Mapping out the photographic network in 19th century Canada.

Shannon Perry by Robert Lansdale

Shannon Perry
by Robert Lansdale

Toronto November 20, 2013. Mapping out the photographic network in 19th century Canada by  Shannon Perry.

Ms Perry spoke with us on WWII colour photographs two years ago in November 2011. Since that time she has changed responsibilities in the government archives, and is working towards her doctorate. Her talk tonight discusses her thesis for her doctorate and her progress to date.

Shannon is one of 13 doctorate students at De Montfort University, Leicester, England. She and two others are under the direction of professor Elizabeth Edwards. Her thesis covers three elements: What our photographic landscape looked like before George Eastman and Kodak arrived; how our market place adapted to the creation of Canadian Kodak Company Ltd (CKC); and the means of Eastman’s success here.

Her primary resources are the Kodak Research Library in England; Ryerson and its CKC collection in Toronto; George Eastman House (GEH); and the Kodak Rochester records housed by the University of Rochester. Ms Perry is focussing on the business aspects vs. the chemical and hardware elements of early photography in Canada.

Her University hosted a major conference of great interest this past June. Its title “Workers and Consumers: The Photographic Industry 1860-1950” more than captures the period of interest to Ms Perry. The premise of the conference is now online and Shannon adds her own words in a post conference blog on the Photographic History site.

She discovered that while Ryerson had the CKC papers, it was entirely missing all the CKC business related papers – the details of business decisions. Fortunately, two events came to her rescue: George Eastman hired a methodical personal executive secretary just prior to formation of CKC, and in Shannon’s words, George Eastman seems to have been a “micro-manager”. Out-going correspondence was meticulously dated and filed in date order year by year.

John Palmer 1905 Canadian Kodak Co.

John Palmer 1905
Canadian Kodak Co.

While the records from people like John Palmer, first president of the CKC, have been lost, the reply by Eastman has not and always refers to the received letters by date. The book “Torontonians as We See ‘Em” by the “Canada Newspaper Cartoonists’ Association published a 1905 drawing of John Palmer.

From the Eastman correspondence, the Toronto branch seems to have been managed from Rochester. Shannon related how Eastman’s  letters over time suggested Rochester eased up on guidance as the Toronto managers gained experience.

Shannon went on to enlighten us on her progress to date researching the brief saga of the Canadian manufacture of dry plates, especially by a branch plant of Stanley before the parent company was bought out by Eastman. The plant may have been a response to heavy tariff duties imposed on users of imported glass photographic plates. A photographers’ Association at the time argued the heavy toll protected some 15 people who made plates in Canada while burdening 3,000 Canadian photographers in their daily business affairs.

Ms Perry noted that she has examined many archival collections to date including the Topley (photographer) fond at Library and Archives Canada; Ryerson’s Kodak Canada Corporate Archives; The British Kodak Research Library at De Montford; holdings at the University of Rochester and GEH.

She found the canadiana.org website was a valuable resource for old periodicals. The site has a very modest subscription fee of $10/month or $100 annually. To complete her doctorate will require further research at the University of Rochester and the Eastman letters, city directories, newspapers, chemist archives, government files, etc. Once her research is completed, she will write her thesis

Shannon promised the PHSC both a future talk and a journal article based on her research and thesis.The evening finished with a Q&A session and the traditional photo-opportunity by our resident photographer, Robert Lansdale.

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