image might not properly fill the card.  The church interior (above) is not a Real Photo Postcard but it shows the challenges of cropping images to fit.

Whether the product of the shop on the main street, or an amateur photographer, RPPC’s were produced in very, very limited edition. The shop on main street might print out thirty or forty, perhaps one hundred if the view proved popular. The amateur might make as few as one or two.

The photographic postcard paper has a major disadvantage. The address side (back) was generic and there was no way to identify the subject. Some professionals got around this by scratching a caption in reverse on the negative. This would show as a legible title when the negative was printed.  (See Moscow School above.)  Amateurs relied on the written (holograph) message on the back.

Because of the lack of a printed title, RPPC’s are difficult to date and identify. If the card has been postally used, the postmark can be a help. Also, the stamp provides evidence. For example, in the United States, postcards required a one cent stamp from 1898 until 1917, when the price went up to two cents. It came back down to one cent in 1919.

The manufacturer of the postcard stock usually marked the back of the card, often in the block where the stamp would cover it. In Canada, so-called “AZO” postcards first appeared in 1904. The earliest papers (1904-1918) have four triangles pointed up in the stamp box. AZO papers with diamonds in the corners of the stamp box apparently were produced almost concurrently, and date from 1907-1909.

Understanding of this kind of evidence is increasing all the time. This is the reason that it is so important to collectors to see the back of the card, and why owning the original (and not just a scan of the front) is critical for an archive.

The heyday of RPPC’s is from about 1898 until the the mid 1920’s although amateurs continued to produce them as a hobby through much of the 20th century.

chromo-lith postcard

Chromo-lith Postcard, made from a photograph taken by a local photographer. Lennox and Addington County Museum N-00284

RPPC’s are labour-intensive to produce, making the profit small. Professional photographers quickly found that they could make more money selling their rights to publishers or manufacturers to print out their products in large numbers. The resulting commercially produced cards could be purchased very cheaply wholesale and sold for as much as the old RPPC’s. Moreover, RPPC’s were black and white. Postcard publishers could use colour lithograph processes (chromo-lithography) to produce a coloured card, which was very appealing to the customers.

Photo Postcard Not Strictly an RPPC

Commercial, black and white photographic postcard made between 1950 and 1970. Not strictly an RPPC. Lennox and Addington County Museum PCN-04275.

Postcards made by printing out on a photographic stock have been produced commercially throughout the twentieth century, in black and white and in colour. After about 1970, they include very glossy colourful photographic views. However, to the collector, the term Real Photo Postcard is assumed to mean a limited-edition, locally produced card, the product of the so-called “golden age” of postcards between 1898 and the late 1920’s. A card mass-produced by a commercial publisher using a photographic process is not an “RPPC”.

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Site Change

An American company is using the domain name “Newzeum”.   To avoid confusion, I will be changing the site to Noozeum’s Material Culture over the next few days.  Hope I don’t loose any followers.

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December on an Ontario Farm a Century Ago

Lucy Stover Davison (1867-1950) was a farmer’s wife, living north of Odessa in Lennox and Addington county.  Odessa is west of Kingston, east of Napanee.  On November 19th, 1903, Lucy recorded that the land had frozen too hard to continue with the fall ploughing.  On November 20th, she ventured out on the ice of Odessa Lake with a neighbour to fish, so it must have been very cold and a deep freeze indeed.  On the next day, which was Saturday, the family went to Odessa and Lucy bought underwear (“drawers”) and a shawl from Derbyshire’s General Store.  The following week she was stewing pumpkins and making pumpkin pies and baked apples, but her occupations were not limited to what we might consider female tasks.  She also went out to an old fence line to bring back wood for the stove and helped load their sow into a box to be transported to the pig.   On Saturday, December 5th, she and husband Arthur and daughter, Jennie, were in Wilton where Arthur bought her a Christmas present, “a china set of four pieces” at Neilson’s Store.  This may have been a dresser set.  Lucy added: “…cost eighty cents, I am very much pleased with them, you may be sure, for they just suit me.”  After several busy days, killing and plucking chickens for market, blacking the stove and other chores, Arthur left Lucy to await the appearance of a team of harvesters, described as “clover dressers” and she was therefore tied down at home for several days.  On Christmas eve, Lucy lamented that she had been unable to get into town so Christmas would probably be a lean one for daughter, Jennie.  Christmas was remarkable because their oldest horse died in her stall and had to be removed, a sad start to the day.  They went out to a neighbour, Alva Snider’s for Christmas Dinner.  Lucy hoped that there would be a Christmas service at her church, but there was none.  A different Christmas from what we might expect today.  From Lucy Stover Davison, Ernestown Diary, 1903-1904, researched and edited by Michael Rehner.  Published by the Lennox and Addington Historical Society, 2011.  Available at the Lennox and Addington County Museum, Napanee.  $23.95


