Prince Edward Island (PEI, Île-du-Prince-Édouard in French) is located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, west of Cape Breton Island, north of the Nova Scotia peninsula, and east of New Brunswick. Its southern shore bounds the Northumberland Strait. It is a province of Canada consisting of the island of the same name, as well as 231 minor islands. Altogether, the entire province has a land area of 2,195.39 square miles (5,686.03 km²). Its capital is Charlottetown.. Prince Edward Island is one of the three Maritime Provinces and is the smallest province in both land area and population. It is the only subnational jurisdiction of North America outside the Caribbean to have no mainland territory, and the only such jurisdiction to have no land boundary.
The main island is 2,170 square miles (5,620 km²) in size, slightly larger than the U.S. state of Delaware. It is the 104th largest island in the world and Canada’s 23rd largest island. The island has two urban areas. The largest surrounds Charlottetown Harbour, situated centrally on the island’s southern shore, and consists of the capital city Charlottetown, and suburban towns Cornwall and Stratford and a developing urban fringe. A much smaller urban area surrounds Summerside Harbour, situated on the southern shore 25 miles (40 km) west of Charlottetown Harbour, and consists primarily of the city of Summerside. As with all natural harbors on the island, Charlottetown and Summerside harbors are created by rias.
The island’s landscape is pastoral. Rolling hills, woods, reddish white sand beaches, ocean coves and the famous red soil have given Prince Edward Island a reputation as a province of outstanding natural beauty. The provincial government has enacted laws to preserve the landscape through regulation, although there is a lack of consistent enforcement, and an absence of province-wide zoning and land-use planning. Under the Planning Act of the province, municipalities have the option to assume responsibility for land-use planning through the development and adoption of official plans and land use bylaws. Thirty-one municipalities have taken responsibility for planning. In areas where municipalities have not assumed responsibility for planning, the Province remains responsible for development control.
The island’s lush landscape has a strong bearing on its economy and culture. The author Lucy Maud Montgomery drew inspiration from the land during the late Victorian Era for the setting of her classic novel Anne of Green Gables (1908). Today, many of the same qualities that Montgomery and others found in the island are enjoyed by tourists who visit year-round. They enjoy a variety of leisure activities, including beaches, various golf courses, eco-tourism adventures, touring the countryside, and enjoying cultural events in local communities around the island.
The smaller, rural communities as well as the towns and villages throughout the province, retain a slower-paced, old-world flavor. Prince Edward Island has become popular as a tourist destination for relaxation. The economy of most rural communities on the island is based on small-scale agriculture. Industrial farming has increased as businesses buy and consolidate older farm properties.
The coastline has a combination of long beaches, dunes, red sandstone cliffs, salt water marshes, and numerous bays and harbors. The beaches, dunes and sandstone cliffs consist of sedimentary rock and other material with a high iron concentration, which oxidises upon exposure to the air. The geological properties of a white silica sand found at Basin Head are unique in the province; the sand grains cause a scrubbing noise as they rub against each other when walked on, and have been called the “singing sands”. Large dune fields on the north shore can be found on barrier islands at the entrances to various bays and harbors. The magnificent sand dunes at Greenwich are of particular significance. The shifting, parabolic dune system is home to a variety of birds and rare plants; it is also a site of significant archaeological interest.
Despite Prince Edward Island’s small size and reputation as a largely rural province, it is the most densely populated province in Canada. The island has several informal names: “Garden of the Gulf,” referring to the pastoral scenery and lush agricultural lands throughout the province; and “Birthplace of Confederation” or “Cradle of Confederation”, referring to the Charlottetown Conference in 1864, although Prince Edward Island did not join Confederation until 1873, when it became the seventh Canadian province. The backbone of the economy is farming; it produces 25% of Canada’s potatoes. Historically, PEI is one of Canada’s older settlements and demographically still reflects older immigration to the country, with Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and French surnames being dominant to this day.
