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Glass Slides of Victoria in 1903

Inner Harbour 1903

Steaming into Victoria in 1903

I’m fascinated by early views of Victoria, especially those from the 19th and early 20th centuries. These three glass slides, each measuring 3.25″ x 3.25″, offer three unique perspectives of the city. Although they’re not dated I’ve determined they were taken in 1903 or 1904.

I recently pinned one of these slides, a wonderful view of Government Street looking north, on Historypin and included details on how I dated it.

The slide shown in the upper left corner is a rare view of Victoria from the bow of a ship entering the Inner Harbour.  The Customs House Building (1876) and the newly built General Post Office (1898) are both prominent buildings along Wharf Street. The Weiler Building, completed in 1899, can also be seen on Government Street.

Rooftops looking northwest

Victoria, looking northwest from roof of Driard Hotel

The third slide, shown on the right, offers a unique panorama of the city.  I believe it may have been taken from the roof of the Driard Hotel looking north-west with Broad Street immediately below. The building in the foreground is the Williams Building, named after bookbinder R.T. Williams. In 1906 David Spencer purchased this building in order to expand his “Dry Goods Emporium”, then based in the Spencer’s Arcade building on Government Street.  In October 1910, seven years after this photo was taken, a huge fire destroyed an entire city block including the Williams Building.  The domed building in the right foreground, situated on Broad Street to the north of Trounce Alley, escaped the fire and exists to this day.

Train Orders – April 6, 1910

First Ticket & Train Orders

G. Whitehouse Train Orders

On April 6, 1910 a train engineer named G. Whitehouse began his life as an engine driver in Regina, Saskatchewan. 102 years later, while rummaging through a box of bits and bobs, I found a small envelope with the words “First Train Ticket & Train Orders I got April 6th, 1910. G. Whitehouse” written upon it. Tucked inside were four pieces of paper saved from his first day on the job. Now if this isn’t ephemera I don’t know what is.

Hastily scrawled on these scraps of paper are the instructions for G. Whitehouse and his Fireman, H. Norris. Three pieces were issued by the Canadian Pacific Railway (view the third CPR orders) while the fourth set of orders were from the Canadian Northern Railway. The paper used for three of the orders is as thin as tissue paper and it’s a wonder it has survived all these years.

While I haven’t deciphered all of the writing I enjoy them for what they are: a momento from a railwayman’s first day on the job more than a century ago. I know nothing about G. Whitehouse but I suspect he must have loved his life on the rails.

Homesteading circa 1900

Homestead 1

A family poses in front of their homestead

I picked up a pair of very intriguing b&w real photo postcards today.  Both show a small family posing for the camera, one in front of what appears to be a turn of the century homestead and the other around a small stream.  Although there are no clues as to the location my instincts tell me it could be somewhere in the BC interior, or possibly in the foothills of Alberta.

The odd thing (to me at least) is that the reverse of the postcard features a stamp box with the words “Half-Penny Stamp for Inland, One Penny Foreign” which would imply that the postcard is British.  The statement “The address only to be written on this side” dates the card to before 1902.  Could the photos have been taken in Canada and then developed and printed as postcards when the photographer returned to the UK?

Homestead 3

There's snow in them thar hills!

There is a chance the cards could be Australian but the presence of snow in the hills on the second postcard would seem to indicate the photo was taken in Canada (not to mention the fact that the card was found in BC).  If anyone has a theory on these postcards I would certainly appreciate it if you could leave a comment.

Bustling Boar Lane, Leeds

Boar Lane in Leeds

A nice real photo postcard

Today’s blog post features a real photo postcard of Boar Lane in Leeds. Although the card was posted on Aug 19, 1948 I suspect the photo was taken before the Second World War.

The postcard was written by a young rail/bus/tram enthusiast to his parents in Manchester. He was a man on a mission:

“On express to Grimsby. Got Auntie up early. Thoroughly enjoyed Whitby yesterday. We are late into Grimsby. Just about to board G.8.1 Tram. Visiting depot. Have wasted exposures.

In Cleethorpes bus. Have finished with Trams. Just passing Docks Station. The fare from Grimsby to Immingham is 1/11. Not like most tramways but they have to have railway fares. Will get into Leeds at 10.20 by special train.”

A Soldier of the Great War

An Unknown Soldier

A weary looking Sergeant of the Great War

One of the unfortunate consequences of searching for vintage photographs is the discovery of hundreds, if not thousands, of images of someone’s forgotten relatives.

