The Alberni Valley Museum has a few Christmas cards, all based on images or artefacts in the museum’s collection. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

The Alberni Valley Museum has a few Christmas cards, all based on images or artefacts in the museum’s collection. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Christmas cards explore the history of the Alberni Valley

Alberni Valley Museum has put out seven Christmas cards over the years



The Alberni Valley Museum has created a number of Christmas Cards over the years, based on images or artefacts in the collection.

The sending of Christmas cards has been a traditional custom for many years. Henry Cole is credited with creating the first commercial Christmas card, in England, in 1843. Henry would later become the first director of the Victoria & Albert Museum (the V&A) in London.

In 1843, prior to his work at the V&A, Henry Cole printed 1,000 Christmas cards and sold them in his art shop. The introduction of the penny post three years earlier contributed to the establishment of the Christmas card sending tradition, but it took about a decade before the idea really took hold—in the English speaking world, anyway.

Canadian historian Marcel Trudel wrote about Christmas when he attended boarding school in Trois-Rivieres, in 1926. He wrote: ” …we had to write our parents a letter in English, expressing the season’s greetings. The English-speaking world’s custom of sending Christmas wishes was beginning to spread among French Canadians. Until then, we usually sent New Year’s greetings and nothing more.” [p.58, Sleds, Sleighs & Snow].

The Alberni Valley Museum created its first Christmas card in the 1990s, and since then has put out six other Christmas cards over the years. Advances in digital communication has led to a decline in letter mail, but despite the arrival of email and e-cards, Christmas cards continue to be sent during the holiday season.

The Museum’s first Christmas card shows a photo of the train station in the snow. The only heritage building in the city with protected heritage status, the train station is just a favourite building for many. This view from around 1915 looks at the back side of the train station, and then out over the inlet. Just beyond the train station at the left, you can also see Bird’s sawmill. Built about 1900, its official title was “The New Alberni Sawmill,” but locals knew it as Bird’s Mill.

The photo was given to the Museum by the niece of Mr. Woolet. Woolet had served on CPR vessels, and later managed the Cameron Lake Chalet and the Somass Hotel. And it looks like this photo may have been taken from the Somass Hotel, which was across the street from the train station.

Our blue Christmas card shows Tantramar in the snow in 1916. Tantramar was the name of the Prescott home located at River Road and Golden. W.R. Prescott, born in 1883, arrived in the Alberni Valley in 1908 to be the first manager of the Royal Bank in Alberni. If you happened to see our Dressing Alberni Exhibit, you may recall the frock coat that was on display. This beautifully made wool suit with a silk lining belonged to Mr. Prescott. Made by London tailors, Prescott probably brought it with him when he moved here from the maritimes.

Interestingly, we also have a Christmas card in the collection that was sent by Mr. and Mrs. Prescott. It’s a painting by Mary Collinge. Again, you may recall the Museum’s exhibit on Mary Collinge called “A Lady of Paisley.” Mary’s letters home to Scotland were published by her father in the local newspaper. These letters, coupled with Mary’s paintings, provide a lovely history of the town, especially as Mary was a resident in 1912 when the city of Port Alberni was incorporated. This Christmas card is an advertisement from when Mary sold her paintings and cards at her husband’s real estate office.

The yellow Christmas card shows the New Alberni public school. New Alberni was what they called the south side of town when that community was first established. It would change its name to Port Alberni in 1910. The first school on the south side of town started in 1903, at which time it was located in the basement of the Watson House at First and Argyle. Here we see the building later, in 1912, when the OK Barbershop was located on the upper floor. The New Alberni School got its own building on Third and Argyle in 1906, and this photo was probably taken in the first few years of its operation.

Unlike the previous cards, the image for the silver Christmas card isn’t snowy. Snowflakes were superimposed on top of an image of Cathedral Grove. Yet it’s the most popular card that we’ve had. This photo of the Grove, with a person walking along the road, is dated to 1924. The photographer is Francis R. Cope of Pennsylvania. The name was provided by Francis’ widow when a friend donated the image to the Museum. However, the seal in the corner says Photo by Trio, Victoria, BC. The Trio Photography Studio was in operation in Victoria from about 1908 to 1946. Putting these fragments of facts together, it’s perhaps possible that Francis provided some images to the Trio company, which in its early years specialised in scenic postcards.