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June 6th, 1944 and Operation Overlord

Station at Falaise

Canadians clear snipers from the railway station at Falaise

Each June, many of us still commemorate D-Day, June 6th, 1944, the attack which altered the course of World War Two. The Allied Offensive which they called “Operation Overlord” began with the beach landings on June 6 and continued with the advance into France. The many actions fought are known collectively as the Battle of Normandy.

One of the most desperate engagements, the battle of the Falaise Pocket also known as Falaise Gap, was fought from 12-21 August 1944, and was the decisive engagement of the Battle of Normandy. Because Hitler would not permit his forces to withdraw and regroup, a large part of the German army and the famous Fifth and Seventh Panzer Divisions were trapped at Falaise. The Germans were trying desperately to keep the route through Falaise open in order to permit the escape of their retreating soldiers. A ferocious battle followed which resulted in the destruction of most of the German forces west of the Seine. The way was then cleared for the Allies to move on to Paris, and ultimately, to Germany.

A tremendous amount of the vigorous fighting was done by the fragments of the Polish Army. They were assisted by the 4th Canadian Armoured Division, which included many men from Lennox and Addington county, Ontario. The 2nd and 3rd Canadian Infantry Divisions and 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade were also involved. The 3rd Canadian Infantry were among the first to approach Falaise and paid with heavy casualties. The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division were the
first to actually enter the town.

It was my privilege to meet several of the gunners from Lennox and Addington who served in the 4th or other Armoured Divisions and who remembered the railway station in Falaise very well. Snipers, they said, were everywhere. The tense postures of the advancing Canadians in this press photographs show the danger.

Next year, many Canadian events will focus on the War of 1812-1814. It has occurred to me that the War of 1812 would have had a definite “presence” in the psychology of the new Canada formed in 1867. It would have been both as recent and as distant as Operation Overlord is to us today.

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Photograph Albums: What you don’t see…

Front of Album.

First page, with cabinets removed.

Photograph albums created between 1869, when paper photographic prints really took off in popularity in Ontario and January, 1901 may be accurately called Victorian. The earliest albums were made for the small prints known as cartes-de-visites, but within a few years albums were being manufactured with slots for larger cabinet prints. Unfortunately, the owners of photograph albums often did not identify the portraits. After all they knew their own relatives and friends, and like we in the 21st century imagined they would always be on hand to explain. Sadly, no one is exempt from the Great Reckoning.

It is heartbreaking to find oneself the custodian of a truly lovely album with little or no identification. However, creators of photograph albums seldom inserted the pictures in random sequence. This is the reason that it is important to keep the album contents in original order. If they are removed to better protect the images, then they should be numbered to perpetuate the sequence.

Pictures in the album are often arranged in family groups: husband opposite wife; brothers and sisters in proximity; a couple and their children close by. If this is suspected, then the place where the photograph was taken (provided mercifully by the byline of the photographer) can confirm relationships. If there are several photographs of the same individual which were not taken on the same day but on different days, wearing different clothing and perhaps aging over time, then it is likely (but of course not absolutely certain) that you are looking at the first owner of the album.

Nearly always, the first photograph or first two photographs in the album are persons of great importance, usually parents (mother often first, then father) or the owner of the album and her spouse, usually at the time of marriage. The identities of these individuals is often the last to fade from family memory, and so these pictures are usually removed before the luckless album is sold off with the rest of its contents.

When I acquire a photograph album in which the contents are still tightly in their sleeves (and thus likely still in original order) but the photographs at the beginning have been pulled away, then I believe that the album was ‘picked’ from the family as they kept the portraits which they could identify. Often, the flyleaf is also missing as it usually carries a presentation message written when it was empty and new and a gift. It is so frustrating to be the custodian of a super piece of Victoriana with the last link to the family torn away.