It’s particularly sad to see a soldier’s photograph, knowing that nearly a century ago they held pride of place in homes across the country. If I’m fortunate enough to find a name or number I do my best to keep their memory alive by publishing their story online. Unfortunately sometimes there is no information to follow up.

I can’t afford to buy all of the photographs of unknown soldiers but I do rescue as many as I can.  I’ve created a photo set on Flickr as a tribute to, as tens of thousands of headstones so eloquently state, “A Soldier of the Great War, Known unto God“.

The postcard featured here is of a British [Edit: Private with a Horse Artillery Unit] with two wound stripes on his left forearm. This dates the postcard to 1916 or later. He looks tired and in need of that cigarette.

A Streetcar named Desire

Streetcar 235 on Douglas Street

Streetcar #235 on Douglas Street

This 6″ x 8″ photograph of Streetcar #235 is easily my favourite find in the past few weeks.  The detail in this image, captured by photographer Gus Maves, is truly wonderful.

In the photo this BC Electric Railway streetcar, plying route #6, pauses on Douglas Street to pick up passengers in front of the Hudson’s Bay Department Store. Car #235 was built in 1911 and remained in service until Victoria’s streetcar era ended in 1948.

The Hudson’s Bay Company, incorporated in 1670, is the oldest company in North America.  This particular HBC Department store remained in this location for well over 80 years and only recently moved a few blocks closer to the centre of town.  This fine old 1920’s building is now “The Hudson“, a high-end condo development.

I’ve also pinned this photo in Streetview on Historypin.

Intercolonial Railway

Intercolonial Railway

A Billhead for the Intercolonial Railway

This attractive billhead from the Intercolonial Railway is dated January 27, 1888 and contains a list of goods shipped to the McNair Brothers General Store in Eel Crossing, New Brunswick.

The McNair Brothers, James, William, Robert and David were 4 of 10 children born in New Brunswick to Scottish immigrants. In addition to the General Store the brothers also operated a lumber mill which burnt to the ground in 1889. By 1892 James and his brother Robert were on the west coast and had constructed a small shingle mill at Hastings. Ten years later they constructed a new shingle mill – the largest in the world – and went on to become significant figures in BC lumbering history.

The Intercolonial Railway ran from Montreal to Halifax and officially began operation in 1872 but it’s name implies its’ origins are much older, and indeed they were. Connecting the colonies of Upper and Lower Canada with those on the Atlantic Coast were top of mind after the War of 1812 and security concerns were raised again during the US Civil War. The name stuck despite the company beginning operations five years after Confederation and remained intact until the railway was taken over by the Canadian National Railway in 1918.

Snowy Weymouth

Cove Row in Weymouth

Snowy Cove Row in Weymouth

A light dusting of snow blankets Cove Row in the seaside town of Weymouth in Dorset.  I never tire of looking at images like this, in fact I wish I could step right into the photograph and take a spin around the cobbled streets and breathe in the fresh salt air.  A tour of the decks onboard ship wouldn’t go amiss either.

Although labeled like a postcard the back of this photograph is completely blank. This is one of three atmospheric photographs of Weymouth I have and although none are dated I assume from the clothing being worn that they are from the 1930’s or possibly early 1940’s.

The cold sleepy streets in this photograph are in stark contrast to the sunny summer scene captured in the Google Streetview on Historypin.  Nevertheless the buildings have changed very little and The New Rooms Inn still stands in the foreground, even if it is a cafe today.

19th Century Self-portraits

1890s Gent

A photographer's self-portrait?

1890s Lady

The Photographer's wife?











I recently picked up this wonderful pair of photographs at a local auction. I have absolutely no idea who these individuals are or where the photographs were taken but I was very impressed by their quality (click on the images to see them in detail).

They are similar to cabinet cards but are much larger, each measuring just under 8″ x 5″. They are mounted on heavy card with bevelled gold edges and rounded corners. The backs are white and have no writing or markings.

The gentlemen is holding a photographic plate with the word “Exposed” printed on it while the lady is holding a sprig of foliage. I’m guessing the gentlemen may be a photographer and the lady his wife? Perhaps the gentlemen took these photographs and chose to print them at this unusual size. It’s difficult to say where these photos were taken.  Most of the other images in this lot, the majority dating from the 1920’s and 30’s, were taken on Vancouver Island or in Winnipeg.

I’m thinking these could date from the mid-1890’s or possibly a few years earlier. Unfortunately there were no clues in the auction lot as to who these individuals might be but I’m content to enjoy the photos for what they are – beautiful examples of late 19th century photography.

If you have any information or comments on these photographs please leave a comment – I’d love to learn more about them.

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February 2012

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