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Photo of Spalding

Capturing History

Joseph Frederick Spalding: Photographer—Tourist—Visionary

The Postcard Collection: Spalding's Work Reaches the Masses


Spalding's postcard collection is absolutely substantial and this gallery expresses but a small sampling of his efforts. It was not uncommon for photographers to make additional money from their photographs by selling them to postcard companies who would in turn reprint the photos and sell them either individually, or as part of a series. Many of Spalding's postcards were reproduced in series such as the Banff-Windermere Series, the Okanagan Series and the like. As post mail was a common way for people to communicate their travel news, it is more than a little ironic that Spalding, a traveler himself, could lend his images to so many with a similar mindset. Spalding's postcards could be sent to love ones while on a lengthy automobile trip, or while discovering the beauty and joy of the glaciers and the Rockies. The postcards are simply another extension of Spaldings endless drive to promote tourism, first to Fernie, and then to any of the other spectacular or ordinary areas he visited.

The many different styles of postcards speak to the time in which they were produced. The black and white postcards, for the most part, are of his early work, and then the progression to the white-bordered postcards occurred in the period between 1916 and 1930. Following the production of the white-bordered cards was the production of the brightly colourized cards that became popular as high quality paper was available beginning in the 1930s. Throughout the postcard collection, it is not difficult to understand their purpose, which was to promote tourism or immigration. The scenes are cheery and bright and are often symbolized with evidence of prosperity such as fancy hotels or churches, and settlement to these areas appears as an easy, even pleasant endeavor.

Through the postcard collections, Spalding's work truly did reach the masses as the images had the potential of extending to other parts of the country and to other continents as well. The postcards seem to be Spalding's most abundant legacy, as they gave so many others the opportunity to experience life as he did, through the lens, on the open road, and in some of the most magnificent settings known to humankind.