Family Photos: Photographic History (part 2)

Prof Loft as he liked to be called, taught  Canadian history at Uvic when I was in my undergraduate years. His passion for history was captivating.  I loved how he brought life to our past and to how our country grew. 

A fascinating aspect of our history is the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Completed in 1885 the CPR was built to fulfill a promise  of British Columbia’s entry into confederation in 1871. 

Pierre Burton’s book and subsequent movie, “The National Dream” captured the essence of the building of the CPR. The chapters I enjoyed the most covered the CPR’s involvement in the settlement of Western Canada.  

It’s rails ran through miles of uninhabited land, much of which was considered useless. But some saw the potential of farming the fertile land.  The CPR recognized that settlement of the land could significantly boost it financial position. 

Agents from the CPR were sent to England and Europe extolling the West’s grand beauty and vast land available for farming.  Advertising campaigns promoted the idea of a new and better life in Canada with land being available in some cases at no cost. 

My great grandfather A.A. Dale took advantage of this promotion. In 1895 he moved his family to a quarter section of land near the town of Qu’Appelle in Saskatchewan  just east of Regina. 

I’m not sure what his situation was in England at the time. Photographs taken of him and his family seem to point to a gentile life with at the very least a modest standard of living.

Photographs taken after his arrival in Canada paint a very different picture. These as well as stories told to me by my dad illustrate a very hard life, a life they were not accustomed to in England. Clearly, the advertising campaign did not project the complete picture. 

The photographs I’ve included with this article illustrate life on the Dale farm. My guess, given that my dad was a very young child in some of these pictures, is that they were taken around 1910. A Kodak Brownie No. 2 box camera was likely used to make these photographs.

Eastman Kodak introduced the Brownie camera in 1900. A basic cardboard box camera with a meniscus lens it produced 2 1/4 square images on 117 roll film. It cost $1 which is equivalent to about $30 today. In the first year 150,000 were shipped. 

In 1901 a new and improved model, the Brownie No. 2 was released. The ‘No. 2’ was the first camera to use 120 roll film on which 2 1/4 by 3 1/4 inch images were recorded. This camera could be purchased in a choice of three materials: cardboard $2, aluminum $2.75 and a color model which cost $2.50  It was affordable and became very popular. By 1921 over 2.5 million had been produced. Kodak stopped production of the Brownie No. 2 in 1935.

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