Free, magnificent cards bearing drawings or photographs of Allied aircraft! Collect them all!

An advertisement for St. Lawrence Starch Company Limited, Port Credit, Ontario. Anon., “Advertisement – St. Lawrence Starch Company Limited.” Le Bulletin des agriculteurs, September 1941, 61.

Do you like gifts, my reading friend? And no, in this case, this is not a rhetorical question. This being said (typed?), I do not have the slightest intention of giving you anything. I simply wish to make use of an advertisement which appeared in the September 1941 issue of the Québec monthly magazine Le Bulletin des agriculteurs of Montréal, Québec, to pontificate on the question with which I have just introduced this September 2021 issue of our blog / bulletin / thingee.

You are obviously aware that, and this for a very long time, many firms around the world have been offering small gifts to people who bought / buy their products.

Yours truly would like to cover in this article one type of product that is particularly relevant to my old haunt, the fantabulastic Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, Ontario. If you do not mind, I shall limit myself to Canadian products, and…

You do mind, you say? I see. Please note, therefore, that at least 350 series of cards bearing aircraft have been produced around the world since the beginning of the 20th century. Yes, yes, 350. If I see no objection to pontificating on the Canadian series, I doubt your patience would be able to resist a pontificating text on 350 series of cards bearing aircraft.

You are welcome.

Let us therefore start reading our weekly text without any further ado.

A corn starch and corn syrup producer from Port Credit, in 2021 Mississauga, Ontario, St. Lawrence Starch Company Limited, the firm mentioned in the advertisement you saw at the beginning of this article, offered no less than 4 series of cards featuring black and white photographs of British and American military aircraft during the Second World War. Known as Warplanes, they consisted of 12, 58, 108, and 45 cards. The first series seemed to have been marketed at the very beginning of 1941.

Aviation enthusiasts could get these cards for free, for the price of a stamp to be exact, in exchange for labels of St. Lawrence Starch products, be it the Bee Hive Golden Corn Syrup or Durham Corn Starch.

Would you believe that mailing a letter to Canada during the Second World War cost 3 or 4 cents, war tax included (45 to 50 cents or 60 to 67 cents in 2021 currency)? In 2021, by way of comparison, mailing a letter in Canada cost between 97 cents and 1.06 $, taxes included. Dare I suggest that this is a pretty hefty price? In the United States, mailing a letter cost between 70 and 75 cents, in Canadian currency, taxes included. This being said (typed?), mailing a letter in the United Kingdom and France cost around $ 1.77 and $ 1.90, in Canadian currency, taxes included.

If I may quote the Premier of Québec Daniel Francis Johnson (June 1966-September 1968), a francophone despite his name, in translation, when I look at myself, I feel distressed; when I compare myself, I feel comforted, but I digress. And yes, the sentence sounds much better in French.

And no, yours truly does not understand why the advertisement shown above mentions 27 cards.

Hockey enthusiasts among you may recall that St. Lawrence Starch Company offered cards showing players of this very popular sport in Canada for almost 35 years, from approximately 1934 to 1967. In fact, it was the uncertainty surrounding the activities of the National Hockey League during the Second World War which led the firm to offer cards showing aircraft.

The great rival of St. Lawrence Starch, Canada Starch Company Limited of Edwardsburgh, Ontario, launched a series of 6 cards showing British military aircraft around March 1941, Britain’s Fighting Planes. Their magnificent colour illustrations were pasted on cardboards which carried minimal information in English only.

The production of 8 cards showing 8 British warships, also in 1941, transformed the series into Britain’s Fighting Planes and Warships of the British Navy. Twelve other cards devoted to American and British aircraft used by the Royal Air Force appeared in 1942. Three cards showing 2 warships and 1 armoured vehicle completed the series. These 29 cards, sent in exchange for 2 boxes of cornstarch per card, were / are among the most beautiful of their time.

A black and white photographic portrait of British Prime Minister Winston Leonard Spencer “Winnie” Churchill, a character mentioned many times, since May 2019, in our blog / bulletin / thingee, seemed to accompany / complement this series.

The presence of a single armoured vehicle in the Canada Starch series of cards is somewhat intriguing. Yours truly wonders if the firm wished to produce several cards showing this type of vehicle but ultimately decided for some reason X, or Z, to abandon this project.

And yes, the rivalry between St. Lawrence Starch and Canada Starch led the latter to launch its own series of cards showing players of the National Hockey League in 1935. Said series was abandoned in 1940, however, in favor of the cards devoted in part to military aviation.

Would you believe that said rivalry between these firms extends to the parallel production of samples, display materials, recipe books, etc., not to mention participation in radio broadcasts, cooking classes and exhibitions?

Yours truly would like to mention the series of cards presented as gifts from 1940 onwards in chewing gum packets produced by World Wide Gum Company Limited of Montréal, Québec, and Granby, Québec. And no, the chewing gum in question was not sugary without sugar. Generations of dentists have observed with sadness the effects of this type of product, and many more, on the teeth of generations of people young and old.

The Aviation and Aviation Premium series consisted of 10 and 10 cards bearing a monochrome (pinkish red or sepia) photograph of a British military aircraft (10 out of 10 in the first case and 8 out of 10 in the second case). Interestingly, each card apparently bore a slightly abbreviated French version of the original explanatory text, in English.

