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Victoria, BC

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1892 letter from Cordova Bay to Bella Coola

1892 letter from Dora to Peter (page 1)

1892 letter from Dora to Isa

This letter, dated July 8, 1892, was written by Dora B. Peter from her home in Cordova Bay to her older sister Eliza (Isa) Grant in Bella Coola.  In it she relates the sad news that their mother Marianne had passed away. She also reports on the Smallpox outbreak that had broken out in Victoria.  She writes:

“There are nearly 100 cases of small-pox in town, the Empress of Japan brought it over and 150 Chinese were landed before it was found out. Bill and his family and Jim and John have all been vaccinated and Etta and her squad and the rest are all going to be as soon as possible, it is spreading like wild-fire as night before last there were only 69. I only hope it will not get up your length as you will be in a poor way as you cannot be vaccinated. I have been in town every day this week and have got to go tomorrow yet but after that will not go in more than we possibly can.”

The epidemic, which arrived on board the CPR steamship Empress of Japan, forced the closure of the port of Victoria and was a serious blow to the local economy.  The complete letter is provided here: page 2, page 3, page 4.

This letter is one of several items I have that relate to the Peter family who emigrated from Scotland to the United States in 1880 and then moved to Victoria in 1890.  Eliza (Isa) A Peter married Saumarez L. Grant and lived in Bella Coola for 40 years before moving to Seattle where she lived to the ripe old age of 104.  In a previous post I featured an 1899 photo of members of the Peter family taking tea in Kirkland, Fife.

The first of the two photos shown below is of Dora Peter (holding the parasol) with her sister Bertha and would likely have been taken within a year or two of this letter being written. The second photo is of Eliza (Isa) Grant (nee Peter) with her second son Eddie, likely taken around 1900.  Two of Isa’s three sons died in the First World War.

Bertha & Dora Peter

Dora Peter on right

Isa and Eddie Grant

Isa Grant (nee Peter) and Eddie

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.

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.

1928 Triangle Tours brochure

Triangle Tours 1928

1928 Triangle Tours

Today I’m featuring a 1928 4-panel Triangle Tours brochure.  The Victoria tourism market was — and still is — highly competitive and so companies fought tooth and nail for business. All potential punters arrived by steamer and Triangle Tours took advantage of the famous Triangle route between Victoria, Vancouver and Seattle. Many visitors only had a brief layover and so all companies offered a city tour that guaranteed to have you back in time for your outgoing journey.

Similar to Veteran’s Tours, Triangle Tours offered several itineraries including a deluxe city, mountain and sea tour that included a drive over the Malahat, a ferry ride across Saanich Inlet and a visit to both Butchart Gardens and the Dominon Observatory.

By 1928 Triangle Tours was operated by C&C Taxi Service.  In the mid-1940’s C&C launched White Line Tours although I’m not clear if this was a new venture or a rebranding of Triangle Tours.  When the Victoria airport opened in the early 1940’s C&C won the bus contract and expanded their fleet.  C&C Taxi is still in business today as Bluebird Cabs.

For more scans of this brochure check out my 1928 Triangle Tours set on Flickr.

HP: 1409 Cook Street

1409 Cook Street

1409 Cook Street

My latest addition to Historypin is this nice real photo postcard of a home at 1409 Cook Street in Victoria, BC.

This home first appeared in the 1909 Vancouver Island Directory and I suspect this photo was taken sometime before the First World War. The first owner was George Lister, a plumber, who lived at the residence until 1915 when Ross Todd moved in. A Thomas Beattie and Charles Cummings subsequently occupied the house in 1918 and 1920, but by 1921 the Francis family moved in and made it their home for the next 10 years.

The 1930’s saw several other owners until a Mr. Gosse arrived in 1938. I’ve been unable to take my directory search past 1940 but I suspect the home was demolished in the 1950’s when a large medical building was constructed at the corner of Cook and Pandora.

The Kohinoor of Cities

The Kohinoor of Cities

Sunshiny Weather

In a previous post I eluded to the fact that Victoria has seen many tag lines over the years.  This little promotional card from about 1910 uses one of the more unusual descriptors: The Kohinoor of Cities. A Jewel Set in the Pacific.

The Kohinoor is a 105-carat diamond from India which became part of the British Crown Jewels when Queen Victoria became Empress of India in 1877.

The image shows Victoria’s busy Inner Harbour and both the Parliament Buildings and the recently completed Empress Hotel.  On the back is a list of attractions which include Sunshiny Weather, Cool Nights and both Automobiling and Driving.

Veterans’ Tours & Sightseeing

Veterans Sightseeing & Transportation Business Card

Angus E Chilton's business card

Many soldiers returning to Canada after the First World War had very little time to re-adjust to civilian life.  Some returned to family farms or former employers while others chose to start their own business.

The 1921 Victoria City Directory reveals that more than a few put their Veteran status to good use.  This included the Veteran Auto Painting Works, Veteran Electric Co., Veteran Plumbing Co., Veterans New and Second-hand Store, Veterans Painting Co., Veterans Products Co. Ltd. and the Veterans Sightseeing & Transportation Co. Ltd..

