Fredericton Marks Its 150th Anniversary

by Wesley Waye, 1998

If you are considering travel plans for this summer you might choose to visit New Brunswick where a number of events are taking place this year.   Fredericton, in particular, is mounting exhibits to celebrate its 150th anniversary as an incorporated city.   A number of photo historical displays will be on view at the museums and malls.

A lot has happened along the Saint John River in 150 years and the proper tribute begins with a journey through the archives, museums and libraries of the city, and through trunks full of memories in search of the threads of community that connected the people to their surroundings.   In such a search every bit of heritage, lovingly preserved, owes much to the visual impact of photographs which have outlasted their subjects and their makers.

Although always a thriving capital city, Fredericton’s population remained small throughout its first 100 years of incorporation.   There was usually no more than two or three active photographic studios in business at any one time, as compared to the 23 professional photographers currently listed in Fredericton’s Yellow Pages.

The photographers who have graced this riverside settlement, however, have left us a visual lesson of "what life was like...".   A visit to the New Brunswick Provincial Archives, makes one aware of how well the story of Fredericton had been documented with photography.   The highlight is the George Thomas Taylor Collection, from Fredericton’s first established photographer.   His detailed work includes aerial panoramics from atop the church spires, action on the pioneer streets and the stillness of a land untamed.

George Thomas Taylor, born September 6, 1838, was recognized for his exceptional artistic ability at an early age.   He supplemented his schooling with diligent home studies, showing particular interest in the "science" of photography.   In 1860 at the age of 22, he had developed a thorough knowledge of the collodion (or wet) process and was building his own rudimentary cameras by hand.   His first studio began at the corner of Queen and Carleton Streets, where the Royal Bank now stands, launching a career and passion that would last roughly half a century.

During the 1860’s, Taylor performed most of his work as portraiture, being commissioned by the Governor and the officers of the Imperial Regiments stationed in Fredericton – most of whom were fascinated with his skill in the "new science" of photography.   In fact, when the forces were withdrawn to Halifax, the "Colonel", as he was fondly nicknamed, was urged to join them.

After 1869, Taylor, chose to remain in Fredericton, focusing on landscape photography and was frequently employed by the government and local companies to capture images of New Brunswick, particularly of areas yet to be completely explored.   For example, before the tracks were laid west of Fredericton, he was commissioned by the New Brunswick Railway Company to photograph various sites along the route to Edmunston.

One of his sons, Ted Taylor, used to say, " dad was certainly motivated with the belief he was photographing scenes no white man had ever seen before".   And although the Saint John River area had been home to several temporary settlements before his time, his belief was correct.   Taylor’s pictorial displays of seemingly "untouched" New Brunswick are a breathtaking compliment to his coverage of "activity" in the capital city.

When the Kodak was invented, with roll film and hand held cameras, amateur photography became more prevalent.   As more people undertook their own photos, the demand for Taylor’s work declined.   He eased out of landscape photography, turning his attention to oil and watercolour painting, at which he excelled, though his painting received very little recognition in comparison to the relative fame of his photography.

Taylor died April 5, 1913 having resided the major portion of his life in Fredericton at 232 Northumberland Street from the age of nine.   The house still stands as a heritage site in the city’s historic downtown and bears a plaque in his memory.   He left behind a legacy of 1200 B&W photographs dating 1860 to 1910, available for viewing or reprinting at the New Brunswick Provincial Archives.

The Taylor Collection, impressive even by today’s technologically-advanced standards, provides a remarkable visual representation of 19th century pioneer days in New Brunswick.   Thanks to his creative ingenuity, professional attention to detail and his exceptionally perceptive eye for capturing the "feel" of his times, Frederictonians can experience an intimate journey through the early days of their city’s history.

For more information on the George Thomas Taylor Collection, contact the New Brunswick Provincial Archives at telephone: (506) 453-2122.Of the other 19th Century Fredericton photographers, noteworthy are W.H.   Wilson, William Vincent Segee, G.A.   Burkhart, W.A.   Walsh, a Mr.   Tuck and David Lawrence who worked with George T.   Taylor.

Probably the best known name in Fredericton for photography has been the Harvey Studio founded by John Harvey in 1883, following his two years of related studies in New York.   The studio has been in operation on Queen Street, in the city’s downtown, for 115 years and is still going strong today.