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“The Message Must Go Through” (The Lineman’s Creed, 1953)

Telephone Line Crew 236 at work along Highway 60 in Algonquin Park in the early spring of 1953.

Algonquin Park was established in 1893. In the beginning, it was accessed mostly by rail lines established by lumber companies. A string of short roads, built by various authorities and largely in poor condition led into the south part of the park. Some of these were maintained by the Ontario Department of Northern Development. On April 1st, 1937, when Ontario Northern Development merged with the Ontario Department of Highways, their roads and other small roads stretching from Huntsville in the west to Golden Lake in the east were joined and rationalized as Ontario Highway 60. The Department of Highways later extended the highway to Renfrew, which is the eastern limit of Highway 60 today. Part of Highway 60 follows the old Opeongo Line (a settlement road surveyed in 1854) and so is very interesting to historians.

By 1950 the days of rail lines into Algonquin Park were numbered due to limitations on logging in the area but pressure from tourism was increasing. The return of the Canadian forces from Europe caused a huge increase in the number of marriages. Young couples were eager for holidays, but short on money. It became fashionable to vacation at home, to explore Canada. Outdoor pursuits were extremely popular and most could afford an automobile of some kind. So road access to parks became very important very quickly. In 1937, Highway 60 through the Park was only a narrow, gravel road. Sometime in the very early fifties, Highway 60 was improved and paved.

Sky-rocketing tourism also turned public attention to safety. The Ontario Department of Lands and Forests had established a telephone line for their own purposes to the eastern entrance of Algonquin Park in the late 1930’s. By the 1950’s, Bell Telephone was extending its influence, acquiring tiny private rural telephone lines in eastern Ontario. At the time, Bell was promoting its “dial the number” service to small municipalities. Bell promised that dialing would soon replace local operators. In 1952, Bell was at the boundry of the Park, having opened an office in the village of Whitney, in the home of Ned Cannon, which was also the Post Office. Under pressure from advocates for economic development, and persuaded by the arguments for enhancements for tourism and the importance of communication to public safety, the Ontario Government decided to permit Bell to run a new telephone line through Algonquin Park. This was done in 1953. The new line ran along Highway 60.

Many of us remember 1953. (It is amazing how quickly time passes.) The plaid flannel shirts and old-style baseball caps look dated today, but were part of the costume of every working man in the fifties. This wonderful, crisp photograph was likely taken by a local newspaper.

From left to right, the men are:
C. Steele, Kaladar
H.G. Dodd, Perth
B.D. James, Carleton Place
L.D. Maybee, Sydenham
J.C. Kitchen, Picton
T.F. Blute, Napanee
G.T. Gough, Weston

I am indebted to Wayne Bridge, whose article in The Country Connection Magazine, No. 47, 2004, provided some information.

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British Farthing Brooch

Folk Art Brooch made from Coins, c1943

Since kings and emperors began stamping coins, people have been making folk jewellry using money.

This little pin has been made by soldering two British farthings together and adding a simple pin behind. For those born in the last forty years, the farthing was one fourth of an old British penny. The last farthings were pressed in 1956, and they ceased to be legal tender in the U.K. in 1960. The rest of the old British currency went down into history on “Decimal Day”, February 15th, 1971.

As a child, I loved these tiny farthings, with “Jenny Wren” on one side. At one time, a farthing would buy one something on the High Street, but by the time I was a child, they were only used to make up the fractions which were a feature of British money. They disappeared with few laments. The British saved most of their emotion for the end of the sixpenny coin in 1971.

I am sure that this brooch once conveyed a story, now forgotten. The coins date from 1942 and 1943, the very darkest days of World War Two. Were they exchanged by sweethearts who eventually married? Did they represent the births of children? Unfortunately, I will never know.

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Fashionable Lady of Belleville, circa 1881-3

Belleville, Ontario Lady. Collection of the author.

This is “Cassie”, wearing a stunning bonnet and gown consistent with the period 1881-1883, if she was style conscious. The profile of the dress would have been long and slim with a form-hugging skirt and only the ghost of a bustle. The high neck and fussy fringe are also haute-mode for the early ’80’s. Hats of this kind were inspired by European old master paintings.

