A couple of years ago while browsing the Internet for history on the hotels that were owned and operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) I stumbled onto the Canadian Pacific Archives website. I did not find any information on the hotels but did discover some images of sketches depicting employees of the CPR that were produced on postcards. I was immediately attracted to them because the detail of the subjects depicted looked so real that they appeared to jump right off the card. I can think of no better way of introducing you to these cards than quoting the text that appears on the face of the cover card included in the series.
These postcards were issued in two sets of twenty-four cards each. A short explanation of the subject’s duties appears at the foot of each portrait. The cards were issued in standard size and the portrait of each employee was drawn top-to-bottom along the long edge. (See some images of representative cards appear at the end of this article.) All sketches appear to be signed by the artist and many are also dated, either ‘1940’ or ‘1941’. The publication date for this series was scheduled for October 20, 1941 but production delayed their introduction. They were eventually made available before Christmas 1941 in time for employees to purchase them as gifts. For the convenience of those who wished to see the whole series a number of the sets were mounted on large cards and displayed through the offices of the general superintendents of the CPR at places where railway men were most likely to see them. They were also made available through CPR restaurants and newsstands and through the General Publicity Agent. The set of cards was first sold at 50 cents for the complete series. Miss Kathleen Shackleton spent eight months, which included much traveling, to get all these representative types.
The contents of each set are as follows:
Set 1 –
Capt. Francis S. Middleton,
Set 2 –
John A. Maxwell, despatcher,
Kathleen Shackleton (1884-1961) was born in Dublin, Ireland and lived in London, England. She was the sister of the famous Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. She immigrated to Canada in 1912 where she settled in Montreal and produced and exhibited numerous paintings. She returned to England in 1916 and stayed until the late 1920’s before eventually returning to Canada. She became known for her skillfully drawn pastel portraits. Her sitters were people from all walks of life and her clients came mainly from Montreal and the surrounding area.
Between 1930 and 1938 Shackleton executed a series of cultural portraits which were used by the Canadian Pacific to promote folkdance, folksong, and handicraft festivals. Her portraits also appeared as illustrations in “Canadian Mosaic” – a book written by J.M. Gibbon, general publicity agent of the Canadian Pacific.
In 1937-38, on a commission from the Hudson Bay Company (HBC), she produced 55 pastel portraits of people indigenous to northern Canada that are now part of the HBC Archives. (Some of these images can be viewed on the HBC Archives website.)
In the early 1940s Shackleton created a series of portraits of Canadian Pacific employees. The portraits were exhibited in Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, and other Canadian cities.
Shackleton was an accomplished artist, exhibiting on several occasions with Art Association of Montreal and with the Royal Canadian Academy. She also wrote articles, lectured and gave talks on the radio. After a successful career in Canada, she returned to England, where she spent the remaining years of her interesting life.
It was very difficult to find anyone who knew of this postcard series. But I continued to look and eventually my hunting paid off. I have 38 of the 48 cards in the set and also lack the cover card. They are extremely difficult to find postally used because the employees, who presumably purchased the majority of sets, kept them as souvenirs. A few months ago I again browsed the CPR website, only to find that the images have been removed. On a recent correspondence I learned that the some (and quite possibly all) of the original sketches were given to the employee pictured upon their retirement from the company. The biographical information on Kathleen Shackleton came through correspondence with people found on the Internet. Without the Internet I probably wouldn’t have discovered these cards nor been able to share the facts about them with you. There are still a lot of unanswered questions I have. Who was contracted to print the cards? How many sets were sold? When did the CPR discontinue sales of the series? Maybe the answers lie out on the Internet or perhaps with a reader of this article.
Reprinted From "Card Talk"