John Harvey ran the business until his death in 1901.   His widow, Martha, carried on for another 16 years, with techical assistants Walter Lister, and later Jack DeMille.   She installed a negative printing machine – a wonder of the day, and prospered until 1917.   At that time the business was sold to photographer Frank Pridham who chose to keep the reputable Harvey name for his sole proprietorship for the next 40 years.

Frank Pridham was not only an excellent portrait photographer but also an accomplished teacher of photography.   During his 60 years or more as an active photographer he instructed dozens of fledgling photographers, 80 – 100 sales and technical staff, as well a dozen negative retouchers and hand tinting specialists.   Among the photographers to be trained by Pridham were his own son, Harry Pridham, and three Atkinsons: Hubert, Bruce and Ted.

Pridham eventually incorporated the business as Harvey Studio Ltd.   Not long after, it was taken over by the Atkinson brothers, along with Ted’s wife Marjorie – the daughter of Frank Pridham.   In following this tradition of a "family business", the studio is currently run by Andy Atkinson – son of Marjorie and Ted.

The Atkinson’s did well as each was capable of all aspect of the business.   They divided the labour as Ted Atkinson recalls, "Hubert worked mainly as a portrait photographer plus copy and restoration work.   Bruce was a portrait, commercial and aerial photographer, in addition to operating their first colour laboratory.   I was President and business manager, and did portrait and commercial photography.   Marjorie was the studio’s office manager.   She also did hand tinting for many years before the advent of colour photography."

The 20th Century has seen many talented photographers at work in Fredericton.   Two in particular were Joe Stone Sr and Joe Stone Jr.   This father and son team ran a successful portrait and commercial studio with a related camera shop for over 25 years throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s.   Both Joe Stone Sr.   and Ted Atkinson became President of the Professional Photographers of Canada Inc., the only two New Brunswick photographers to hold that office.

Currently on display in King’s Place Mall are many gems donated by the Harvey Studio from their own collection to the FREDERICTON 150 Photo Exhibit.   Photos from Fredericton’s past, collected from both public and private archives, will be exhibited in buildings throughout Fredericton’s Cultural Compound during the summer months of 1998.   Many have never before been seen by the public.   For more information pertaining to FREDERICTON’s 150th Anniversary Celebration, phone (506) 454-1848.

The web page version of this article contains the original text by Westly Waye.   The images have been selectively cropped and toned.   The society thanks Mr. Waye, the New Brunswick Provincial Archives, and the Harvey Studio Collection for granting permission to publish.   This article and images are protected by copyright and may not be reproduced or loaded to other web sites without written permission from the copyright holders.  


John Morrison Taylor on his bicycle

John Morrison Taylor, brother to G.T.   Taylor, was described as introverted and reclusive.   He built this first bicycle to be seen in Fredericton along with numerous pioneer firefighting inventions.   His expertise in building steam engines led to his appointment as Chief Engineer for Fredericton.  

NB Provincial Archives, G.T.   Taylor Collection, P5/731

Corpus Christi Day

The faithful of French Village, Kingsclear, N.B.   gather to celebrate Corpus Christi Day ca 1887.   NB Provincial Archives, G.T.   Taylor Collection, P5/170

The Taylor Family

A portrait of the Taylor family with a charming touch at the turn of the century.   A special occasion is indicated by bouquet held by standing young lady while young man has boutonniere.   Group poses before a painted backdrop attached to a shingled wall.   NB Provincial Archives, G.T.   Taylor Collection, P5/550

Harvey Studios

The same Queen Street, as above, in the 1940s shows a close up of the Harvey Studios with the details of the skylight still on the roof.   Courtesy of the Harvey Studios Collection.

Dominion Day Parade

Dominion Day, 1897 shows Queen Street celebrating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee with a bicycle parade.   NB Provincial Archives, G.T.   Taylor Collection, P5/221

Rafting on the Saint John River, circa 1880

Life is but a dream! Musicians stage a mock jam session while rafting on the calm of the Saint John River ca 1880s.   NB Provincial Archives, G.T.   Taylor Collection, P5/479

Ted Atkinson and Joe Stone Jr.

Ted Atkinson and  Joe Stone Sr.

Wagons in Phoenix Square, circa 1890

Phoenix Square ca 1890, shows the Saturday morning market supplying hay which was in great demand.   Nearly every household kept a cow while most of the prosperous families owned driving horses.   The small building fourth from the corner is the original Harvey Studios with the skylight panel on the roof.   NB Provincial Archives, G.T.   Taylor Collection, P5/291

These images appear in larger size and finer detail in the journal.   Click on any thumbnail for a larger version.

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