This category contains 14 posts

Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!

Blazing Saddles

Blazing Saddles

They might be riding llamas but if you were a bandito roaming the English countryside in the early 20th century you probably would have steered clear of these Federales. To be honest I can’t be sure if they are hunting gringos, canvassing on behalf of the Salvation Army or delivering the mail. What I can say is that when I spotted this battered old photo in the bottom of a bin I couldn’t resist adding it to my collection. I found the 4.25″ x 2.75″ photo on a recent trip to the UK. If anyone has a theory on which service these smartly dressed young men might belong to please post a comment.

Kapuskasing Internment Camp

Kapuskasing Internment Camp

Note: For an updated version of this story please check out 100 Years Ago Today: Canada enacts the War Measures Act on my First World War blog “Doing Our Bit”.

While most Canadians are aware of the Japanese internment camps established during the Second World War far fewer know of the 24 camps or stations that held 8,579 individuals, the majority of whom were civilians, during the First World War.

Although these “enemy aliens” were classified as having Austro-Hungarian origins many of them were recent Ukrainian immigrants. In addition to those who were incarcerated an estimated 80,000 were forced to report regularly to authorities.

A large number of these camps were located in Canada’s hinterland with a large concentration in Alberta and south-eastern British Columbia. However this series of six images, all mounted on card, are of the Kapuskasing internment camp in northern Ontario. Construction of the camp began on December 14, 1914 and it was the final camp to close when it shut its doors on February 24, 1920.

Clearing the land

The internees were not only forced to work but also to clear the land and construct the camp itself. The camp was built next to the National Transcontinental Railway and not far from an abandoned surveyors’ camp at MacPherson Station. By the end of 1915 over 1200 prisoners were interred at the camp and working to clear 1282 acres of timbered land set aside by the Federal Government as an experimental farm. In the spring of 1916 a serious riot erupted at the camp leaving one dead and eleven seriously injured.

A May 30, 1917 article in the Pembroke Standard recorded the arrival of 400 prisoners of war from Fort Henry:

“The four hundred alien enemies who were transferred from Fort Henry are now safely installed in the new quarters. Kapuskasing Camp is the largest of any of the Canadian detentions camps and is said to be like a band of steel, escape being the next thing to an impossibility. The camp is located on the National Transcontinental line, beyond McPherson, but the train service is for those carrying proper credentials only. As to anyone riding the bumpers that is also impossible and as to anyone walking away there is no place to go, as there are no settlements east, west, north or south for many miles, and a man would have little chance of getting to a far-away settlement. The camp has its schools, stores, home and its own churches, which fact shows the gigantic nature of it.”

For more information I recommend this article on the We Will Remember website and the book In Fear of the Barbed Wire Fence (14.4MB PDF from the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association website) by Lubomyr Luciuk (from which the newspaper quote above was taken).

National Transcontinental Railway

Kapuskasing River

MacPherson Station (?)

The barbed wire

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

Quarry Mount FC

Quarry Mount Football Club, 1914

Quarry Mount Football Club, 1914

A wonderful real photo postcard sent by a teacher to his Aunt & Uncle shortly after he began teaching at Quarry Bank School in Leeds. It reads:

“Dear Auntie & Uncle, 

I’m sending you this photo showing the football team at Quarry Mount School where I am now teaching. I have marked an X above me for fear you do not know me. 

With Best Wishes from B & Ma. I remain your loving nephew, 


The card is dated 13/3/14 and was sent from his home at 35 Grimthorpe Terrace in Headingley.

It’s a wonderful shot of the football club, many of the boys are sporting snake buckle belts.

I have placed my Historypin streetview opposite the windows from behind which I believe this photo was taken (the brick detailing is identical to that on the outside of the building).

A six-pack of vintage British buses

Vintage British Coach

A vintage British Coach

I love collecting photos of vintage vehicles, especially when I have the opportunity to research where and when the photos were taken.  I’ve uploaded half a dozen photos to a new Vintage British Buses set on Flickr. While I can date these bus and coach photos to the early 60’s I have no idea where in the British Isles they were taken.

These half dozen photos are postcard size (3.5″ x 5.5″) and are printed on a similar thickness of card stock.  The backs are blank although I have many more photos to add that contained detailed information on the vehicle, including date and sometimes location.  Stay tuned for those.

If you know anything about these vehicles please add a comment.

Saskatchewan in the 1930’s?

Somewhere in Saskatchewan in the 1930's?

Somewhere in Saskatchewan in the 1930's?

I picked up this little 2.5″ x 3.5″ snapshot last week as I was intrigued by the long row of cars and trucks neatly lined up on what might be a baseball field. When I did a high resolution scan of the licence plate on the nearest vehicle it appears to be a Saskatchewan plate from the 1930’s.

There’s an advertising sign on a building just above the trucks which looks to read “Stage Park Theatre“. Do you recognize this name or the buildings in the background? Could this be Saskatoon, Regina or Moose Jaw? If you know please add a comment below.

I’ve added a new Mystery Photograph category to my blog.  As I add new mystery photos they will appear on the category page linked to in the “Photograph” menu at the top of the page.

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.

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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July 2020

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