Rare photographs show early Vancouver and BC

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Hundreds of old prints are part of a rare early Vancouver and BC photography sale

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Most Vancouverites have heard of the Great Fire of June 13, 1886 that reduced Vancouver to rubble.

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Not so many know that on September 11, 1898, there was a great fire in New Westminster as well. But a few rare, old platinum prints from the aftermath of the fire have appeared for sale in a new catalog from Wayfarer’s Bookshop. Vancouver & British Columbia in early photographs.

The ghostly images were taken by Stephen Joseph Thomson and show smoky streets in which buildings have been reduced to shells. The people who see the destruction look like shadows.

Both images are very powerful and sell for $ 750 for both of them. But that’s a lot less than what an original of HT Devine’s famous Vancouver Great Fire photo is being sold for. Unfortunately there is no print of Devine Great Fire on offer. But there are 30 Devine photos to be won, taken from an album that Eric and Alisa Waschke bought from Wayfarer’s Bookshop.

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Still, some of Devine’s lesser-known images are just as interesting. In 1889, for example, he took a picture of what appeared to be two couples and a child posing in an open-air pavilion with a thatched roof. It looks like something from the South Seas. But Devine etched another place on the negative: Prospect Point, Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC

Who knew

The thatched roof pavilion was known as the “summer house” at Prospect Point, sometimes referred to as the Observation Point in the 1880s-90s.

HT Devines photograph of the summer home at Prospect Point in Vancouver's Stanley Park, circa 1889-90.
HT Devines photograph of the summer home at Prospect Point in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, circa 1889-90. PNG

One of the reasons Vancouverites went to Prospect Point was to watch ships go through the First Narrows. In early Vancouver, the most famous local ship was the SS Beaver, a steamship that was wrecked on the rocks below Prospect Point on July 26, 1888.

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Sometime before, Harry Devine took a picture of the beaver before heading to a logging camp, loaded with provisions in the front and oxen in the back. Yes, ox. It’s available in the catalog for $ 1,250; The view of the pavilion at the lookout point is $ 375.

The most expensive Devine photo on auction is a print of his famous picture of Vancouver’s first council meeting in a tent after the Great Fire, which costs $ 2,500.

There’s a very rare Devine photo of Gastown, in front of the fire, for $ 1,750, several photos of gold mining in Fraser Canyon, and some landscape shots along the Canadian Pacific Railway line, including a wonderful cast of an old steam locomotive showing the scenic Landscape traverses Salmon River Bridge ($ 850).

HT Devines photo of the SS Beaver in 1888. Note the oxen at the stern of the ship.
HT Devines photo of the SS Beaver in 1888. Note the oxen at the stern of the ship. Photo by HT Devine /PNG

The catalog contains a total of 100 photos and can be requested by email at [email protected] It features photos by many prominent photographers from early BC, including the Bailey Brothers, Trueman and Caple, Richard Maynard, and Frederick Daly.

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Daly snapped a remarkable photo of a salmon weir built by First Nations on the Cowichan River on Vancouver Island. (A salmon weir is a structure designed to divert and catch fish in the water.) Another Daly photo of a salmon weir was in an album of BC photos given to Queen Victoria. This print costs $ 1,500.

Frederick Dally's 1866 photo of a First Nations salmon weir on the Cowichan River on Vancouver Island.
Frederick Dally’s 1866 photo of a First Nations salmon weir on the Cowichan River on Vancouver Island. Photo by Frederick Dally /PNG

Trueman and Caple were only four years in business between 1890 and ’94 but produced some fabulous images along the CPR Line and around town, including a lovely 1891 photo of two Westminster and Vancouver Tramway Co. trams that later became famous as overland. The photo shows the trams in Central Park in Burnaby that have already been sold to the Burnaby Museum.

Waschke trades in rare books, ephemera, and photos from around the world, and many of the photos for sale were discovered on his travels.

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“Some of the things I bought in California came from BC, some were bought in the UK,” he said. “They were being sold as tourist items, but people were moving too. (Maybe) someone who lived in Vancouver in the early 20th century bought them and then moved to Toronto. “

Most of the items on offer are prints, but there are also some “real-life” postcards from the early 1900s, including a picture of “Riveting the Last Spike” on the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway at Fort Fraser on April 7, 1914.

“(The well-known) photographers tend to shoot big, iconic scenes, while the real photo postcards give you a lot more variety,” he said.

[email protected]

A real photo postcard from
A real photo postcard from Riveting the Last Spike on the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway at Fort Fraser on April 7, 1914. PNG

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