These Vintage "Valentines" from Ontario Aren't What You Expect

February 13, 2019 | Ann

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February floods with love through the exchange of gifts — including Valentine's Day cards. The "Valentine cards" below proclaim a different kind of love. They celebrate the beauty of towns and cities. Known as the Valentine Series, these postcards were meant to be shared throughout the entire year.

John Valentine founded Valentine & Sons Publishing Company in 1825 in Dundee, Scotland. The company expanded to Montreal and Toronto in 1903. The Ontario 1910 Valentine Series covers landscapes and impressive buildings across the province.

Below are five lovely Ontario scenes. You can also see 700+ postcards from Valentine & Son's Publishing Company available on Toronto Public Library's website, Digital Archive Ontario. (Or feel free to view some actual vintage Valentine's Day cards.)


St. David Street, Fergus

What I find most charming about this Fergus postcard is the wooden underpass in the distance where horse-drawn carriages would pass through the golden-green leaves that lined St. David's Street. The ornate brown wooden building in the foreground may have competed for business with the tall white hotel by having a protected balcony on the second floor, perfect for a weary traveler wanting to relax in the open air.

The photographer may have captured this view on a quiet Sunday morning before the town began to bustle. A single street light and a single electrical pole stand silently outside the buildings. A lady appears at the main entrance of the white hotel. Perhaps she is there to greet the driver of the lone carriage parked nearby. 


Royal Muskoka Hotel, Muskoka Lakes

The Royal Muskoka Hotel opened in 1902 and endured two Great Wars and the Great Depression. But in the early hours of one spring day in 1952 this prestigious building succumbed to a devastating fire. Only a few pieces of silverware and one tablecloth were left intact.

Before its fiery end, the hotel hosted guests like the ones seen above, enjoying card games and conversing as they gazed towards the Muskoka waters. As seen in this postcard, many women in the Edwardian era wore hair in a large pompadour clipped loosely above their heads in the Gibson Girl style. Edwardian men dressed with their heads topped in straw boater or derby style hats.

See more images from Digital Archive Ontario, or watch the slideshow below:


Mississaga Street, Orillia

According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, "Orillia, Ontario, incorporated as a village in 1867, as a town in 1875 and as a city in 1969." In this 1910 postcard, Orillia appears as a lively village with people strolling along what look like newly-paved sidewalks. A red two-seater automobile putters through the middle of Mississauga Street's not-so-busy dirt road.

Today, Mississauga Street West begins from Highway 12 and continues for a distance until reaching West Street North and changes to a very short Mississauga Street East, ending at Lake Couchiching just north of Lake Simcoe. Many locally owned and operated shops exist there today.


Gananoque River, Gananoque

Gananoque resides on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River east of Kingston, Ontario. The Town of Gananoque is also known as "the gateway to a thousand islands" and it resides in what its official website calls one of Eastern Ontario's "most stunning waterfront communities."

In this picture taken on the Gananoque River in 1910, many of the houses and businesses are seen situated on the river because boat travel was the town's main thoroughfare. At that time, sawmills and metal industries shaped the town before tourism became more popular.


The Arch of Native Woods, Ottawa

The text on this postcard gives the location of this intriguing structure as "Driveway, Ottawa". My curiosity fueled further inquiry. 

Another picture of this structure appeared on the Facebook Page, Lost Ottawa. This postcard image was taken from an angle and originally came from the collection of the City of Ottawa Archives, CA025142.

In my brief search, I didn't find any more about this Arch except what the postcard states: "3000 varieties of wood used in construction." Since the arch was made primarily of wood, the material may have, over time, decayed, rotted or caught fire. Some more research may reveals more on this peculiar arch and what the 3000 varieties of wood were used to assemble this structure. Let me know in the comments if you have any insights!