The Art of Postcards: History in the Mail

Image: Postcard sent by Madeline Hanni-Lozeron to her brother Pierre in Canada, 1902 (SPRA 006.04.01.01)

The history of postcards dates back one hundred and fifty years. Immensely popular, these affordable, attractive, and sometimes kitschy items likely owe their existence to stamps.

Before the 1840’s, mail rates varied depending on the number of sheets in a letter and on the distance the letter travelled. Postage was payable upon receipt of the letter. If the addressee refused the letter, the post office was out of luck. The Postmaster General of England, Sir Rowland Hill, proposed two of the changes we take for granted today: postage should be at a set rate to anywhere in England, and the sender should pay it. Proof of prepayment would be required. That proof of course, was the stamp, and in 1839, Sir Hill’s proposals were passed in the Penny Postage Act. The first penny postage (called the Penny Black because of its black background) first sold on 1 May 1840 and the first Canadian stamp (the Three Penny Beaver) was issued 23 April 1851.

The penny postage made mail affordable and more reliable. Paper cost was still an issue. Luckily, postal cards soon followed the new postage system. Like many popular, mass produced items, there is some question as to where and who developed the first private postcard. We can only be certain that, by the 1870s, governments began to issue “postals” – plain cards with a stamp image on the back.

Now people had their stationary and postage all together for one affordable price. But plain cards were not enough. Printed envelopes had become quite popular in the 1850s; the same was soon true for postal cards. This likely contributed to one of the major lasting changes in the production of postcards – the divided back.

Because original postcards were plain, the recto (front) side was used for message writing while the verso (back) side was strictly for providing a delivery address. England was the first country to approve the divided back on postcards in 1902. This provided space for writing and an address on the back of the card, leaving the front unblemished.

Postcards form a small but important part of our holdings and they convey valuable evidence about people and the places they lived and visited. Most of the postcards spread throughout our holdings are view cards (images of cities or places), greeting cards, and photographic cards (people). We are also lucky to have several “silks” (embroidered cards which were immensely popular as gifts during the Great War) and a number of humorous “topicals” from each of the wars. A timely gift to friends and family in the past, postcards can provide a wealth of information about social past-times, personal relationships, and changes in the urban and natural landscape.

You can create your own history. Next time you take a trip, send yourself postcards featuring sites of interest. Jot down a quick reminder of your special moments and when you arrive home, you will have a pictorial and a textual reminder of your holiday. You could even do this for staycations. Slip them into sleeves or a travel box and you have an instant travel archives to share with family now and in the future.

This article was originally featured in the December 2018 issue of Telling Our Stories.

Soldier Spotlight: William Baird

Image: Golden red pheasant, July 1979 (SPRA 002.05.06.523)

Branch: Royal Field Artillery

William was born in Yorkshire, England on January 27, 1894, though spent most of his boyhood in Ireland. During the first world war, he served in the Royal Field Artillery for four years, in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. William’s brother Reginald served in the Canadian Army. In 1920 he came to Canada and homesteaded at 30-71-10-W6 and 31-71-10-W6 near Beaverlodge. William raised pheasants on his farm and over the years was able to release hundreds of pheasants about the district. In 1937 he married Sadie Martin. The couple had three sons. On July 20, 1969 William and Sadie’s son Sydney was coming back from Texas with a new helicopter and stopped to pick up William and Sadie for a visit to Watson Lake. A mechanical failure in the helicopter forced a crash landing near Fort Nelson. Sydney crawled out to the nearest highway, nearly two miles away, to get help in spite of his injured back, but William was pronounced dead before help arrived.

Sources: Beaverlodge to the Rockies Supplement p. 13; obituary notes

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Soldier Spotlight: Archie Delaney

Image: Archie Delaney, Ray Boyer, and Clarence Boyer. Italy. 1944 (SPRA 445.01.06, cropped)

