Semple & Luke Pioneer Postcards


There are three primary card designs that have been identified as being issued by Semple & Luke of Toronto, having the text “Semple & Luke, Originators, Toronto” on the card, or the text “Geo P Semple Des”, which is also found on a card design with the full Semple & Luke attribution.


One of the cards in this series has been hand dated Sept. 1896, although the first postally used copies I have seen are dated in 1898.
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Here is a copy of what Ed Richardson described as the “overlapping hearts” design, one of two designs he was aware of by the Toronto-based publisher Semple & Luke. Both card designs measure an unusual 3½” x 6” in size, which often resulted in them being cut down to fit into standard-sized albums. This particular card has been mailed to Germany via London from Toronto on June 3, 1899. Below, the back of this card, one of several rear designs found on this card.

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Greetings from Toronto Exhibition

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Lachine Rapids

Note that this card has been sent by the same person to Germany as the previous example, this time mailed June 30, 1899. I acquired both cards years apart.

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Grand Trunk New Single Arch Double Track Steel Bridge over the Niagara River

Below, the unused card front.

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For Liberty
Private Mailing Card
Postally used August 5, 1899

Similar to SEL-001 except for the US postal customization, where the “Private Post Card” text has been replaced by “Private Mailing Card” and “Authorized by Act of Congress of May 19th 1898”.

Below, the reverse of the card with the text “Greetings from Alexandria Bay”.

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Another variation in the card back, with the text “Greetings from Alexandria Bay”.

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SEL-003 is a card issued for the used of the Independent Order of Foresters, IOOF. The card has the text “Geo P Semple Des”, but lacks the Semple & Luke attribution.

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Niagara River Line
Postmarked Toronto, July 19, 1898
Receiver stamp Nantick, Mass. July 21, 1898

Ed Richardson wrote of the Semple & Luke series of Pre-Boer War patriotics in the December 1972 issue of BNA Topics. Richardson believed the series comes in 4 or 5 varieties distinguished by different scenes on the reverse, and possibly a different scene in the shield on the front. The card design shows attribution to Geo P Semple as the designer on the card front and Semple & Luke as the originators on the back.

Below, the reverse of the card with the text “This is sort of a new style of postal card, how do you like it”.

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Above, an unused copy of the card showing the card back.

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Semple & Luke [attributed]


In addition to the designs identified as being issued by Semple & Luke of Toronto, Mike Smith has attributed SEL-005 through SEL-007 to the


same publisher based on similarities in date, design and ink colours used on the cards. These cards are typically first used in 1897.
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Epworth League Convention
Toronto, July 1897

SEL-005 was issued for the occasion of the Epworth League Convention which was held in Toronto from July 15th through 18th, 1897.

From Wikipedia, “The Epworth League was an organization of the young people of the Methodist Episcopal church formed in 1889 at Cleveland, Ohio by the combination of five young people's organizations then existing. The purpose of the league was the promotion of intelligent and vital piety among the young people of the church. The League existed in both the Northern and Southern branches of the Methodist Episcopal denomination and also in the Methodist church of Canada.”

Note the similar design used for the Victorian-Era Exposition of August & September of the same year. Below, the reverse of the card.

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Below, the cover of the souvenir program from the convention. The program is filled with local history, adds from local businesses and information on the convention. It was published by Methodist Book and Publishing House, 33 Richmond Street West. Half tone images in the program were prepared by the GRIP Company, Designers and Engravers, 26 and 28 Adelaide Street West, Toronto.
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Victorian-Era Exposition
Toronto, 1897


Canada's great Victorian-Era Exposition was held in Toronto, from August 30th to September 11th, 1897. The fair, today known as the Canadian National Exposition (CNE) started in 1879 under the name of the Dominion Industrial Fair. At its outset, the fair grew from a 16 day event with attendance of 102,000 people to a 12 day event in 1897 that attracted 320,000 people. During the course of its history, it had a variety of themes, such as in 1895, “The New Woman”, and in 1897 “Victorian-Era Exposition”. From 1888 to 1902 it was known as “Canada's Great Industrial Fair & Exposition”, with the exception of the theme years mentioned. Below, the reverse of the card.

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Victorian-Era Exposition
Toronto, 1897


Above, a copy mailed from Montreal to Salsberg, Bavaria, Germany, on July 16, 1898 (a year after issuance) with 2¢ postage, short paid, and receiving postage due markings. Note the change in colouration of this card compared to the previous card.

Below, the front of the card.

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