According to the 2016 census, the province of Prince Edward Island has 142,907 residents. It is located about 120 miles (200 km) north of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and 370 miles (600 km) east of Quebec City. Prince Edward Island is named for Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767–1820), the fourth son of King George III and the father of Queen Victoria. Prince Edward has been called “Father of the Canadian Crown.” The following island landmarks are also named after the Duke of Kent:
- Prince Edward Battery, Victoria Park, Charlottetown
- Kent College (Established in 1804 by Lieutenant Governor Edmund Fanning and his Legislative Council, the college would eventually become the University of Prince Edward Island), Charlottetown
- Kent Street, Charlottetown
- West Kent Elementary School
- Kent Street, Georgetown
In French, the island is called today Île-du-Prince-Édouard, but its former French name, from the time of New France until it was rebaptized by the British in 1798, was Île Saint-Jean (St. John’s Island). The island is known in Scottish Gaelic as Eilean a’ Phrionnsa (“the Island of the Prince”, the local form of the longer Eilean a’ Phrionnsa Iomhair/Eideard) or Eilean Eòin for some Gaelic speakers in Nova Scotia though not on Prince Edward Island (“John’s Island” in reference to the island’s former name); in Míkmaq as Abegweit or Epekwitk roughly translated as “land cradled in the waves”.
Prince Edward Island was first inhabited by the Mi’kmaq people. They named the island Epekwitk (the pronunciation of which was changed to Abegweit by the Europeans), meaning “cradle on the waves.” They believed that the island was formed by the Great Spirit placing some dark red clay which was shaped as a crescent on the pink waters.
In 1534, Jacques Cartier was the first European to see the island. As part of the French colony of Acadia, and, after 1713, the French colony of Île Royale, the island was called Île Saint-Jean. The island began to be settled in 1720. The settlers lived primarily at Port-la-Joye and Havre Saint-Pierre (St. Peter’s Harbour). At Port-la-Joye there was an administrative unit and a garrison, detached from Louisbourg, where sat the government for both Île Royale and Île Saint-Jean. While new settlements were established along the Rivier-du-Nord-Est and at but Havre Saint-Pierre remained the largest population throughout the French occupation of the island.
After the Siege of Louisbourg (1745) during King George’s War, the New Englanders also captured Île Saint-Jean. An English detachment landed at Port-la-Joye. Under the command of Joseph de Pont Duvivier, the French had a garrison of 20 French troops at Port-la-Joye. The troops fled and New Englanders burned the capital to the ground. Duvivier and the twenty men retreated up the Northeast River (Hillsborough River), pursued by the New Englanders until the French troops received reinforcements from the Acadian militia and the Mi’kmaq. The French troops and their allies were able to drive the New Englanders to their boats, nine New Englanders killed, wounded, or made prisoner. The New Englanders took six Acadian hostages, who would be executed if the Acadians or Mi’kmaq rebelled against New England control. The New England troops left for Louisbourg. Duvivier and his 20 troops left for Quebec. After the fall of Louisbourg, the resident French population of Île Royal were deported to France. The Acadians of Île Saint-Jean lived under the threat of deportation for the remainder of the war.
The New Englanders had a force of two war ships and 200 soldiers stationed at Port-la-Joye. To regain Acadia, Ramezay was sent from Quebec to the region. Upon arriving at Chignecto, he sent Boishebert to Île Saint-Jean on a reconnaissance to assess the size of the New England force. After Boishebert returned, Ramezay sent Joseph-Michel Legardeur de Croisille et de Montesson along with over 500 men, 200 of whom were Mi’kmaq, to Port-la-Joie. In July 1746, the battle took place near the York River. Montesson and his troops killed forty New Englanders and captured the rest. Montesson was commended for having distinguished himself in his first independent command.
