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Published September 20, 2023 Updated September 20, 2023

British Columbia Souvenir

British Columbia Souvenir Playing Cards by The Clarke and Stuart Company

1905 Canada Clarke and Stuart Company Souvenir Add to Collection

A deck of photographic souvenir cards printed in the early 1900s by The Clarke and Stuart Company Ltd. The company based in Vancouver was formed in 1894 by J Duff Stuart and Harold Curtis Clarke. The two had previously been working together in a stationery firm called Thompson Bros. Deciding to set up their own business, they bought premises at 11 Cordova Street, a former bookseller and turned it into Clarke and Stuart Books and Stationery.

They dealt in all manner of printable items including, office supplies, books, wrapping paper, bags, twine and fancy goods. They were known as the exclusive agent for Heintzman Pianos, Thomas Organs and Smith Premier Typewriters for the whole of mainland British Columbia!

By 1898, they had moved to 28 Cordova Street and as can be seen from the photograph, they were stockists of Tiger, Capitol and Bicycle Playing Cards! (click to zoom)

Above: Courtesy of CVA AM54-S4-: Str P118.

As well as being stockists of other brands, this deck represents their own attempt at publishing a deck. Aimed possibly towards the influx of immigrants from Europe, China, Japan and India into the regions, brought about by the completion of the railway in 1885, Clarke and Stuart produced this deck of cards, consisting of 52 green sepia shots of the region. Thanks to titles on each, we can have a reasonable stab at a date of production.

  • Eight of Diamonds – Exhibition Grounds – The Provincial Exhibition was held between 1890- 1929
  • Nine of Diamonds - Banff Hotel – Opened in 1888
  • Five of Clubs – CP RY Steamer Rossland, ArrowLake – started service 1898, retired 1916
  • Nine of Hearts – Government Buildings Victoria – Construction completed in 1897
  • Two of Clubs – Suspension Bridge, Frazer Canyon – Damaged in an 1894 flood, deemed too dangerous to cross in 1912 and closed same year.
  • Five of Hearts – The New Westminster Bridge – opened in 1904

Based on the cards a date somewhere between 1898 and 1912 would seem reasonable, however there is one more clue, providing a closer guess. The photographs were all taken by Stephen Joseph Thompson (1864-1929) According to Eve Lazarus, a devotee of the man and his work, he was working in New Westminster and Vancouver around 1896-1905. Therefore, I am settling on 1903, as all the buildings and bridges above would certainly feature as top shots, not being long since built.

  • The Joker – Oddly for an all-photo deck, is a fabulous untitled drawing of a mountain goat and details the publisher and photographer.
  • The backs - A wreath of autumnal maple leaves surround a two-tone view of the Rockies, with possibly Lake Louise in the foreground.
  • Ace of Diamonds – Stoney Creek Bridge, Selkirks – built in 1894

Above: the cards are of poker size, measuring 64mm by 88 mm, weighing 1.8grms. Each card is edged in gold, which is still quite apparent after 120 years. They were clearly a quality deck, which may well have been beyond the pockets of most customers.

There is a sturdy inner box, within an outer, both coloured red. The front of the outer is embossed writing, whilst the back features an additional card. See the box

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By Ian Taylor

Member since June 20, 2022

I've played card games from the age of three, collecting all things "cards" from 16 and finally started to specialise at 58! Thanks to these wonderful pages and a certain Mr Lodge, my main interest is in British decks, with examples of the English standard pattern in other countries. I am beginning to develop a liking for Belgium and German cards, too. It's nice to be able to spend time writing profiles for WOPC, on more modern yet beautiful decks. Looking forward to retiring in April, when I can spend more time on this wonderful interest.


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