of cameras and kings

Oliva and Elzira Dionne 1935
photo by Fred Davis

Toronto. Over a century ago, in 1872, “Lewis Carroll” (an amateur photographer, too)  wrote a poem called The Walrus and The Carpenter which includes these lines:

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–

And in the spring of 1934 Canada had its own royalty – the famous Dionne Quintuplets were born on a farm in Northern Ontario just outside the town of Callander. The five identical baby girls were born to a French-Canadian farming couple and were famous as the very first quints to survive to adulthood.

Bob Lansdale and George Dunbar had a number of email discussions about the photographer involved in the 1930s and whose camera is shown here. Bob wrote, “Fred Davis (photographer) had the exclusive rights to photograph the Quints and made regular trips to keep the demand satisfied.  This is his camera as compared to other shots of him.   But what camera did he take the picture with?  He worked with Strathy Smith and I can’t remember the name of the studio they worked under .. maybe Canada Pictures.  He did many assignments for the [Toronto] Star and so they called him their photographer in credit lines.” [Read the pdf version of this thesis written by Chanelle Fabbri at York University for information on the Fred Davis and Yvonne Leroux Quints fonds at the Archives of Ontario.]

My wife’s father as a youth worked for Roger’s Silver Plate at 570 King Street West in Toronto and one of his assignments was to stamp spoons featuring each of the Quints to be sold as souvenirs. She still has some as a memento of her dad.


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