During Father Le Loutre’s War, at the beginning of the Acadian Exodus from mainland Nova Scotia, many Acadians migrated to the Island. The population increased dramatically from 735 to approximately three thousand. New settlements began at Pointe-Prime (Eldon), Bedec, and other places.
The British Conquest of Acadia occurred in 1710. Over the next forty-five years, the Acadians refused to sign an unconditional oath of allegiance to Britain. During this time period, Acadians participated in various militia operations against the British and maintained vital supply lines to the French Fortress of Louisbourg and Fort Beausejour. During the French and Indian War (the North American theatre of the Seven Years’ War), the British sought both to neutralize any military threat Acadians posed, and to interrupt the vital supply lines Acadians provided to Louisbourg, by deporting Acadians from the region.
Roughly one thousand Acadians lived on the island, many of whom had fled there from mainland Nova Scotia during the first wave of the British-ordered expulsion in 1755, reaching a population of 5,000. However, many more were forcibly deported during the second wave of the expulsion after the Siege of Louisbourg in 1758. In the Île Saint-Jean Campaign that year, General Jeffery Amherst ordered Colonel Andrew Rollo to capture the island. Many Acadians died in the expulsion en route to France; on December 13, 1758, the transport ship Duke William sank and 364 died. A day earlier, the Violet sank and 280 died; several days later, the Ruby sank with 213 on board.
Great Britain obtained the island from France under the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1763 which settled the Seven Years’ War. It formally became the Colony of St. John’s Island (also the Island of St. John’s) on June 28, 1769, after determined lobbying by the island’s proprietors. The high influx of Scottish Highlanders in the late 1700s resulted in the island having the highest provincial percentage of Scottish immigrants in Canada. This in turn led to a higher proportion of Scottish Gaelic speakers and thriving culture surviving on the island than in Scotland itself, as the settlers avoided English influence overseas.
The first British governor of St. John’s Island, Walter Patterson, was appointed in 1769. Assuming office in 1770, he had a controversial career during which land title disputes and factional conflict slowed the initial attempts to populate and develop the island under a feudal system. In an attempt to attract settlers from Ireland, in one of his first acts in 1770, Patterson led the island’s colonial assembly to rename the island “New Ireland”, but the British Government promptly vetoed this as exceeding the authority vested in the colonial government; only the Privy Council in London could change the name of a colony.
In the mid-1760s, a survey team divided the Island into 67 lots. On July 1, 1767, these properties were allocated to supporters of King George III by means of a lottery. Ownership of the land remained in the hands of landlords in England, angering Island settlers who were unable to gain title to land on which they worked and lived. Significant rent charges (to absentee landlords) created further anger. The land had been given to the absentee landlords with a number of conditions attached regarding upkeep and settlement terms; many of these conditions were not satisfied. Islanders spent decades trying to convince the Crown to confiscate the lots, however the descendants of the original owners were generally well connected to the British government and refused to give up the land.
During the American Revolutionary War, Charlottetown was raided in 1775 by a pair of American-employed privateers. Two armed schooners, Franklin and Hancock, from Beverly, Massachusetts, made prisoner of the attorney-general at Charlottetown, on advice given them by some Pictou residents after they had taken eight fishing vessels in the Gut of Canso.
From 1776 to 1783, the colony’s efforts to attract exiled Loyalist refugees from the rebellious American colonies met with some success. Walter Patterson’s brother, John Patterson, one of the original grantees of land on the island, was a temporarily exiled Loyalist and led efforts to persuade others to come. The 1787 dismissal of Governor Patterson and his recall to London in 1789 dampened his brother’s efforts, leading John to focus on his interests in the United States (one of John’s sons, Commodore Daniel Patterson, became a noted United States Navy hero, and John’s grandsons, Rear Admiral Thomas H. Patterson and Lt. Carlile Pioou). Edmund Fanning, also a Loyalist exiled by the Revolution, took over as the second governor, serving until 1804. His tenure was more successful than Patterson’s.
