Sixteen | Oakville

These days, the postal service is a strange mix between nostalgia and a necessary evil. In a world where communication is almost instant and much faster than a regular postal service. A world where postal service wasn’t always offered in your community and when it could only arrive once a week. Even with the troubles we face with Canada Post, would to someone from the early years of Oakville seem like a luxury?

Sixteen | Oakville
Graflex Crown Graphic – Fuji Fujinon-W 1:5.6/125 – Arista EDU.Ultra 400 @ ASA-200 – Ilford Ilfotec HC (1+47) 7:30 @ 20C

The first postal service in Canada was established in 1763 as a branch of the Royal Mail service. Mail would run between Montreal and Quebec City twice per month in the summer and once in the winter. As British colonisation spread, new routes to the larger urban centres started in 1789, with new mail routes and more regular service between the growing communities. In Upper Canada, the primary route between Kingston and Niagara began fortnightly (every two weeks) service starting in 1811. As roads improved and the population grew, daily delivery in urban centres and a total of nineteen postal offices in Upper Canada by 1821. Around this time, the first post office opened in Trafalgar Township at Post’s Corner (later Postville), thanks to its position on Dundas Road at 7th Sideroad (Trafalgar Road). Residences of the various settlements would travel to Post’s Corners to send letters, pay taxes, vote, and pick up their mail, usually at a once-per-week interval. When the Colonial Parliament made Oakville a port-of-entry in 1834, the main post office for Trafalgar Township moved to Oakville in 1835, solidifying the community’s name. From here, the mail was transferred to the township’s smaller post offices. A small white frame building was erected at the intersection of Navy and Colborne (Lakeshore) that same year, and William Chisholm was appointed as Post Master. His son Robert took on the deputy role. Mail would arrive five times per week due to the importance of the small community and its location on the Grand Route between Montreal and Niagara. William and later Robert handled the day-to-day operations as postmasters and reported to a Provincial Supervisor. In 1851, the postal operations in the Province of Canada were separated from the Royal Mail and placed under the control of the Provincial Parliament. The old post office served until 1856, as the growth of Oakville required a larger building. And the frequency and volume of mail only increased when the railway arrived as a faster means of moving the post around the Province. The old post office took on several new roles through the rest of the 19th and into the 20th century, century as a blacksmith, storage building, plank road administration, and welding shop. In 1951, rather than see it demolished, the fledgling Oakville Historical Society moved the building to its current location along with the Thomas House to serve as the first home of the Oakville Museum. It served in that role until 1983 and today continues to teach about the early postal services in Oakville.

Creating the composition for this image proved easy. Although it is close to the Thomas House, no genuine issues are finding a good sight line with the 125mm lens. The problem is exposure; I worked under the shade, so I did not have to deal with hard overhead lights. But white can be a difficult tone to meter for as it is easy to go grey. Metering for the section under the porch, I underexposed by a stop to preserve the highlights and keep some shadow detail. And while not perfect, the details are visible, and there is white where the highlights are. Suppose you want to learn more about how letter writing and postal services were in the 19th Century. In that case, the Townsends YouTube Channel has an excellent video on the early American postal service.

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