PEI

To P.E.I. with love: New book of vintage postcards sends Islanders back in time

Many travellers take the time to send a postcard to those they love along a journey, some may even save the ones they get from time to time. Ed McKenna has taken that hobby to a whole new level.

'The fun part of collecting is showing it'

This postcard posted in 1956 shows a couple in the sand dunes on Cavendish Beach. (H H Marshall Ltd/Historic P.E.I.: Vintage Postcards of Prince Edward Island)

Many travellers take the time to send a postcard to those they love along a journey, some may even save the ones they get from time to time.

Ed McKenna has taken that hobby to a whole new level. The amateur historian has collected nearly 3,500 postcards of Prince Edward Island. 

Now he is sharing parts of his collection in a new book, Historic P.E.I.: Vintage Postcards of Prince Edward Island. The book travels from west to east showcasing the whole Island.

This is not the first time McKenna has brought his collection out to show. The idea for the book came from the popularity of his Facebook page, Historic P.E.I. 

"Any collector will tell you that the fun part of collecting is showing it," McKenna said. 

"I was on the boat on my way to Newfoundland and I posted something about the Abegweit. And at that time my phone would ping when somebody liked it. Well my phone just lit up and my wife thought there was something wrong with the phone it was pinging so bad. So I knew we had something."

Cards from around the world

McKenna has found P.E.I. postcards at flea markets, antique fairs and gift shows around the world, but he said mostly in the New England states. 

"I've got a Dutch one that is really odd. It shows the Fathers of Confederation like I've never seen them before sitting around a table," he said.

Pages of the book work across the province, from west to east. (CBC/Historic P.E.I.: Vintage Postcards of Prince Edward Island)

McKenna said he gets the postcards from a variety of sources. "Most of them I buy from either collectors or other collections and never from the family themselves," he said.

"Somehow they just get out of the family hands, you know, estate sales and things like that and get into the hands of collectors and there's actually a whole postcard industry going on out there online that people, all they do is buy and re-sell postcards."

How to chose?

Narrowing down the collection for the book was a big job, McKenna said, but his editor came up with some criteria.

"What we're looking for is an interesting location or person or something in a certain area that was a view. It also had to have a good message on the back and a lot of the messages are from Islanders to Islanders," he said. 

"So if you pick up the book and you go through it and you look at the postcards you might find something from someone that you know."

McKenna's collection has taken him on journeys that led to discovering the past of some of the characters in the postcards.

'Well I tracked them down. They eventually got married and were living in New Annan in 1910,' McKenna says of the couple's correspondence shown through several postcards in the book. (Bamford and Co. Ltd./Historic P.E.I.: Vintage Postcards of Prince Edward Island)

"The lady and the guy kissing and that's part of a series that I ended up getting and I didn't know I was getting it and that turned out to be a fellow by the name of Harry Moase and his lady was Mary Burrows," he said.

"Well I tracked them down. They eventually got married and were living in New Annan in 1910. I found them in the census living with their children. So they were kind of carrying on a romance by postcard."

A different time

One of the most enjoyable things for McKenna overall is learning more about P.E.I. history through the words shared on the backs of the postcards. 

Ed McKenna has collected close to 3,500 postcards from around the world. (CBC/Historic PEI )

"They don't speak the way we speak now, they're still using the English language, but they have different expressions and different sayings for things and they use different words," he said. 

"The problems they had were completely different problems than what we had, but some of the interesting ones were that when the automobile was coming on Prince Edward Island it was a big deal to get a drive in an automobile. And then if you could actually get to drive it, it was even a bigger deal."

The book launched Thursday night and is available in stores now.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Mainstreet P.E.I.

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