On November 29, 1798, during Fanning’s administration, Great Britain granted approval to change the colony’s name from St. John’s Island to Prince Edward Island to distinguish it from similar names in the Atlantic, such as the cities of Saint John, New Brunswick, and St. John’s in Newfoundland. The colony’s new name honored the fourth son of King George III, Prince Edward Augustus, the Duke of Kent (1767–1820), who subsequently led the British military forces on the continent as Commander-in-Chief, North America (1799–1800), with his headquarters in Halifax. Prince Edward later became the father of the future Queen Victoria.
During the nineteenth century the colony of Prince Edward Island began to attract “adventurous Victorian families looking for elegance on the sea. Prince Edward Island became a fashionable retreat in the nineteenth century for British nobility.”
The first Prince Edward Island stamps were issued on July 1, 1861. The stamps were typographed, perforated 9 and printed on unwatermarked, yellowish toned paper by Charles Whiting of London. There were three denominations: 2 pence dull rose, 3 pence blue and 6 pence in yellow green (Scott #1-3). There was also a deep rose shade of the 2 pence (Scott #1a). A very rare variety of the 2 pence denomination also exists rouletted, instead of perforated.
Between 1862 and 1868, the 1861 designs were reissued with smaller perforations (11, 11½-12 and compound), with three new denominations added (Scott #4-9). These new Prince Edward Island stamps were printed on white and yellowish papers. A rather common error on the 2 pence rose has TWC instead of TWO.
In September 1864, Prince Edward Island hosted the Charlottetown Conference, which was the first meeting in the process leading to the Quebec Resolutions and the creation of Canada on July 1, 1867. Prince Edward Island did not find the terms of union favorable and balked at joining in 1867, choosing to remain a colony of the United Kingdom. In the late 1860s, the colony examined various options, including the possibility of becoming a discrete dominion unto itself, as well as entertaining delegations from the United States, who were interested in Prince Edward Island joining the United States of America.
On June 1, 1870, a 4½ pence stamp was issued using the famed Chalon portrait of Queen Victoria, the only Prince Edward Island stamp to utilize this design (Scott #10). This brown stamp is engraved and perforated 12. It was printed by the British-American Bank Note Company in Ottawa and Montreal.
In 1871, the colony began construction of a railway and, frustrated by Great Britain’s Colonial Office, began negotiations with the United States.
A new set of six Queen Victoria stamps were issued on January 1, 1872, denominated in decimal currency and once again typographed by Charles Whiting of London (Scott #11-16). These new stamps were printed on white and yellowish papers and they were perforated 12 or 12½. They were only in use for one-and-a-half years.
In 1873, Canadian Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, anxious to thwart American expansionism and facing the distraction of the Pacific Scandal, negotiated for Prince Edward Island to join Canada. The Dominion Government of Canada assumed the colony’s extensive railway debts and agreed to finance a buy-out of the last of the colony’s absentee landlords to free the island of leasehold tenure and from any new immigrants entering the island (accomplished through the passage of the Land Purchase Act, 1875).
Prince Edward Island entered the Confederation of Canada on July 1, 1873.
As a result of having hosted the inaugural meeting of Confederation, the Charlottetown Conference, Prince Edward Island presents itself as the “Birthplace of Confederation” and this is commemorated through several buildings, a ferry vessel, and the Confederation Bridge (constructed 1993 to 1997). The most prominent building in the province honoring this event is the Confederation Centre of the Arts, presented as a gift to Prince Edward Islanders by the 10 provincial governments and the Federal Government upon the centenary of the Charlottetown Conference, where it stands in Charlottetown as a national monument to the “Fathers of Confederation”. The Centre is one of the 22 National Historic Sites of Canada located in Prince Edward Island.
Today, the provincial economy is dominated by the seasonal industries of agriculture, tourism, and the fishery. The province is limited in terms of heavy industry and manufacturing, though the McCain’s food conglomerate runs expansion operations from Prince Edward Island.
