126-year-old letter sent by Lord Stanley brings $1,540

A letter sent by Lord Stanley of Preston in 1890 was purchased last month at a Vancouver auction for $1,540.

Lot 26 of All Nations Stamp and Coin Auction No. 1080 blew passed its pre-sale estimate of $500 on Oct. 15, when a bid from the floor—one of 14 bids entered from across North America—was made by a local collector.

Brian Grant Duff, auctioneer and owner of All Nations, said his assistant Neil Worley discovered the double-weight rate long letter while hunting through an estate.

“He pulled out the letter and said, ‘Hey Brian, I think this might be from the governor general of Canada,’” Duff said.

Lord Stanley (named Frederick Stanley) was born in London, England, and became a Conservative MP in 1865 before serving as the sixth Governor General of Canada from 1888-93.

The letter is addressed to a Lady Drummond, of 44 Eaton Pl., in Belgravia, a district of West London. The name “C. Colville” was stamped on the front. It was written on repurposed Citadel Quebec stationery, which Duff said “helps verify authenticity.”

Capt. Charles Colville was Lord Stanley’s assistant and is also mentioned within the letter to Drummond, who seems to be seeking employment for someone named Cuthbert.

There was a “Lady Drummond” living in Montreal as the last decade of the 19th century rolled around, but Duff doesn’t believe this is the Lady Drummond with which Lord Stanley was corresponding. Born Grace Julia Parker in 1861, this Montreal-based Lady Drummond was married to George Alexander Drummond, a prosperous businessman and president of the Bank of Montreal. She was a respected philanthropist and a champion of women’s rights in Montreal society.

Duff believes the letter was sent to someone who had little knowledge of Canadian society.

“Still some mysteries to solve from this rich letter and handful of history,” he said. “Who was Lady Drummond, and whatever happened to Cuthbert?”


Stanley visited Vancouver’s 1,000-acre Stanley Park, for which he is the namesake, only once. And despite being out of the country when the Montreal Athletic Club was awarded the first Stanley Cup in 1893, Stanley is among Canada’s most highly acclaimed Governor Generals.

He’s also the namesake for the Stanley Cup—the prized trophy vied for by teams of the National Hockey League (NHL)—which he donated to the country in 1892, during his stint as Governor General. Originally meant to be a challenge trophy for Canada’s best amateur hockey clubs, the Stanley Cup became contested exclusively by professional teams in 1909; since 1926, only NHL teams have competed for its glory.


The cover and letter (reverse shown)

The letter (reverse shown) was written from Cascapédia River in Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula in July 1890.

Signed “Stanley of Preston,” the letter is exciting to Vancouver history buffs because of Stanley Park; however, the hockey connection was “the real draw,” said Duff, who added it’s a unique opportunity to introduce postal history and ephemera collecting to the hockey community, “and by extension, ordinary Canadians, who know the name Stanley from the Cup and Park.”

Duff said the letter was written from Cascapédia River in Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula in July 1890. For context, this was after the dedicating of Stanley Park and before Stanley’s donating of the Stanley Cup.

“Similarly named Wikipedia reveals that Cascapédia River was fishing grounds of Governor Generals until Americans outbid them for use,” said Duff, who added the region is still used for fishing by the “rich and famous.”

Interestingly, the letter mentions fishing, and Stanley is known to have an affection for fishing and hockey.

“Apparently Stanley House, where the letter and cover likely originated, was built some distance from the mouth of the river to separate Lady Stanley from black flies.”


Duff said four corners of the cover’s front side are interesting.

“Top left via Rimouski; top right free franking of Captain Colville, Stanley’s righthand man, and eventual buyer of the Stanley Cup, silver rose bowl, on behalf of Stanley,” said Duff, who added there are a pair of five-cent Small Queens atop free franking, presumably to pay for the double-weight trans-Atlantic missive.

In the lower-left corner, Lord Stanley’s initial “S” is written. In the lower-right corner, “£50” is also written.


Cascapedia River

July 12 /90

My dear Lady Drummond,

                 I am afraid that I have been a very long time in answering your letter, but you must forgive me, for it is not easy at all times to write when in the woods.

                 I hardly know how to reply to your question about Cuthbert.

                 Before I came out here, I used to believe that there were lots of openings here for any boy who meant business. But I have seen since then, that it is of little or no use for a boy to come out on the chance of employment. If he has friends to go to, with which he can learn to work, or if he is the sort that will put their hand to anything which may be doing – almost if not quite what we should call labourer’s work at home- he may get on.

                 But even then he will have to work really hard at first, & to begin at the bottom at that. I don’t know of anything which I could conscientiously say would suit Cuthbert, after his naval education, & with what I believe to be his tastes.

                 If you wished him to come out, the best thing would be to make some arrangement for him to have some share in some business – (say milling, or ranching) when he has learned the working of it, till then he would have to be an ordinary “hand” like anyone else. If he got on, he might look to share, probably finding some capitol – or he might start in the same line at some new place.

                  But I am very wary in recommending this, if you have any other opening for him: I have heard of to many young men who came to grief in the process.

                 If your husband could meet Capt. Colville – who has just gone home for a few months – I am sure that he (Capt.) would explain verbally what I mean, & would give you every information you could desire –

                Constance did so much enjoy seeing you when she was in England, & still more, seeing you so well & happy –

                We are a small family party here at present – The fishing has been good at times, but not altogether satisfactory – the season being late, & now very hot –

                 Edward & Alice stay on all summer. Victor has just gone back after trying visit from his ship at Halifax.

                 We all like this country, and find the people easy to get on with and pleasant enough for the most part. But I shall feel like Rip Van Winkle when our time is up, & if we go back into a political world which at present I am very glad to lose sight of!

                 All the same, one is glad to hear news of friends, especially when that news is good, and both Constance & I  were heartily pleased at hearing of your sister’s engagement. You know we always liked her so much that we think it must be a lucky man indeed who can deserve so charming a wife. Please give her my best wishes, as well as Constance’s.

There is another thing about which we have been thinking for some time past, of writing to you and that is – would Edith like to come out & stay with us for the winter, and see something of Canadian life & its “amusements”. You know how delighted we should be to have her with us, & we would take great care of her.

                 If you & she say yes to this idea, (which we hope you may) we could write further about all arrangements.

                 Please give my regards to your husband (- the impertinence of my & doing being redeemed by our both having been in the Brigade) – and to Cicely, & the others.

Yours sincerely

Stanley of Preston

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