Regiment: Royal Canadian Signal Corps
Force: Army

Archie Delaney was born on February 24, 1914 in Thessalon, ON, being one of 6 children. At age 5, he moved with his mother (who was a widow) and siblings to the Kleskun Hills area. His mother remarried to Isaac Boyer, and 4 more half siblings were added to the family. Archie attended East Kleskun school, and after he quit school he worked for various farmers in the area. In 1940 he joined the army and was posted in Holland, Sicily, and Italy. He married his wife, Alice “Aagtje” Renkema, in Holland in 1945, and he was discharged from the army in 1946. Their daughter June was born in Holland before Alice left to join Archie in Canada. They rented some farm land along the Teepee Creek Road, living in an old bunkhouse. Twin daughters were born, Eveline and Irene, and later a son, Ray. The Delaneys acquired a quarter section through the VLA: SW 13-72-4 W6. Archie farmed in the summer. Due to poor crops, he also drove truck hauling logs in the winters. He bought another quarter section after a few years: NW 13-72-4 W6. Tragically, Archie had a tractor accident in August 1954 and died after 6 days in the Grande Prairie Municipal Hospital. Many neighbors helped out the family that fall taking off crops. In late fall of 1955 Alice and the children moved to a new house in Grande Prairie which was built by members of the Legion, neighbors, and relatives. Alice remarried to Mr. Balmer, and she died at age 81 in 2000 in Grande Prairie.

Source: Smoky River to Grande Prairie pp. 125 – 128 (photos)
Herald Tribune (Newspaper) Aug. 19, 1954 p. 1 c. 3 (fatal accident)
AGS Obituary Index (Alice)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Behind the Name: Derek Taylor

Image: Derek Taylor, 1982 (SPRA 002.05.04.105)

This is part six of a six-part blog series featuring some of the individuals for whom Grande Prairie schools are named.

Derek R. Taylor was born in 1933 in Kensington-on-Thames, England to Richard and Clara Taylor. The family, which also included a sister, Rene, immigrated to Rolling Hills, Alberta in May 1948 and eventually bought a farm.

Derek attended grades 11 and 12 in Brooks and worked for the Royal Bank of Canada. In 1952, he married Grace McClelland of Brooks and the couple had five children, Gary, Debbie, Diane, Robert, and Pamela.

Derek worked in the oil patch on a seismic crew and for his father on the farm. He returned to the University of Alberta in 1952-53 for further education. At the completion of his training, he taught school in Patricia and Rolling Hills.

The Taylor family moved to Grande Prairie in 1958 with Derek becoming the first vice-principal of Swanavon School. In September 1959, he was transferred to Hillside School, becoming its first principal in January 1960. Later in his career, he taught English and Social Studies at the Grande Prairie High School and was assistant superintendent of the district starting in 1966. From 1969 to 1995, Derek was the superintendent of the Grande Prairie Public School District No. 2357, which made him one of Alberta’s longest-serving superintendents. One of his greatest achievements as superintendent was the creation of Crystal Park School, with integrated classes. Derek also taught a course for Grande Prairie Regional College’s education department.

Following his retirement from the School District, Derek entered civic politics as a Grande Prairie City Councillor and served three terms, from 1995-2003, during which time he was chairman of the airport commission (1998-2001) and the council representative on the library board (2001-2003).

Derek Taylor also served in the militia, including as an aide de camp for the lieutenant governor, as master of ceremonies at a Royal Visit luncheon in 1987, as president of the Grande Prairie Golf and Country Club from 1990-1991, and as a Justice of the Peace.

Derek R. Taylor died in Grande Prairie in 2003 at the age of 70.

Soldier Spotlight: George & Stanley Agar

Image: This party heading to the Peace country from Edmonton, on February 3, 1911, 3 pm, consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Cochrane; Mr. and Mrs. James Moore, Maimee and David; Mr. and Mrs. Robert Moore, Margaret and David; Dr. and Mrs. Andrew Bradford, Cameron and Marjorie; Mr. and Mrs. Jack Shortreed; Stanley Agar (brother of Jennie Cochrane) and Joe Mc Laughlin. They travelled via Athabasca, Lesser Slave Lake, Grouard, Sturgeon Lake and arrived in the Grande Prairie area on March 17, 1911. (SPRA 268.02.01)

Private George Agar

Regimental Number: 204089
Rank: Private
Branch: Canadian Infantry, Central Ontario Regiment; 96th Battalion; 15th Battalion

George was born in Goderich, Ontario on January 3, 1896. He shipped overseas with brother Stanley and started training in England, then went to France. The brothers arrived in England on Oct. 6, 1916 aboard SS Laconia. George was wounded on July 20, 1917 while defending Hill 70, and his brother Stanley carried him to the rear. A few days later, on July 24, 1917, George died of many shrapnel wounds to his legs and chest. He was buried in the Lillers Communal Cemetery, near Bethune, France.

