Toronto

Toronto Public Library shares vintage St. Paddy's Day postcards

The Toronto Public Library is reminding people that popular emblems of St. Paddy's Day, from green beer to shamrock tattoos, have been around for some time by sharing some of its St. Patrick's Day postcard collection.

The postcards date back to the early 1900s

A girl is pictured chasing a pig through a four-leaf clover in this English card sent out in 1908. (Toronto Public Library )

St. Patrick's Day celebrations are well underway, and while the holiday is not quite what it once was in the early 1900s, it has become a global celebration of all things Irish, often involving green beer and fake shamrock tattoos.

This English St. Paddy's Day postcard dates back to 1908. It was produced by Raphael Tuck & Sons, who were art publishers to the King and Queen. (Toronto Public Library)

But the Toronto Public Library is reminding people that those emblems of St. Paddy's Day have been around for some time. 

The library is sharing some of its collection of St. Paddy's Day postcards from the early 1900s that were sent to loved ones overseas.

The postcards are rich with symbolism of Irish folklore.

The first dates back to 1908, showing a girl chasing a pig through a four-leaf clover. 

"You would need luck to catch a small pig — but the pig was also seemingly a good-luck symbol," the library website says. 

The card was sent from Toronto to a Miss Evelyn Rugg, who was living on Parliament Street at the time. 

On the back of the second postcard is the romantic message: "My Dear Miss Rugg, Yours to night, last night and tomorrow night and forever," mysteriously signed with only initials.

The message on this 1908 postcard reads, "My Dear Miss Rugg, Yours to night, last night and tomorrow night and forever." (Toronto Public Library)
The Toronto Public Library says this St. Paddy's Day parade postcard was printed in 1906. (Toronto Public Library)
The library says this card was part of a series that aimed to "address racist stereotypes of the Irish." (Toronto Public Library)
This "Céad míle fáilte" / "A Hundred Thousand Welcomes" greeting is postmarked 1914. (Toronto Public Library)

The library says the "Céad míle fáilte" / "A Hundred Thousand Welcomes" greeting dates back to 1914 and was sent from Toronto to a Mr. Fred Baird in Rome. 

It features an illustration of a biplane, which the library says was a relatively new technology at the time. 

Those interested in seeing more of the library's postcard collection can visit the digital archive, which also includes rare historical pictures, maps, manuscripts and digitized books. 

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