Community

Christmas cards from Kootenay’s past

Part of an ongoing look at local items trading on eBay.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, local sternwheelers issued lithographed Christmas and New Year’s cards, usually with a picture of the boat, list of the crew, and sometimes a poem. Today they’re highly coveted by collectors.

A few have sold online in recent years, most recently one this month from the SS Kootenay, dating to 1897, that drew eight bids and went for $162.50 US.

The front bears the CPR’s checkered flag and says “Wishing you a merry Christmas and a prosperous new year” in brown lettering. The inside says “With the compliments of the captain and officer on SS Kootenay, Nakusp, BC, Xmas 1897.”

The opposite page lists the crew: Master W.E. Nesbitt, purser A.W. Shiels, chief engineer J.E. Jeffcott, pilot P. Wilson, first officer E.C. Bridgeman, second engineer J. Johnston, freight clerk Fred B. Wright, steward William Dyson, express messenger J.G. Millard, and bar manager J.S. Byron.

The seller was in Fort Gratiot, Mich.

A Victoria seller sold three such cards in September 2005. The first, also from the SS Kootenay, but dated 1904, sold for $141 US. An 1898 New Year’s card from the SS Nakusp went for $152.50 US, and a 1902 New Year’s card from the SS Moyie sold for $101 US.

Finally, a 1901 Christmas card from the SS Rossland, signed by first officer Walter H. Wright netted $103.50 US in 2009. It came in its original envelope, which showed it was addressed to an Alfred Trowbridge of Portland.

• Other old Christmas cards of note: one showed a view of Nelson from across the lake in 1900. It was sent to Maisie Spinks, whose husband William was a longtime lawyer and county court judge.

It sold in 2006 for $14.50 US.

Another undated Nelson card with an interesting bird’s eye view of the railway yard came out of an estate sale in Deer Lodge, Montana. It sold in 2005 for $10 US. The inside has a Christmas poem and is signed “Will and Lissie.”

• An ink blotter that sold in 2006 for $13 US bore a Christmas message from Nelson’s J.M. Ludwig, “Harness, saddlery, trunks, suitcases and travelling bags.”

Ludwig’s business was at 340 Baker Street, presently Booksmyth and Kootenay Exchange.

This story will appear in the West Kootenay Advertiser on December 20.

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