From a bygone era in which snail mail was still a thing.
A composite postcard, ca. 1913
This postcard dates back to the year 1913, just one year before WWI Captain Harry Colebourn befriended a little black bear named Winnie, short for Winnipeg. Sound familiar? Later, Colebourn began writing stories about the bear and his son, Christopher. Winnie the Pooh remains an iconic character in children’s literature.
A greeting card, ca. 1908
During the early 20th century, the suffragette movement was progressing at full speed and writer and political activist Nellie McClung was leading the pack. In 1916, just two years after meeting with then-premier Rodmond Roblin in 1914, McClung’s efforts paid off when Manitoba became the first province to grant women the right to vote.
Looking south along Main Street, ca. 1905
If you look closely, you’ll spot a sign for Confederation Life Association on the side of one of the buildings along Main Street. The association, which later came to be known as Confederation Life Insurance Company, was founded in 1871. Later, in 1994, the company was liquidated due to tough financial times.
Looking south along Main Street, date unknown
Canada experienced a huge population boom in the years between 1867 and 1914. Most of it was due to immigration, which was made easier with the development of railways and train systems. Britain still had a strong influence on the country, and most of the immigrants settling in urban centres during the early 20th century were from England or Scotland.
Greeting card, ca. 1910
Ever wonder why the beaver is such an iconic and easily recognizable Canadian symbol? Or why it’s featured on the nickel, the Hudson’s Bay coat of arms, or this postcard, for that matter? When explorers first came to Canada expecting spices and exotic ingredients, they quickly realized that it was in fact the beaver that would prove to be their most lucrative trading stock. Fur was in great demand during the time of Canadian exploration and Europeans were willing to pay big bucks (buck is another term that comes from our furry friends!) for things like hats and coats, which is one reason why beavers have become so deeply ingrained in the Canadian identity.
Manitoba Legislative Building, ca. 1914
The first Manitoba Legislative building was located at Main Street and McDermot Avenue until it burned down in 1884. The second building, pictured above, wasn’t around for long — it was erected in 1884 and demolished in 1920 to make room for Manitoba’s third legislative building, which still stands today at 450 Broadway.
City Hall, ca. 1906
The second City Hall building, (picture above) was also a transitory landmark for Winnipeg. The edifice lasted a bit longer than the second legislative building — from 1886 until the 1960s — and is still remembered as one of the most magnificent architectural landmarks of the city’s history. The Victorian-style building was covered in layers of stone and brick, creating an imposing, grand facade accentuated by turrets and a clock tower.
Greeting card featuring Main Street, ca. 1912
A note on the back of this postcard reads: “April 26th 1912, Dear Mrs Merrick:- Hope you are keeping well & not trying to do to much work I have quite recovered my illness & glad to be home again. I received a card from Mrs Hayce. I will be glad to hear from you at any time. Kind regards from Mr MacGavish & myself to you all. yours sincerely, Alice MacGavish.”
Odd Fellows Temple, ca. 1910
The IOOF refers to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a group that came together to pool their money in case one of them should fall ill, bankrupt or the like. The organization still exists today with nearly 10,000 lodges in 26 countries. The message on the back of this postcard reads: “This town is booming. It’s a live wire and holds a great future for the young man who comes here and invests his money wisely – [urather frisch] Best love, Lulu”
The Assiniboine River, ca. 1911
The Assiniboine River is 1,070 kilometres long and flows southeast through Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The river has been an integral part of many First Nations communities for centuries, and today several camping sites and recreational activities can be found along the waterfront in addition to the people who make their homes there. The text scrawled on the front of this postcard reads: “May you live long and your hair grow curley. Art.”
McIntyre Block, ca. 1905
McIntyre block was built in 1898 for well-known entrepreneur and military captain Alexander McIntyre. The sturdy, rectangular edifice held office space and retail establishments until its demolition in 1979. The front of this postcard reads: “I hope you are well on the way to an “Admiralty”, “The Army for ever”, Sydney 14/4/05″
Royal Alexandra Hotel, ca. 1910
Situated at the corner of Higgins and Main, the Royal Alexandra Hotel was named for Queen Alexandra of Denmark, the wife of King Edward VII. And it was fit for a queen indeed. During its heyday (it was only open from 1906 to 1967), the hotel was one of the finest hotels in the country and the place to be in Winnipeg. This postcard reads: “Winnipeg Man., Mar.29th 1910, Your card received & enjoyed. I am planning to go to Des.M. next month – Mr. Reed is much better. With love for all – Mrs. Reed.”
The beach on Lake Winnipeg, ca. 1910
Lake Winnipeg is listed as the 10th largest freshwater lake on earth, so it makes sense that a huge number of people would build communities on its shores. The edges of Lake Winnipeg are home to 23,000 people in 30 communities, not to mention the tourists that flock there during the summer months. Also, about 800 commercial fishers work in Lake Winnipeg, accounting for $25 million in annual revenue. The back of this postcard reads: “Many thanks for your pretty postal We are all wellspring you enjoy the same blessing. Write soon, Elizabeth”
Union Bank on Main Street, ca. 1909
The Union Bank Building was built in 1904, and is now considered to be the oldest surviving skyscraper in Western Canada. The building was constructed at Main Street and William Avenue in the Chicago Style with reinforced concrete and steel, which were the newest, most cutting-edge materials in structural engineering during the early 20th century. The message reads: “Jimmys address is S. Owens, S.S. take Manitoba, Montreal. or. 19 Lambeth Road, Liverbeth. England. Sorry for being so long in giving you it will write next week. We are very busy now-a-days. Have you seen Miss Wall yet. When do you expect your sister out is she coming on the La Me Me. Write soon G.W.Q.”
CPR Yards, ca. 1906
This postcard, showcasing the snow-covered CPR yards, reads: “Anything like this down your way, Can send you various scenes, Summer or Winter, either my own work or the ordinary and as I have been 14  N of the Arctic Circle for HBCo Have some very pretty ice scenes taken in summer my collecting of cards to date number 178 from practically everywhere. 2 1/2 years [work] would like very much to see Victoria falls 3000 miles from Queenstown are they” and the back reads “[J.S.] will be pleased to exchange a few cards with “Violet Edkius” many thanks for one received, as we are in the heart of our winter season with plenty skating, sleighing. I am sending you a card of my own work showing a C.P.R. Engine after a run of 130 miles from the west. “its run” with the train from coast to coast 4000 miles this picture I took on New Years day 1906 in the mammoth yards of the CPR in Wipeg [sic].”