Tag Archives: Warwick Bros. & Rutter

W. S. Louson and his pictures of Blockhouse Point


Entrance to Charlottetown Harbour. Postcard published by W.G. MacFarlane of Toronto. Although this photo is credited to W.S. Louson when it was published by Warwick Bros. & Rutter the figures are Louson himself and his daughter Jean.

Frequent readers of this series may have noticed that postcard images are frequently used to illustrate the marine and coastal heritage of the province. We are fortunate to have a rich source of high quality images – perhaps as many as 500 postcard images from before the Great War – and they document many aspects of Prince Edward Island life.

While the vast majority of these photos are uncredited, the images and name of one Charlottetown photographer keeps cropping up. William Steele Louson was a gifted amateur whose work was used in publications and by several of the leading Canadian postcard publishers, most notably Warwick Bros. & Rutter of Toronto who published more than 150 Prince Edward Island Cards. His images appeared in a number of Canadian and American magazines and were frequently turned into postcards, his images being used by many of the leading Canadian postcard publishers – usually without credit.

With easy access across the harbour from Charlottetown, either via the Rocky Point Ferry or after 1904 to the wharf at the Lobster Hatchery on the point, it is not surprising that Louson used the locale for a number of his picturesque photos, although strangely he does not appear to have ever pictured the lighthouse atop the point.  Because Louson appears in some of the photos, and others show a group of men it is probable that several of these pictures were taken on a visit by a group of photographers who used the site for photo excursions.  Other pictures, again with some showing Louson and his daughter, are taken at Seatrout Point and show Blockhouse point in the distance. Some of the  Louson images appear below – click on any image for more information.

article-200004For those interested in more information about William Louson, his postcards, and early tourism images of Prince Edward Island, an article about the man and his work has just been published in the latest (Fall/Winter 2016) issue of The Island Magazine. The magazine is available at several bookstores and outlets including the Bookmark in Charlottetown, as well as directly from the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation.


The missing lighthouse at the harbour mouth

Today one of the most popular subjects of both private photos and images on postcards and tourism advertising is the lighthouse.  The iconic images portray the historic link between land and sea and are symbols of the Island’s maritime past.

It was not always so.

Before the Great War, during the golden age of postcards when as many as 500 postcard photos of the province were available for purchase, the image of the lighthouse is almost entirely absent. It is almost as if lighthouses did not exist. A good example of the wilful exclusion of the lighthouse from popular imagery can be found at the mouth of Charlottetown Harbour

"Entrance to Harbor, Charlottetown, P.E.I." Warwick Bros. & Rutter postcard #4559 ca. 1905

“Entrance to Harbor, Charlottetown, P.E.I.” Warwick Bros. & Rutter postcard #4559 before 1905

Blockhouse Light, which was built in 1876 is an outstanding example of the type of structure which we associate with Island coastal scenery. It is currently featured on postcards and tourism advertising but in 1905 the image chosen to illustrate the charms of the area was  picture, not of the light, but of the cove just inside the point.  The view looks across the channel towards Lobster Point with Trout Point lost in the soft focus to the left of the scene. The dramatic view of the light itself is outside the frame of the picture to the right. If you had not been to the spot you might not know that the lighthouse existed.


Cove beneath Block House lighthouse looking east. June 2016

Today the scene of the postcard is still recognizable and not much has changed. There has been erosion of the point but it is less evident on the cove side than on the shore facing Hillsborough Bay. Perhaps the cove is shallower than it once was but on warm summer days boats still anchor there. Even the roadway sloping down the cliff-face in the postcard is still discoverable in the tall spruces that now dominate the point. Overlooking this quiet cove is Block House lighthouse but the postcard publishers did not feel it worthwhile to show it.

Block House Point

“Block House Point” Warwick Bros. & Rutter postcard #1817. Photo by W.S. Louson

From the Bay side of the point the image chosen for the card series is not, as it would be today, the lighthouse standing on the cliff but rather the cliff itself. It is almost as if the postcard publisher goes out-of-the-way to avoid any man-made objects to detract from the natural scenery. And that may, in fact, be the case. Many of the P.E.I,. cards were published by the Toronto firm Warwick Bros. & Rutter and most of these feature photos taken by Island amateur photographer W. S. Louson.  Louson  seems to have specialized in scenic views: birch trees, fields of flowers, harvest scenes, rugged cliffs, forest glades and quiet brooks. Louson was a tourism booster but he seems to have his own ideas about the kind of Island he wished to show.

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“The Harbor” Tignish, P.E.I.” Warwick Bros. & Rutter postcard #6243.

Only rarely did the man-made intrude on the vision of the gentle Island of which Louson was so proud.  Aside from a few photos of public buildings like Prince of Wales College and the Summerside High School, when structures are show it is often only as a backdrop. Such is the case with the only one of the nearly 150 Warwick & Rutter postcards to actually show a light house.   The main focus here is the fishing activity  and the lighthouse is incidental.

The approach of this particular publisher is not an aberration. One is hard pressed to find lighthouse images on postcards of the period from any of the dozen printers (including several  from the Island) who were responsible for the hundreds of thousands of P.E.I. cards which were sent in the mails or carefully collected in postcard albums. It is not clear just when the attitude began to change and lighthouses became a fit subject to be shown on postcards but as the character of the structures changed from simple aids to navigation, an adjunct to the fishing industry, to become a symbol of a marine heritage which was itself disappearing the lighthouse changed from being a service to being a symbol.

