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Exploring South Etobicoke’s hidden stories through Postcards

Artefacts represent moments in history, they contain and conceal stories from the past. Let’s investigate these artefacts from the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre’s collection with a dual lens: what is revealed, and what is removed?

How to navigate the exhibition:


Click on framed postcards to enlarge them and to access detailed captions.

For postcards with written messages, Click the image to reveal a transcription of the message*

Some images will flip to reveal more information when you hover your cursor over them on a desktop, or tap with your finger on a tablet!

*All transcriptions are approximate

Before texting, Snapchat, and TikTok, postcards were the cheapest way to send an “instant” message. As photography and printing technologies developed, postcards were often accompanied by a photograph or illustration. Over time, this also gave rise to postcard collecting as a widespread, global hobby.

A red brick tower surrounded by rows of trees and a trimmed green lawn

From roughly 1890 to about 1915, the "Golden Age" of postcards flourished in North America. The rapidly developing postal service was remarkably efficient - in many areas delivering mail twice a day! Penny postcards could be sent domestically for a 1¢ stamp, or internationally for a 2¢ stamp.


"Deltiology" is the study or hobby of collecting postcards!

A school building encircled by trees and a gravel path

Use your mouse to hover and learn more!

Although they are no longer the quickest way to send a message, postcards continue to be collected and sent to and from destinations all over the world. Postcards remain a tangible way to establish a sense of place in a specific location and share that feeling with others.

When was the last time you sent or received a postcard?

Of the billions of postcards sent worldwide, several have found a home in the collection of the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre. Over the past five years, our postcard collection has grown to include 35 artefacts, most of which were acquired during the pandemic and are on display for the

first time.

A red brick tower surrounded by rows of trees and a trimmed green lawn

The imagery on our postcards includes landmarks and aesthetic scenery from the Lakeshore Grounds and the neighbourhoods of South Etobicoke. Some cards were never sent - perhaps purchased for a collector’s album - while others were mailed within the GTA with short, personal messages. One of the things that surprises us the most: the sender rarely engaged with the image on the front of their postcard in their written messages!


Postcard writers developed subtle codes to express themselves - an upside down stamp may mean “I love you” while a sideways stamp may mean “My heart is another’s!”

A blank, unstamped back of a postcard

The reverse side of the postcards contains a blank space for the message and address of the recipient. A box in the upper right corner indicates where the stamp would be placed. The sender would then stick the stamp on the back of the card - but stamp orientation had secret meanings if you knew how to “read” it!

Use your mouse to hover and learn more!

The front of a postcard typically features an attractive photograph or illustration of a landmark, aesthetic scene, or even an advertisement. Postcards were some of the first forms of travel advertisements, often used to document a place someone had a personal connection with, or to record a place that they had been.


A Postmark is a black ink imprint with the date the postcard was accepted into the postage system, placed overtop the stamp so it could not be reused.

A red brick tower surrounded by rows of trees and a trimmed green lawn

Use your mouse to hover and learn more!


In their earliest form, postcard messages were written on the front - sometimes accompanied by a small image - with the back reserved only for the address.

Postcard back

The back of the postcard is where the message is written. This area is often where the publisher would list their name, along with a short caption about the image. Once completed, the postcard entered the postal system with a stamp, and a postmark made by the post office to indicate where and when the postcard was accepted.

Use your mouse to hover and learn more!

By investigating each of these details on a postcard, we learn more about the image(s) featured on the card, where it was going, where it was sent from, and a glimpse into the daily life of sender and recipient.


Curated by:
Nadine Finlay
Sarah LeFresne

Virtual Exhibition Curated by:
Nadia Tagoe


Humber Lakeshore Campus is currently closed to visitors.

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416.675.6622 ext. 3801

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