Another aeronautical series entitled Aviation, published subsequently, included no less than 210 cards showing civil aircraft and, even more, military aircraft used by nearly 10 allied and / or friendly countries, including Canada and the United States. Each card bore a slightly abbreviated French version of the explanatory text in the English language.

Given the somewhat precarious situation the United Kingdom found itself in around 1941, the management of World Wide Gum demanded that at least one machine gun be added to monochrome (pinkish red) photographs of civilian aircraft. Better yet, it subsequently requested that the photographs of (all?) aircraft on its cards be retouched to show their machine guns firing at an enemy target.

A military series called Action appeared around 1940. Each of the 60 cards offered by World Wide Gum had a somewhat simplistic colour drawing on which one could / can see an aircraft, ship or vehicle. Action actually included a good 30 cards showing a ship or vehicle. Again, each card in the series bore a slightly abbreviated French version of the explanatory text in the English language.

Action was largely derived from an eponymous series of 96 cards offered around 1938-39 by the American parent company of World Wide Gum. While 48 of the cards were virtually identical to the cards in the series produced by Goudey Gum Company, a firm best known for its cards showing baseball players, the other 12 were virtually identical to the cards in the 24-card series First Column Defender produced by Goudey Gum.

In 1941, Imperial Tobacco Company of Canada Limited of Montréal, a carcinogenic subsidiary of the equally carcinogenic British firm British American Tobacco Company Limited, launched the Aircraft “Spotter” series which included 134 cards varying in size and format. Each of them bore a drawing of an aircraft in flight as well as a front and top view of that same machine. Interestingly but understandably given the function of the series, namely the rapid identification of aircraft, Aircraft “Spotter” included allied (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom and United States) and enemy (Germany, Italy and Japan) aircraft. It should be noted that 2 other cards in the series bore information on the colours and markings worn by allied and enemy aircraft.

Between 1945 and 1947, Kellogg Canada Incorporated, the Canadian subsidiary of the American food giant Kellogg’s Limited located in London, Ontario, launched 8 series of cards offered simultaneously in one of its products, All Wheat breakfast cereals. The Aeroplanes series includes 45 cards, offered at a rate of 15 per year. Each card bore a drawing and an abbreviated French version of the original explanatory text, in English.

And before you ask me, my reading friend, yes, the other subjects in the Kellogg’s All-Wheat Miscellany collection were varied to say the least. They ranged from warships and strange animals to firearms, people of the world and sporting records.

Finally, there were the cards with somewhat simplistic drawings found in boxes of Cracker Jack, a candy made with popcorn coated with caramel and peanuts. Walter M. Lowney Company Limited of Montréal, the Canadian subsidiary of the American firm Walter M. Lowney Company, held the license to manufacture this treat, produced by Cracker Jack Company – another American firm. Interestingly, the 3 series of cards offered by the Québec firm were not available in the United States.

The first of these, the name of which escapes me at the moment, had 50 cards. It first appeared in boxes around the middle of 1941. The other two series were called United Nations Battle Planes and consisted of 98 and 147 cards. They appeared in boxes from 1942. As the name suggested, these series of cards showed allied aircraft, that is American, British and Soviet. None of the cards had French text.

As you can imagine, smart kid that you are, my reading friend, this type of gift did not see the light of day during the Second World War. Before the First World War, several firms around the world indeed offered collectors series of aviation cards in addition to the hundreds of series already available on a variety of subjects. Some of these series were available in Canada.

Just think of a series of 75 cards distributed around 1910 in products of British American Tobacco. Its Canadian subsidiary, the aforementioned Imperial Tobacco Company of Canada, launched 2 series of 50 cards in 1910 and 1911. These series all bore the same name, Aviation.

Several other series were apparently available in Canada before the First World War. Collectors of all ages could obtain them by purchasing products of American or British origin.

Other series of cards appeared during the interwar period. In Canada, British American Tobacco / Imperial Tobacco Company of Canada offered a series of 50 cards from 1926. Aeroplanes was for all intents and purposes a perfect copy of the series produced for a carcinogenic British firm, John Player & Sons Limited.

In 1929, a carcinogenic firm from Hamilton, Ontario, Tuckett Tobacco Company, offered its customers the first of 2 series with 52 cards in all. The drawing on each Aviation card was painted by the only illustrator yours truly was able to identify, British-born Frederick Kenwood Giles. The civilian and military aircraft represented on the cards came from several countries, especially the United States and United Kingdom. The brief text on each card was in English only.

Around 1930, a Brantford, Ontario confectionery / cookie factory, William Paterson Limited, launched Aviation, a series of 52 cards. Interestingly, about half of the artwork on these cards was identical to that of cards offered by Tuckett Tobacco. And yes, the other half of that artwork was also painted by Giles. The brief text on each card was also in English only.

Many more series were available in Canada during the interwar period. Collectors of all ages could obtain them by purchasing products of American or British origin.

It goes without saying that the various types of gifts mentioned in this article were collected by collectors of all ages in this year 2021. Yours truly is however not in a position to say whether these constitute a good investment. Caveat collector.

Lucundum tibi opto sabbati, mi amice legendi. Hebdomada altera te videre.

Profile picture for user rfortier
Rénald Fortier