The Good Old Days: Rural Life in Vintage Postcards

Hay Making, Nova Scotia (about 1960)


Out in the country people work hard, and back in the proverbial good old days they worked even harder.  Whether on a farm, a fishing village or in the forest, rural folk have always had to put their bodies and souls into their labors to eke out a living.

As these vintage postcards from the eastern parts of Canada attest they at least did so amidst beautiful settings.

River Saguenay at Chicoutimi, Quebec (about 1940)



Ox Cart, Rural Quebec (about 1940)


Spinning in Rural Quebec (1950)


Back of Spinning in Rural Quebec (1950):   “Dear Ma – That’s you and me working. Lots of little farms and little houses here. Horses do most of the work. Farms are very small. In winter the men work in the lumber business, in summer farming. Women do fancy work in winter to sell it in the summer. Love Helen”



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“Dear Auntie . . . don’t be cross”: Scenic British Columbia in Old Postcards


Postmarked July 12, 1921 (Note Is Below)

Back in the day writing letters and cards was the routine thing to do if you wanted to stay in touch with distant friends and relatives. Picture postcards also allowed the recipient vicariously to experience what the sender did and saw.  As suggested by the note below on one of these cards of British Columbia, the folks back at home expected a long form letter if possible and sending only a postcard from a trip was an occasion for an apology (being Canadians and all). 🙂


Note Side of Card Above of Gorge Bridge, Victoria, B.C.



Yoho Glacier, near Field, B.C. (About 1910)



Simash Rock, Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C. (About 1905)



Seven Sisters, Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C. (About 1910)



Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, B.C. (About 1915)



Fraser River, Yale B.C. (About 1910)



Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, B.C. (About 1951)

Mod Design: Vintage Postcards of Expo 67

Forest Pavilion

Canada Forestry and Paper Pavilion

With the Rio Summer Olympics being just around the corner this prompted me to ponder the differences between the Olympics and the World Fairs.  While both are cultural showcases that bring together people of many nations to good-naturedly preen about their countries, World Fairs seem more ad hoc than the more structured, media spectacle of the Olympics.

Coinciding with Canada’s centennial in 1967, Montreal hosted what is considered to be one of the most successful World Fairs, which was the first to adopt the “Expo” moniker by which all subsequent World’s Fairs have been named.  As attested by these postcards, the various national pavilions at Expo 67 served as grand displays for then cutting-edge, very “mod” design and innovation.

Quebec Charm in Vintage Postcards

aaCartier Market

Jacques Cartier Market, Montreal, Early 1900s



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“Having a swell time . . .”: Vintage Hospital Postcards


Postmarked 1913.  A cozy looking place.

Hospitals seem a peculiar and dreary subject for postcards.  But back in the day — before routine outpatient procedures and hospitals speedily freeing up beds — time in hospital (as patient or visitor) regularly spanned several days or longer, so penning a brief note to update absent friends or loved ones was probably not so odd.  And what better way to do it than with one of the colored cards conveniently available at the hospital!


 Postmarked 1945. The note starts out: “Having a swell time.”  Love those roadsters!



About 1948.  Yikes — looks more like a prison!



About 1910.  Regal digs.  Notice horse and buggy to bottom left.



 Postmarked 1935.  Street car or bus passing by.

The Great Canadian Outdoors: Vintage Rockies Postcards


 Lake Louise & Victoria Glacier — About 1949

It’s safe to say that when many Americans think of Canada they visualize vast expanses of nature and, in particular, the Canadian Rockies.  These vintage postcards — most of which are colored photos — feature scenes of the Rockies in Alberta, spanning the early 1900s up to the early 1960s.


Athabasca Glacier — About 1960 (Love that funky snow bus!)



Bow Valley, Banff — About 1950s



Bow Valley, Showing Golf Course — About 1950s



Cascade Mountain, Banff — Early 1900s  (This was quite a ride then in a horse drawn carriage.)



Cascade Mountain, Banff — 1920s



 Wind Mountain, Alberta — About 1910s

Canada-U.S. Friendship Postcard and Stamps



While bridges literally connect places, they also serve as a wonderful metaphor for connectedness between people and cultures.  I have a collection of old postcards depicting various Canadian bridges that I plan to post shortly.  Of these — especially during this week that includes the Canada Day and Independence Day holidays — the one that I feel best displays the connectedness idea is this postcard from around 1959 of the Thousand Islands International Bridge between southern Ontario and upstate New York.

The original holder of this card added a nice touch by including three very appropriate postage stamps to the front: the 4¢ Canadian and 5¢ American joint-issue stamps from 1959  marking that year’s opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway and an older 1948 U.S. 3¢ Century of Friendship stamp, which fittingly shows a bridge between the two countries over the Niagara River (first spanned in 1848; additional background can be found here).


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Ever-Bustling Early 20th Century Toronto


No Postmark– Around 1920s

The cityscape of Toronto, with its many tall buildings adorned with fine architectural detail and its bustling street-level activity, is most akin to what Americans encounter in the busy cities of New York and Chicago.  These early 20th century postcards highlight the magnitude of Toronto even then.  The people and vintage vehicles in these tinted images add interest and help define scale.


No Postmark — Around 1920s



Postmarked 1910



 Postmarked 1918



Postmarked 1939



When Motels Were Newer and Grander


Lovely watercolor effect, simple signage and lines, very retro!


From the 1920s to the early 1960s, the automobile led the way to leisurely road trips and the chance for a quick getaway down newly paved  highways across Canada and the U.S.  The cozy roadside motel filled the need  for an affordable, convenient place for the weary driver and family to kick back and relax in relative luxury with then modern conveniences (such as showers in each room, radio, TV and Hi-Fi!), as these vintage postcards attest.

Early 1900s Town Markets

These colored photo postcards from the early 1900s highlight the importance of town markets as hubs of community activity.  Lots of horses and wagons, ladies in long dresses and men in dark hats and not an automobile in sight.


Postmarked October 6, 1910, Reads: “Dear Cousin, I have not received any letters from you, nor from Oscar. Hope you will write to the above address and by the time I return here, there will be many letters.  Kind Love, Edgar”



No postmark, but likely around 1910; No note


Postmarked September 8, 1909; No note

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Moonlit Views of Yesteryear Canada


While thumbing through a large group of vintage Canadian postcards at a local antique shop a half-dozen or so among the thousand-plus cards stood out because each featured a highly stylized moonlight view of their subjects, giving each card a dark and moody feel.  Most were from about 1906 to 1908, with one as late as 1919, and all but one were marked as being printed by Valentine & Sons, a noted Scottish postcard publisher of the time with offices in Toronto and Montreal.  A little online research revealed that the cards were collotype photographs taken in daylight with a full moon, clouds and lighting effects layered on top, after which the images were hand-tinted.














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