World Postcard Day

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Hello to all deltiologists – that’s postcard collectors! October 1 is World Postcard Day, a date chosen because, according to worldpostcardday.com, postcards were officially issued and recognized by a postal operator on October 1, 1869.

‘Post Cards’ had been used to communicate before 1869, however, as the website states, an Austrian professor of Economics, Dr. Emanuel Herrmann,  “wrote an article in the Neue Freie Presse pointing out that the time and effort involved in writing a letter was out of proportion to the size of the message sent. He suggested that a more practical and cheaper method should be implemented for shorter, more efficient communications.”

Dr. Herrmann must have put forth a convincing argument, as this was put into practice on October 1, 1869, resulting in the Correspondenz-Karte. It was light-brown, 8.5 x 12cm in size, and it featured space for the address on the front (obverse) and room for a short message on the back (reverse). After the Austrian government issued the first postal card, other countries soon followed – Canada in 1871 and the United States in 1873.

A013.4.464 – postcard to Thomas Henry from his brother, William. You can see the front is exclusively for the addressee while the back is the correspondence.

A few decades later, postcards began featuring images on one side, and by the 1890s, as photography’s popularity was continuing to grow, postcards began featuring photographs. At the turn of the 20th century, 2,700 cards were mailed by Canadians, but by 1913 this figure had jumped to 60 million.  Considering the population of Canada was a mere 7.2 million in 1911, this figure is all the more incredible.

Postcards were an economical way of staying in touch with friends and relatives before the era of the telephone.

The postcard collection at the Oshawa Museum is rather sizable and varied in terms of scope and subjects. We have several postcards commemorating events, such as New Years, Easter, Hallowe’en and Christmas. We have a number that feature rather Victorian/Edwardian depictions. We have a ‘Tall Tale’ postcard and a few that simply make me laugh.

Some are in the collection because of the pictures on the obverse, while others are treasured because of what it being communicated on the reverse.

We also have a few postcards made from leather! postcardhistory.net claims that postcards made from leather began around 1903 and that postcards dating before 1915 aren’t terribly uncommon.

The examples in our collection range in date from 1906 to 1908. One of the examples was destined for Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories – it is interesting to note that it is dated 1908, and Saskatchewan split from the Northwest Territories about 2 1/2 years prior.

Celebrate World Postcard Day by sending a message along to a friend! You can also tune into the Oshawa Museum’s Facebook Page for our Sunday FUNday LIVE on October 3 for a look at Postcards!

OM Blog Rewind: “To My Valentine…” A history of Valentine’s Day and Valentine’s Day Cards

This post was originally posted on February 13, 2015.


The history of Valentine’s Day in surrounded by legends and is not a certainty. One common thing among these legends is Saint Valentine, the person after whom the date is named.

One legend is that Saint Valentine was a priest, and when Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those who are married, he outlawed marriage of young men. Saint Valentine defied this law, wedding young men in secret; he was then put to death when his actions were found out.  In another legend, Valentine was imprisoned and sent his first valentine to a young girl, maybe the daughter of his jailer. The last letter he wrote to her before his death was signed “Your Valentine.”

Valentine’s Day is celebrated in February; some believe that it is the day he was buried or put to death, while other believe that the Christian Church moved it to this date in an effort to “Christianize” Lupercalia, an ancient Roman festival and fertility rite, typically observed on February 15. The Christian Church under the Pope Gelasius I, in 494 CE, appropriated the form of the rite as the Feast of Purification.

Around the 17th century in Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated. In the middle of the 18th century, all social classes were exchanging hand written notes. In the 19th century, printed cards replaced written letters thanks to the improvement of the printing press. In America, Esther A. Howland sold mass-produced valentines in the 1840s; these postcards had paper lace, real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures.   Esther A. Howland is often known as the “Mother of Valentine.” The Greeting Card Association estimated that 1 billion Valentine’s Day cars are sent each year, and approximately 85% of Valentine’s Day cards are bought by women. In the United States $14.7 billion are generated by Valentine’s Day.

The Oshawa Community Archives has a number of Valentine’s Day postcards in their holdings, and what follows are a selection from their collection.

 

 

Easter Greetings

Happy Easter from the Oshawa Museum!  Here’s a glimpse at Easter in our collection.

From the Oshawa Museum Collection

 

Postcards in the Archival Collection

 

An Easter display at Eaton’s in the Oshawa Centre, from the Oshawa Museum photography collection (A999.19.654-658)

Blog Rewind: Hurrah for the Pumpkin Pie!

