George Bryce, a Vancouver lawyer, uncovered a treasure trove of silent-film posters when he replaced the fir floors inside his 1924 house on Vancouver's West Side. Bryce has now sold the posters and will soon ship them to an art dealer in New York.
Bryce first became aware of the posters 15 years ago when he hired a flooring company for a small project in his front hallway.
"They tore up the old fir floor and put down a new oak floor. They pointed out to us there was actually movie posters on the hallway floor. So we knew all the floors would have posters in them," he said.
Bryce could see the posters through cracks and knots in the sub-floor when looking up from unfinished sections of his basement. During a recent renovation, Bryce carefully pulled up old flooring and found 10 posters, dating back to the early 1920s.
Bryce says the workers who replaced his floors told him it was common for flooring companies to use the large posters in Vancouver homes in that decade.
"In the silent movie era, Vancouver was sort of the terminus for the silent movies being distributed, Vancouver was like a dumping ground for the posters," Bryce said.
Companies installed the posters — which are quite thick, and in some cases have a linen backing — in between the floor and planks of wood nailed to the joists below, to dampen squeaking.
Bryce believes the original floors were installed by B.C. Hardwood, a company that is still in business today. Sales manager Michael Crompton says it was a common practice during the early years of his family business.
"Packing with posters happened in the '20s, '30s, maybe in the '40s, but stopped in the '50s," said Crompton
After that, flooring companies began using construction paper.
George Bryce believes others who live in heritage houses might want to do a little exploring to figure out if they are walking on top of a small fortune.
"We had heard if you can find a poster by an actor like Charlie Chaplin, you could probably refurbish your entire house with the proceeds," said Bryce.
Bryce didn't find any posters featuring Chaplin, or Boris Karloff or Rudolph Valentino, but an art dealer from New York agreed to buy the posters for enough money to pay for Bryce's new floors. He declined to disclose the actual amount he got.