Sources: Smoky River to Grande Prairie p. 280

Corporal James Stanley Agar

Regimental Number: 204071
Rank: Corporal
Branch: 96th Overseas Battalion, Canadian Highlanders; 5th Reserve Battalion; 15th Battalion

Stanley was born in Goderich, Ontario on November 12, 1896. He enlisted in December 1915 and arrived in England on Oct. 6, 1916 aboard SS Laconia. According to medical records, he was completely deaf in his left ear (“auditory nerve deafness”) as a result of being hit in the ear with a snowball as a child. Stanley took part in the march to Germany at the end of the war. He returned to Canada in 1919 and married Lelia Durnin in August of that year. They farmed in Saskatchewan until 1937, when they came to farm in Dimsdale. Stanley died in 1957.

Sources: Along the Wapiti, p. 411; Smoky River to Grande Prairie, p. 270 & 279

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Soldier Spotlight: Charles Henry Davidson

Image: Spirit River, 1917 (SPRA 2001.01.173)

Regiment: Sherbrooke Fusiliers – Tank Corps

Charles (Jr.) Davidson, the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Davidson, was born around 1916 in Baldyquash Cottage Parish, County of Aberdeen, Scotland. On May 7, 1928, the Davidsons arrived in Canada. They lived for a year in Spirit River, and then moved to White Mountain where Charles Jr. and his 2 older brothers, William and Norman, attended school. The boys also took turns being janitor for White Mountain School in the 1930s. In 1938 the family had their own homestead in the Willowvale district. All 3 sons served for four years overseas in WW II. Charles, who enlisted in the Tank Corps in 1942, was active in Normandy on the D-Day (June 6, 1944) Invasion. He also battled in Caen and Falaise in France, losing three tanks within 3 months. Discharged in 1946, Charles married Elsie Jean Burton in January 1947 in Edmonton. Obtaining land in White Mountain area from Veteran’s Land Act, they farmed until 1979, and then retired to Spirit River. They had 5 children: Phyllis and Donna (twins), Marlene, Edith, and Ronald. Charles died in December 1991 at age 75 in Grande Prairie, and Elsie died in December 1998.

Source: Memories and Moments of White Mountain, Willowvale, Bridgeview pp. 85-86 (story); p. 276 (photo)
Chepi Sepe – Spirit River p. 184 (photo); p. 341 (story)
AGS – Obituary Index

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Fishing Expeditions in the Archives

Image: Lucy Lundblad taking the girls fishing, May 1940 (SPRA 175.055.05)

People often compare research at the Archives to digging for treasure. I think it is a little bit like fishing. The best place to start fishing at the Archives is through our website. Hopefully you already know your way to our online fishing hole. If not, what are you waiting for? Let’s get started.

When you embark on a fishing expedition, you need three things: bait, tools, and a place to fish. When conducting research, your search terms will act as your ”Bait.” The best way to dig up bait is to annoy your relatives with a lot of pesky questions about your great-grandaunt or that distant patriarch who supposedly robbed a train. All that annoyance activity should help you generate a list of names, dates, and places to research. Every tiny morsel has potential for your bait list.

Next, you need your tools. You will want to take notes as you go otherwise, you may find yourself returning to the same spot to retrieve that fish you lost. So grab your pencil and paper, start up that excel spreadsheet on your tablet, or open that cloud doc on your phone. Be ready to record your catch.

Now you need a place to fish. Ready your bait and cast out into the waters, or in this case, our online research “sweet spots”. Last year, over eighteen thousand visitors from around the world visited our website to fish for answers. There are several prime spots to choose from starting with the finding aids— where we list all the archival collections already arranged and described. These collections include a brief history about the creators and may yield all that you need. There are also several online databases that allow you to “fish” through indices for community history books, reference files, and newspapers, as well as our digitized photographs. Even our most experienced fishers may not realize that the Archives is also home to an expanding library related to the South Peace Region. We keep a list of our reference books online for your browsing pleasure.

In some cases, you may find all you need at our online destination: that story about great-grandaunt Sela’s lingerie and haberdashery business  in the collection biography or the photograph of that rascally five-times-great-grandpa Johnson on your mother’s side (no! your father’s side!). It was just what you were fishing for. Your successful foray may also yield bigger bait, for which you will need to take your boat into deeper waters. In this case, deeper waters is the Archives facility itself. There you can cast your line into archival folders, reference files, and photograph collections.

This part of the fishing expedition is often the most rewarding and sometimes the most disappointing. The thrill of seeing new sights does not always make up for the lack of discovery. Not all fishing expeditions are successful in the actual fish-catching department, after all. Sometimes the success is in being able to take part in the excursion.