Agriculture remains the dominant industry in the provincial economy, as it has since colonial times. The Island has a total land area of 1.4 million acres (570,000 hectares) with approximately 594,000 acres (240,383 hectares) cleared for agricultural use. In 2006, the Census of Agriculture counted 1700 farms on the island.
During the twentieth century, potatoes replaced mixed farming as the leading cash crop, accounting for one-third of provincial farm income. The number of acres under potato production in 2010 was 88,000, while soy accounted for 55,000. There are approximately 330 potato growers on Prince Edward Island, with the grand majority of these being family farms, often with multiple generations working together. The province currently accounts for a third of Canada’s total potato production, producing approximately 1.3 billion kilograms (1,400,000 short tons) annually. Comparatively, the state of Idaho produces approximately 6.2 billion kilograms (6,800,000 short tons) annually, with a population approximately 9.5 times greater. The province is a major producer of seed potatoes, exporting to more than twenty countries around the world. An estimated total of 70% of the land is cultivated and 25% of all potatoes grown in Canada originate from Prince Edward Island. The processing of frozen fried potatoes, green vegetables, and berries is a leading business activity.
As a legacy of the island’s colonial history, the provincial government enforces extremely strict rules for non-resident land ownership, especially since the PEI Lands Protection Act of 1982. Residents and corporations are limited to maximum holdings of 400 and 1,200 hectares respectively. There are also restrictions on non-resident ownership of shorelines.
The island’s economy has grown significantly over the last decade in key areas of innovation. Aerospace, Bioscience, ICT and Renewable energy have been a focus for growth and diversification. Aerospace alone now accounts for over 25% of the province’s international exports and is the island’s fourth largest industry at $355 million in annual sales. The Bioscience industry over 1300 people and generates over $150 million in sales.
Many of the province’s coastal communities rely upon shellfish harvesting, particularly lobster fishing as well as oyster fishing and mussel farming.
The sale of carbonated beverages such as beer and soft drinks in non-refillable containers, such as aluminum cans or plastic bottles, was banned in 1976 as an environmental measure in response to public concerns over litter. Beer and soft drink companies opted to use refillable glass bottles for their products which were redeemable at stores and bottle depots.
Though often environmental and economic agendas may be at odds, the ‘ban the can’ legislation along with being environmentally driven, was also economically motivated as it protected jobs. Seaman’s Beverages, a bottling company and carbonated beverage manufacturer, was established in 1939 and a major employer in Charlottetown. Making it illegal to retail cans led to a bigger share of the carbonated beverage market for Seamans. Seamans Beverages was eventually acquired by Pepsi Bottling Group Inc in 2002 prior to the lifting of the legislation.
Scott #4 was released in 1862, a 1 penny yellow orange stamp printed on white or yellowish paper by Charles Whiting. A brown orange variety, perforated 11, also exists (Scott #11a). Both are valued at US $37.50 in my 2009 edition of the Scott catalogue. Why, then, am I illustrating this entry with a very poor forgery? Several reasons: first, it’s the only PEI “currently” in my collection (included as a “bonus” in a recent order from a dealer in Taiwan); secondly, I am fascinated by the “classic” forgers such as Jean de Sperati and the Spiro brothers. Also, supposedly forgeries are more valuable than the original stamps (albeit, the more skillful forgeries).
The reason for this is when Prince Edward Island became a Canadian province in 1873, it sold off all of its remaining stamps at a much discounted price. This meant that over 1.5 million really cheap stamps suddenly flooded the market. Since these stamps had next to no value, forgers had no reason to make copies. Yet, I believe there are forgeries of each of the sixteen Prince Edward Island stamps released between 1862 and 1872 as a quick glance at Stampforgeries of the World reveals. While I ponder the reasons, I think it may be time to check eBay and purchase some real stamps of this very interesting island.