Verner, Ontario: Canadian History in Vintage Postcards
Highlighting in vintage postcards the history of towns and townships in the greater Lake Nipissing and Lake Temagami areas of Northern Ontario, Canada, including the Nipissing District and portions of the Parry Sound District which are in the “Blue Sky Region.” These Canadian postcards are shown in digital, virtual museum format for educational purposes. If you have images or historical information which you’d like to share with our digital virtual museum, feel free to do so. To navigate these pages, mouse over the top navigation bar. Drop-down menus will appear of the areas of interest. Click on the thumbnails for larger images. Close the larger image before opening another thumbnail. The occasional duplicates for sale can be found using the search box on the main (home) page of VintagePostcards.org. This is an ongoing project; comments and questions to the webmaster at webmaster - at sign - vintagepostcards.org are welcome. The charming c. 1950s vintage postcard to the left shows St. Peter at Heaven’s gates, welcoming a man carrying a fishing rod, and with a fish basket and suitcase in tow. Saint Peter says: “You are from Northern Ontario. You will be right at home here.” The painting was courtesy of Harry Mulligan Woollens in North Bay. We can’t help but wonder what happened to this painting. If anyone knows, let us know and we’ll include the information.
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This scarce Verner real-photo postcard, probably pre-1907, is likely an image from Principale St. E. There is a wonderful array of 19th c. storefronts in this vintage postcard, including the shop of carriage maker J. Labrosse (third building in on the right). There’s a large sign for his storefront, and men standing about out front. A telegraph pole is near Labrosse’s sign. If you can identify other buildings in this image, we’d like to know their names and/or function. For example, we’ve been told that there is a post office in this image, but we don’t see it. Paroisse St. Jean Baptiste can be seen at far left, at 27 Principale. On the right side of the image, one can see that boardwalk’s been laid, with the muddy road being about two feet below the boardwalk.
Verner, located on the Veuve River (Rivière Veuve) at the western junction of highways 17 and 64, is about 16 kilometres (9.9 miles west) of Sturgeon Falls. The largely francophone community, which serves as an agricultural hub for the surrounding area, was supposedly named for the wife of Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) superintendent Archer Baker, although we’re unable to verify that information. Archer Baker’s job in the 1880s was to oversee the laying of railroad track through West Nipissing. Baker is seen here in a 1909 watercolor painted by Sir Luke Fildes, R.A., who signed this portrait with the initials “ELF.” The caricature of Baker was captioned: “C.P.R. in Europe.” Painted in 1909 and appearing in the 13 January 1910 edition of Vanity Fair magazine, the biographical note on Baker read: “Situated opposite the Nelson Monument [the European office] forms one of the landmarks of Trafalgar Square, and Archer Baker, to whose shrewd brain the magnitude of Canadian Pacific interests in Europe is so largely due, may well be proud of this, the tangible proof of his success. Yet no man is more modest.”
The book Empire and Globalisation: Networks of People, Goods and Capital in the British World, c.1850-1914, describes the intense efforts of Baker (and others) to recruit settlers to Canada. It says: “Like the Canadian government, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) — the largest private landowner in western Canada — undertook immigration work. The rapid development of the prairies was essential to the expansion of the company’s passenger and freight traffic, and the CPR lost no time in launching a vigorous campaign to encourage migration from Britain. Its first agent was the Québec-born businessman and journalist, Alexander Begg (1839-97), who spent four years (1883-7) extolling the attractions of rural life in Canada through a mixture of press releases, advertisements, pamphlets and posters. After only six months, Begg could report that over one million pieces of literature had been distributed in Britain. He was particularly keen on publishing settler testimonies in an effort to counteract misleading representations of Canada in the British press. The main innovation of his successor, Archer Baker, was a ‘Traveling Exhibition Van’, which is known to have notched up visits to 500 places in the year 1893, when it was inspected by well over a million people. From 1903, the CPR introduced its own steamer service direct to Canada in the hope of stemming the loss of those people who, having landed in US ports, then succumbed to the country’s lure.”
Businessmen in both Great Britain and the United States were also invested in railroads, and it was to their advantage that settlement push westward in Canada. Above are two Canadian private postcards expressing sentiments of the time. Both were postmarked in 1909. To the left, we see a cigar-smoking Uncle Sam resting his elbow on a politically incorrect fence labeled as the “International Boundry” [sic]. The sign on the fence reads: “Thousands of Settlers are Moving to Canada.” At the top of this vintage postcard is printed: “UNCLE SAM — Where there is money to be made you’ll find a Yankee.” Both postcards are by an unknown publisher. The antique postcard to the right (above), shows Uncle Sam looking at a map of the Dominion of Canada and the United States. He says: “Wall, say! I used to think I hed [sic] the biggest land that lay out doors — but it looks now as tho’ Canada hed me beaten.” A sign to the left of the map resembles an advertisement in appearance, reading: “Homes for 50,000,000 people in Western Canada alone.”
According to the 17 January 1910 edition of The New York Times, Baker, who was born in England in 1845, died in London on 16 January 1910. At the time, his job title was European Manager of the CPR. Baker had emigrated to Canada at an early age and held posts as Secretary, Treasurer and General Manager of the Brockville & Ottawa, and the CPR for some years, before returning to London as the CPR’s General European Traffic Agent prior to his promotion to European Manager.
The Reverend Charles Alfred Marie Paradis (1848-1926), an Oblate missionary, was also instrumental in settling the Verner area. Paradis was born in Kamouraska County, Québec, studied at Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière College in La Pocatière, Québec, and also taught art in Ottawa. Following his 1881 ordination, he was posted to Lake Timiskaming as a missionary of the Oblate Congregation. His missionary travels and experiences led him to write a pamphlet, From Temiskaming to Hudson Bay (Classic Reprint), in which he strongly advocated colonization of the region. In 1890, nine years after his ordination, Paradis left the Oblate Congregation, encouraging many French farm families in Michigan to settle and farm in the Verner area. Paradis himself became a farmer. (Additionally, he prospected for gold at Nighthawk Lake in Timmins, continued writing, painted watercolors and worked on the compilation of an Ojibwa dictionary before his death in Montreal on 10 May 10 1926.)
Above are four scarce c. 1910-1920s real-photo postcards published by the Canadian Post Card Co. of Toronto which celebrate local agricultural products. From left to right, the imaginative images show a fall harvest and a farmer with his abundant crop of oversized vegetables, entitled “Bringing in the Sheaves”; a horse-drawn wagon with oversized cabbages entitled “We Grow Big Cabbages”; farmers dwarfed by giant wheat, entitled “Harvesting Our Wheat”; and a potato harvest entitled “Potatoes Grow Big Here.” These photo-surrealistic images, intended to brag about fertile soil and bountiful harvests, fall within a genre known as exaggeration or “tall tale” postcards. For an explanation of the photographic process used to make these postcards, see the Wisconsin Historical Society’s web page about photographer Alfred Stanley Johnson and the American Museum of Photography’s page on “trick” photographer William H. Martin.
For collectors of vintage postcards, old postcards and the antique postcard. Deltiology, the hobby of collecting vintage postcards, is one of the fastest-growing collectibles hobbies. Old postcard collections interest collectors of antiques, memorabilia and ephemera; collectables such as old vintage postcards are used by museums and historians to document what was.