Also note the jewellry. Cassie has pierced ears and modest drop earrings. The brooch is of the “bar” type, extremely popular in the late 19th century. Many examples, costume and fine, are offered by dealers today.

Before the twentieth century, the name “Cassie” was usually a nickname for girls baptized Cassandra. In Greek myths Cassandra was a beautiful woman with the power of prophesy. After she rejected the advances of the god Apollo, she was cursed. Although she could still see the future she was no longer believed. Cassandra foretold the fall of Troy and her own death, but was powerless to prevent it. In literature, the name is synonymous with tragedy and particularly with gifted but doomed women. It was a strange choice for a baby girl. I have often wondered if some forgotten Victorian novel popularized it.

There are two potential Cassies in Belleville in 1881. Cassie Cole was born in 1849 and was living in Belleville with her widowed mother, Elizabeth. This Cassie would have been in her early thirties when the photograph was taken. She is the most likely candidate. However, there was another Cassie, Cassie McGarry, a seamstress born in 1861, daughter of Thomas McGarry, a builder. She would have been in her early twenties.

The photographer, J.H. Ford, is found under Belleville in directories from about 1879 to about 1884, according to Glen C. Phillips.

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Archival Appraisal for Acquisition

The Usefulness of Press Photographs

Acquisition of images which will both fit the mission of the archives and offer maximum usefulness to numerous archive clients is a challenge.

The most useful pictures are those which illustrate activities, events or specific locations. Original press photographs may be appropriate and useful additions to the photograph holdings, but press photographs have a poor reputation amongst archivists. Many repositories have had recent copies thrust upon them, minus the original documentation. Sometimes, these copies have been made from the many digitized image sources available online, and the original is the proud property of another archive. Not all archivists are skilled at separating silver prints from dye and plastic. Nor does every institution have staff time to check the provenance of each image. Once embarrassed by being caught serving a photograph with a really bad donor-imposed caption, the archivist cannot be blamed for being nervous about accepting more.

We wish that family photographs were richer in documented views and vignettes of activities. However, what are most commonly offered by donors are portraits. Portraits of accomplished persons are of wider use, particularly if they are not represented in another accessible collection and are not restricted by copyright or donor agreements. However, the sad truth is that portraits of average citizens will have limited appeal (mostly to the occasional descendants who are thrilled to finally see great-uncle Fred). If the portrait is both identified AND dated, there may be useful details such as costume or hair style which will serve the clients at the archive. The archivist might ponder, however, just how many clients researching the history of hairdressing arrive each year. A quick glance at the photograph index will prove that, outside of portraits, the major subject groups are family activities such as picnics, weddings and cute grandkids. Being part of the family fonds these are kept. The topics are useful, but they not the important themes which give the archive status and win public support.

In my opinion, the small local archives in particular must be proactive with image collections. There is a danger of becoming a substitute shoebox for guilty families who no longer want grandma’s photos. Although lovely, many family photo fonds lack sufficient image “oomph” to be widely useful and desirable to patrons.

Below is an example of a press photograph which enhances a collection of portraits of World War Two soldiers.

Many Lennox and Addington veterans served in the Canadian Artillery in World War Two, and were part of the Canadian First Army in 1945, which was a multi-national force commanded by Canadian General Harry Crerar. In February 1945, they were advancing into Germany along the Nijmegen-Cleve road. A ridge of land held by the German 84th Division was a major impediment. The Allies called this ridge, “The Nutterden Feature”. The airforce was to bomb the ridge on February 8th, but bad weather and the proximity of the Canadians delayed the attack. Instead, the artillery was used, consisting of the British Worcestershire Regiment and the Canadians. On February 9th through February 10th, following the bombardment, the allies advanced on the ridge. This assault was actually commanded by General Brian Horrocks. The weather was grey, cold and generally miserable. After a struggle with the very determined enemy, the Nutterden Feature was won, opening up the Cleve Road. This action was part of “Operation Veritable” (Battle of the Rhineland).

This photograph (British Newspaper Pool No. 390213/4) shows British troops and Canadians advancing into the German trenches on the Nutterden feature. It conveys more quickly then words the military significance of the ridge and the size of the bombardment necessary to win it.

Allied troops in the German trenches of Nutterden Feature, 1945

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