Rare photographs depict the beginnings of Vancouver and British Columbia

One hundred old prints are part of a sale of rare photographs from early Vancouver and British Columbia

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

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Not many people know that there was also a great fire in New Westminster on September 11, 1898. But some rare and old platinum prints of the aftermath of the fire have been offered for sale in a new catalog from the Wayfarer’s Bookshop , Vancouver and British Columbia in early photographs.

The ghostly images were taken by Stephen Joseph Thomson and show smoky streets where buildings have been shelled. The people who watch the destruction look like shadows.

Both images are very powerful and are on sale for $ 750 for both. But that’s a lot less than what an original of HT Devine’s famous Vancouver Great Fire photo sells for. Alas, there is no Devine Great Fire print in the sale. But there are 30 pictures of Devine up for grabs, taken from an album purchased by Eric and Alisa Waschke from Wayfarer’s Bookstore.

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

Who knew?

The straw-roofed gazebo was known as the “summer house” at Prospect Point, which was sometimes referred to as Observation Point in the 1880s-90s.

Photo by HT Devine of the summer house at Prospect Point in Vancouver's Stanley Park, circa 1889-90.
Photo by HT Devine of the summer house at Prospect Point in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, circa 1889-90. PNG

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

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At some point before that, Harry Devine took a photo of the beaver before it left for a logging camp, loaded with provisions in the front and oxen in the back. Yes, oxen. It is on sale in the catalog for $ 1,250; the Prospect Point gazebo shot is $ 375.

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

There is a very rare Devine photo of Gastown, before the fire, for $ 1,750, several photos of gold mining in the Fraser Canyon, and some scenic photos taken along the Canadian Railroad line. Peaceful, including a magnificent footprint of an old steam engine crossing the scenic Salmon River Bridge ($ 850).

Photo of HT Devine of the SS Beaver in 1888. Notice the oxen in the back of the ship.
Photo of HT Devine of the SS Beaver in 1888. Notice the oxen in the back of the ship. Photo by HT Devine /PNG

The catalog includes 100 photos in all and can be obtained by sending an email to [email protected] It features photos from many of British Columbia’s leading photographers, including brothers Bailey, Trueman and Caple, Richard Maynard and Frederick Daly.

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Daly took a remarkable photo of a First Nations built salmon dam on the Cowichan River on Vancouver Island. (A salmon dam is a structure designed to divert and trap fish in water.) Another Daly photo of a salmon dam was in a BC photo album that was presented to Queen Victoria . This print is $ 1,500.

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

Trueman and Caple were only in business for four years between 1890 and 1994, but produced some fabulous images along the CP line and in the city, including a beautiful 1891 photo of two Westminster trams and the Vancouver Tramway Co., later known as the Interurban. The photo shows the Central Park streetcars in Burnaby and has already been sold to the Burnaby Museum.

Waschke sells rare books, ephemera, and photos from all over the world, and many photos from the auction have been discovered during his travels.

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“Some of the items I bought in California, a bunch of items were from British Columbia, some were bought in the UK,” he said. “They would be sold as tourist items, but people were also moving. (Maybe) someone who lived in Vancouver in the early 1900s bought them and then moved to Toronto.

Most of the items on sale are prints, but there are also “real photos” from early 1900s postcards, including an image of “Riveting the Last Spike” on the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway at Fort Fraser on the 7th. April 1914..

“(Well-known) photographers tended to shoot big, iconic scenes, whereas with real photo postcards you get a lot more variation,” he said.

[email protected]

A real postcard photo of 'Riveting the Last Spike' on the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway line at Fort Fraser on April 7, 1914.
A real postcard photo of ‘Riveting the Last Spike’ on the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway line at Fort Fraser on April 7, 1914. PNG

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