The idyllic scene in the cove beneath the light was radically altered in 1905 with the construction of a lobster factory and in a postcard of that industrial facility the lighthouse presides over the hatchery buildings. However, today all trace of the wharf and buildings have disappeared and the site has reverted to the scene of the early postcard of the entrance to the harbour.  Standing on the beach looking east to Lobster Point the Block House light cannot be seen.




Solving a Postcard History Mystery


Three Miles From Charlottetown. Warwick Bros. & Rutter postcard #5248. Photo by W.S. Louson

The plain-looking sepia-coloured postcard is cryptic to say the least. The caption simply says “Three Miles from Charlottetown” but it doesn’t say where the photo was taken. There is a pond framed by trees and a rowboat with three aboard, and strangely what appears to be a fence in the water.  The card is simply one of what may have been as many as 500 different postcards depicting P.E.I. scenes that were published before the Great War. This card was from the Toronto firm of Warwick Bros & Rutter which created over 7000 postcards during the period – about 150 of which contained Prince Edward Island scenes.

We don’t know how many of the cards were published but an Island firm, Carter and Company boasted in 1907 that they had 500,000 cards in stock.  Postcards had become a mania. Changes in postal regulations in the late 1890s allowed for the cards with a scene on one side and address and message on the other, and people immediately began collecting. While some of the cards were used for postal communication thousands were gathered into albums.

Unlike most of the cards from the period we know the photographer for this one. The picture was taken by William S. Louson. a travelling sales agent for a Montreal dry-goods company who lived in Charlottetown. Louson played a very important role in P.E.I. history as he was one of the leading “boosters” of the Island as a tourism destination. His images appeared in leading American and Canadian magazines and his photographs were printed on hundreds of thousands of postcards. Louson has a habit of eschewing locating his images, instead he provided titles like “Rustic Scene.” “A Morning Walk,” and “Border of the woods.”

We know who. We can imagine why. But can we determine where?  There appears to be some sort of pond and my first thought was that it was one of the many creeks flowing into the rivers near the city. Several of these had been dammed to create millponds. If we look at the three mile distance from the city (or even somewhat beyond), we have Wrights (Bird Island) Creek, Gates Mills at Ellen’s Creek, Hermitage Creek and on the Southport side of the river there is the Hatchery Dam on the way to Keppoch but nothing seemes to fit the topography shown in the postcard .

The penny did not drop until I had another look at my recent posting on Range Lights and looked closely at the photo below:

Looking across Warren Pond to Warren Rear range light ca. 1910.

Looking across Warren Pond to Warren Rear range light. Raphael Tuck Postcard ca. 1910. photographer unidentified.

Here we have a lighthouse, a boat and a pond, and behind the boat what could be the rails of a fence in the water. This caused me to look much closer at the initial post card image. Although the cards are the product of two different publishers could they be taken in the same location and by the same photographer?

Enlarged detail of "Three Miles from Charlottetown" Lighthouse can be seen above boat bracketed by tree branches.

Enlarged detail of “Three Miles from Charlottetown” Lighthouse can be seen above boat bracketed by tree branches.

And then I spotted it! One tiny detail and the matter was resolved. Just above the horizon is a small dark rectangle and beneath it a barely perceptible shape that can only be a lighthouse.  When you know what you are looking at you can even see a window in the building. But this lighthouse is seen from the rear and it is definitely not the same as the one in the coloured postcard. What does look suspiciously the same is the boat and also the fence line in the water.  Both photos seem to be taken from the Ringwood side of the creek flowing into Warren Cove. The coloured postcard shows the rear light clearly and the sepia card positions the front range just behind the boat.

One thing that makes the photo difficult to locate is the fact that there is no pond at Warren Cove now, nor does it appear to have been one there for some time. A 1734 drawing shows a small pond behind the beach but it is not clear how long it lasted. None of the charts or maps of the area show a pond and yet it clearly exists in the photographs from about 1910. The 1935 aerial photograph of the area shows the place looking much as it does today with a small spring-fed creek barely trickling through a swampy area and seeping out onto the beach of Warren Cove.  One possible interpretation is that through winter storms or some other reason the outlet for the creek became blocked, or perhaps the cottagers at the Cove dammed it up  and this pond was temporarily created.  That would account for the fence line which appears in the pond. Under normal water conditions a lane may have followed the edge of the creek but as the water rose it overtopped the bank and captured the fence.

So “Three Miles from Charlottetown” is not along the banks of the Hillsborough or North River but instead the scene is across the harbour just below Fort Amherst. And it is not so surprising as Rocky Point and the Fort Lot was a popular day trip for ferry excursionists – one of whom took his camera along.

Location of Louson photo today.  Front range Light is not visible but lies behind trees on south shore of marsh.

Location of Louson photo today. Front Range Light is not visible but lies behind trees on south shore of marsh.

Today standing at the point from which the photos were taken one is greeted by a swampy marsh and a wall of White Spruce trees which block any sight of the range lights.  An area which was one of the first cleared of trees in the early settlement of the Island is reverting to the forest.

Parks Canada has elected to dismiss more than two hundred years of human habitation on this site which would have left this area cleared of trees. The early Acadians and English settlers soon used the trees on the site for fire wood and building materials and turned the land to agriculture uses. Rather than maintain the agricultural aspect of the site  the balance of convenience for Parks Canada appears to have been to ignore the human history and dismiss the impact of settlers on the land.