This post was originally published on October 9, 2015.

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Since 1957, the second Monday in October has been observed in Canada as Thanksgiving.  The history and lore of American Thanksgiving is well known, that it is a celebration of when the Pilgrims and Native Americans came together in the 1600s and shared a meal.  The origins and basis for Canadian Thanksgiving, in turn, isn’t as well known.  It is frequently tied to the story of Martin Frobisher who was one of many to search for the Northwest Passage.  He made three attempts, and on his third in 1578, there was a celebration on what is now known as Frobisher Island.  Another possible origin could be the harvest celebrations that occurred in New France in the 1600s.  The popularity of Thanksgiving increased in the late 1700s/early 1800s upon the arrival of United Empire Loyalists.  While ‘Thanksgiving’ was being celebrated, it was informal, being recognised by those celebrating and not as a publicly recognised holiday.

The first time Thanksgiving was formally recognized as a civic holiday after Confederation was on  April 5, 1872.  Prince Edward, later King Edward VII, recovered from a serious illness, and Thanksgiving was marked to celebrate this.

In Canada, Thanksgiving Day has been observed every year since 1879.  Initially, Thanksgiving was held on a Thursday in November, but in 1957, it was officially declared to be the second Monday in October.

 

The following are a selection of postcards from the Oshawa Museum’s archival collection.  From the staff and volunteers at the Oshawa Museum, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

William Smith and the Conservative Demonstration of 1911

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

In 1911, Canada was a much different place.  Our Prime Minister was Wilfrid Laurier, a PM who when faced with large national issues, attempted to find middle ground between the expectations of English Canada and French Canada.  Often, the end result was displeasure by both sides.  Laurier faced many issues during his 15 years as Prime Minister that found him trying to maintain peace between the two passionate groups, including participation in the Boer War, the Manitoba Schools Question, and the Naval Service Bill, and ultimately it was the issue of reciprocity with the US that saw a change in government, bringing the Conservatives to power in 1911.

William Smith, From the Parliament of Canada's Website
William Smith, From the Parliament of Canada’s Website

For the riding of Ontario South, William Smith was elected as a Conservative Member of Parliament.  William, or Billy, Smith was a Columbus native who worked as a breeder, farmer, and importer.  His farm in Columbus was 267 acres, and Smith was regarded as a progressive and prosperous agriculturalist, not afraid to engage with the ‘improved methods’ of farming.  The south wing of the main house was originally an old inn known as the ‘West Country Inn’ and was a halfway house for farmers and traders.

When he was elected in 1911, he was no novice when it came to politics.  Smith was first elected as an MP in 1887 and was re-elected in a by-election 1892.  In the 1911 election, the main issue was reciprocity, or free trade with the United States.  The Conservative Party, led by Robert Borden, was staunchly against this, and fear of American influence and/or annexation was one argument they used against the Liberals.  The Conservatives won the election with a majority government, and a Conservative Smith won the local riding of Ontario South.  As reported in the Whitby Chronicle, the election of Smith and the Conservatives was indicative that “so far as this riding was concerned reciprocity had received a knock-out blow.”

The Conservative Demonstration, 1911; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
The Conservative Demonstration, 1911; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

The Conservative victory was celebrated throughout the riding.  Election night saw celebrations in Whitby, and the following day, “an automobile procession left Oshawa for Pickering, Brougham, Claremont, Ashburn and Port Perry.”  The parade in Oshawa was complete with the motorcade, men on horses, and bands, and the event was photographed as it made its way eastbound along King Street.  A number of the images were in turn made into postcards, five of which are part of the Oshawa Community Archives’ Postcard Collection.

The Conservative Demonstration, 1911; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
The Conservative Demonstration, 1911; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

The Conservative Demonstration, 1911; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
The Conservative Demonstration, 1911; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

The Conservative Demonstration, 1911; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
The Conservative Demonstration, 1911; from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

Interestingly enough, the Oshawa Community Museum has an artifact in its holdings related to WIlliam Smith: this butter paddle, engraved with “John Smith’s Print, 1808,” owned by William’s grandfather.

960.54.2 - Butter Press owned by John Smith, dated 1808
960.54.2 – Butter Press owned by John Smith, dated 1808

The Conservative Demonstration postcard, and other postcards from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection will be on display in Guy House in April 2015 in celebration of Archives Awareness.  Be sure to visit!