Veterans Sightseeing & Transportation opened for business at 740 Yates Street in 1921, under the management of C M Roberts. By 1922, a former motor driver and veteran, Angus Everet Chilton was managing the business and it is his card that I’m featuring here.

Veterans Tours

Veterans' Tours brochure

By 1923 they had moved their office one door down to 742 Yates Street and were under the management of H L Sangster, who would run the business for more than 20 years.

The brochure featured here dates from 1925 or 1926 and promotes the company’s many special excursions. In addition to a 2-hour city tour they offered The Famous Land and Water Trip that included a drive over the Malahat Mountain, a ride on the Mill Bay Ferry and a visit to both Butchart Gardens and the Dominion Observatory.

In 1928 a second company, Blue Line Tours was opened and managed by Sangster until 1946 when Blue Line Transit (as it was by then known) was acquired by BCER.

For more scans of both items check out my Veteran’s Sightseeing & Transportation set on Flickr.

B.C. School Magazine (1930)


BC School Magazine Vol. 1 No. 1

Vol. 1 No. 1 September 1930

I know very little about this pair of British Columbia School Magazines published in September and November of 1930 (Vol. 1 No. 1 & Vol. 1 No. 2).  They were published by the Department of Education and on the inside front cover is the statement: “Authorized by the Council of Public Instruction for use in the Schools of British Columbia“.

Each magazine measures 6″ x 9” and sports a very colourful and patriotic cover.  Issue No. 1 contains 20 pages and features a photo of the first Parliament Buildings, which were often referred to as the Bird Cages due to their shape.  Issue No. 2 is 16 pages long and the cover photo shows the present day Parliament Buildings which were opened in 1898.

BC School Magazine Vol. 1 No. 2

Vol. 1 No. 2 November 1930

Issue No. 1 contains 7 articles including The History of the Parliament Buildings, Trafalgar Day Oct. 21 1805, The King and The First Non-Stop Flight Across the Atlantic.  Issue No. 2 contains 6 articles including Armistice Day Nov. 11, A Story About the Prince of Wales and How British Columbia Received its Name (spoiler: Queen Victoria chose it!).

I have no idea how long this magazine was published for.  If you have any information please leave a comment!

Henry Mansell – Bootmaker

Billheads are illustrated receipts which were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some engravings on these old receipts are quite lavish and occasionally in colour.  This billhead, dated Aug. 31, 1891 features a wonderful drawing of a ladies boot.

The purchaser was Robert Lettice, a British-born builder and painter who emigrated to the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1860.  By 1891 he employed 20 men in a “paint, oils, glass and wall paper” business based at 40 Fort St.  He lived with his wife and six children at 58 Kane Street which was located on what is now the north side of Broughton Street between Blanshard and Quadra.  Robert had five daughters aged between 10 and 23 and so it isn’t surprising that he was in need of the ladies boots and shoes listed on this billhead.  Robert Lettice died on Aug. 18, 1917, aged 86, and is buried in Ross Bay Cemetery.

Henry Mansell was born in London but by 1860 he had established the first boot and shoe manufacturing business in what was to become the Province of British Columbia.  In 1863 his bootmaking shop was located at 87 Government Street but by the mid 1880’s he was at 95 Government Street, near the corner with Yates Street (note: Victoria’s street numbering system changed in the early 1900’s). This advertisement in an 1882 issue of the British Colonist does not include a street number at all.  Henry Mansell retired in 1902 and died on Nov. 13, 1910.  He’s buried in Ross Bay Cemetery, a stones throw away from Robert Lettice.

Billhead - Henry Mansell, Bootmaker

An 1891 Billhead from Henry Mansell, Bootmaker

No Mosquitoes, No Malaria

Picturesque Victoria

Picturesque Victoria, 1902

This little promotional booklet, entitled Picturesque Victoria, was published by the Tourist Association of Victoria in 1902.  It was the first of many similar publications used to promote Victoria, B.C. as a tourist destination and investment opportunity.  The Tourist Association of Victoria would undergo many name changes over the years, becoming the Victoria Development and Tourist Association in 1906 and the Vancouver Island Development League in 1908 (and the changes would continue for several decades).

Victoria has been branded with more tag lines than most cities in the past 110 years. This booklet chose a rather understated byline: “The Tourist Resort of the Pacific Northwest“.  “Queen City of the West“, “Gem of the Pacific Coast” and “Gateway to the Island of 1000 miles of Wonderland” had not yet been conceived by the P.R. adman. The hyperbole would have to wait because the very first booklet extolled some indisputable, albeit unusual, truths: No Mosquitoes, No Malaria and No Fogs!

The booklet, measuring 4.25″ x 6″, contains 20 pages and a nice selection of b&w images.  The virtues of our temperate maritime climate are discussed in detail but the bulk of the booklet is devoted to describing places of interest to the visitor, including the Parliament Buildings, the Government Museum, Esquimalt and the Naval Station, the Royal Navy, Macaulay Point, Beacon Hill Park, the “Far-famed” Gorge, and Oak Bay Park.  The booklet concludes with an endorsement by none other than the Prince and Princess of Wales (“If I could not live in England, I would live in Victoria”) and an overview of the many recreational activities including fishing and hunting.

For more scans of this booklet check out my 1902 Picturesque Victoria set on Flickr.

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