The image on the burgundy Christmas card comes from a linoleum block in the Museum’s collection. A linoeleum block works much like wood cut, only it’s carved from linoleum instead of from wood. The Museum has several linoleum blocks created by George Cathcart, as well as the tools used to create the blocks and prints. Born in Scotland in 1879, George travelled widely in North America before he ended up in Alberni in October of 1912. For many years George was a bridge foreman for BC Public Works. His lino prints were created as an amusement, and for events such as birthdays and Christmas.

The hazelnuts Christmas card uses a colourised version of a glass plate negative in the museum’s collection. Glass plate negatives scan really well, and from our scan we added a more sepia-toned background, brought in some green for the leaves and then added rust browns to bring out the hazelnuts.

The card was created in concert with the Museum’s exhibit “Art of Still” that featured the landscape and still life photographs from an unknown photographer. The beautiful images in this collection were made not only into a Christmas card, but a series of note cards.

And lastly, we come to a reproduction of a Christmas card in the collection. This is one of 11 Christmas cards in the Museum’s collection that were sent to the SC Coggles family by George Roff. George started the cards each January, and worked on them all year long; there would have been different designs create in a year. George’s hands shook, but he was still able to paint.

The last Christmas card the Coggles received is from 1961, even though George died in November of that year.

Like many things, holiday celebrations are a little different this year, but it’s expected that more Christmas cards than usual will be sent. The traditional holiday greetings are a way of staying in touch that conforms to the social distancing precautions that have become the norm in 2020.

MuseumPort Alberni

Just Posted

Craft Brewing and Malting program student Ellie Hadley plans to use her newfound skills and knowledge to set up a distillery in Port Alberni. (PHOTO COURTESY LEE SIMMONS)
Something’s brewing with North Island College’s newest program

Port Alberni grad Ellie Hadley hopes to turn new skills into thriving business

New Vancouver Island University chancellor Judith Sayers was sworn in at a virtual ceremony June 17. (Submitted photo)
VIU’s new chancellor seeks innovation and equality in post-secondary education

Judith Sayers officially sworn in as Vancouver Island University chancellor

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van burst into flames just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Kids from a MOSS Sailing Camp sail just off Canal Waterfront Park in Alberni Inlet during a day camp in August 2014. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)
MOSS Sailing camps return to Alberni Valley

One-week camps designed for kids will take place at Sproat Lake

Robert Gunn of Alberni Climate Action loads garbage discovered in the Alberni Inlet around Cous Creek into his canoe during a recent ocean shoreline cleanup. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Alberni Climate Action group creates NIC scholarship

Students attending college full time may apply through NIC

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Wild rabbits are all over Chilliwack, but people often think they’re someone’s lost pet and try to ‘save’ them. But the owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room says good intentions can have bad consequences for wild animals. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room asks people to leave wild animals in the wild

Amber Quiring says people who think they’re helping are actually doing more harm than good

Photos displayed at a vigil for former Nanaimo outreach worker Amy Watts, whose body was found June 3 and whose death RCMP are investigating as a homicide. (News Bulletin photo)
‘We need to do better,’ says mother of woman killed in Nanaimo

Vigil held for former outreach worker Amy Watts, whose body was found downtown June 3

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

Premier of Manitoba Brian Pallister speaks at a news conference at the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Lipnowski
Provincial leaders want more federal money for health care, plan to meet in fall

Premiers ask Ottawa to increase its share of overall health spending to 35 per cent from 22 per cent

A section of the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies is seen west of Cochrane, Alta., Thursday, June 17, 2021. A joint federal-provincial review has denied an application for an open-pit coal mine in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, saying its impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights aren’t worth the economic benefits it would bring. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Panel says Grassy Mountain coal mine in Alberta Rockies not in public interest

Public hearings on the project in southern Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass region were held last fall

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read