This process of discovery is one of the beautiful things about archives in a democratic society. Except in collections where personal privacy is a consideration, our records are open to the public. Online resources and on-site collections allow “fishers” of all skill and interest levels to “fish” through the records for information about their families, local history, and government records. We keep a healthy stock of various types of fish – textual documents, photographs, maps, film and audio recordings, to name a few, in order to provide a reasonable chance that you will find the fish you are looking for when you visit our website or enter our doors.

Of course, it helps to have a guide with you when searching unknown waters for records. The friendly staff at the South Peace Regional Archives are happy to show you how to set your bait and where to fish in the hopes that you will reel in the big one. Maybe it will be the catch of the day.

This article was originally featured in the September 2018 issue of Telling Our Stories.

Bill Archer and Murray Carlisle fishing in Contrary River, 1941. (SPRA 399.09.22)

Soldier Spotlight: Lieutenant Joseph Sauve

Image: excerpt from Joseph’s report card from officer’s training school (Library & Archives Canada)

Regimental Number: 447624
Rank: Lieutenant
Branch: Canadian Mounted Rifles; Canadian Machine Gun Corps

Joseph was born in St. Genevieve, Quebec on January 25, 1889. He enlisted in the Canadian Army in Calgary in September of 1915. On July 9, 1917, Joseph was awarded the Military Medal. On page 30 of his service file, you can view a typed list of his transfers and other information; there is also a report card from officer’s training school on pages 43 and 44. He was said to be “thoroughly reliable and should make a good officer.” Around 1930, Joseph and his brother Leo settled on land about one and a half miles west of Eaglesham. Joseph died on June 26, 1947, having been injured by a falling tree.

Sources: Smoky Peace Triangle p. 372

Lieutenant J.P. Sauve was the first president of the Eaglesham Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, formed in 1936. He was instrumental in re-forming the club in 1947 to include Watino, Tangent and Eaglesham, but was killed in an accident before the charter was received. Royal Canadian Legion Sauve Branch 235 is named after him. (SPRA 327.01.01)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Cemetery Tours Back for Summer 2022

Image: Men from the community building a fence around the Valhalla cemetery, ca. 1920 (2009.82.02)

We’re excited to announce that our popular cemetery tours are back this summer! Join us at the Grande Prairie Cemetery for a one hour walking tour to explore the lives and stories of people who have come before us through two fascinating topics.

In “Crime and Punishment in the South Peace” explore murder and mischief through some of our regions most fascinating crimes, and the lives of the people who worked with them.
July 19 and August 10, 7 pm at the Grande Prairie Cemetery.

In “Wonderful Women of the South Peace” learn about the lives of some of the remarkable women who helped to build our community.
July 20 and August 9, 7 pm at the Grande Prairie Cemetery.

Click “Buy now” below to reserve your spot on one of these new tours. Limited spaces available. Please plan to wear comfortable shoes and spend approximately an hour standing and walking around in the cemetery.

Cemetery Tour Admission

Cemetery Tour Admission

$5.00

Buy now

Soldier Spotlight: Jack Conrad

Image: Jack Conrad holding a baby while sitting on a horse drawn wagon, 1945 (SPRA 259.08.09)

Force: RCAF

Jack Conrad, the second oldest of 6 siblings, was born on April 4, 1920 to parents Harlie and Florence (Davis) Conrad, in Grande Prairie AB. He took his early schooling at MacHenry (southwest of Sexsmith AB), then at Wellington (near Clairmont AB), and he finished his education at Clairmont Lake School. During WW II Jack joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. For the first two years he was stationed at the west coast of Vancouver Island, and then he was posted in England. There he met and married, Jean Farmer. (Jean was a Scottish W.A.A.F. who was serving in the R.A.F.). After the war they made their home in the Sexsmith area where Jack acquired a half section from the Veterans Land Act (S ½ 12-17-6-W6, the original homestead of David Sexsmith.) In the 1960`s he also purchased the north half of the section. Jack and Jean had 4 children: Colin, Calvin, Anne, and Holly. Jack, who was active in agricultural and community organizations, died suddenly at age 58 in March 1979 in Sexsmith.

Source: Wagon Trails Grown Over pp. 1149 (Name in Roll of Honour), 1154 (photo), 1128
Daily Herald Tribune Sept. 17, 1953 p.13 c. 3, July 29, 1954 p. 11 c. 2
AGS website – Obituary Index

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.