|Among the varied items of a recent auction of civil war militaria in South Yarra, Australia, including a folding moustache comb and a Spenser repeating carbine, were 13 cartes de visite. At this point we know nothing about the seller and how these photographs ended up halfway around the world, just that these photos must have made an incredible journey. Although several of the cartes in the auction lot had obvious American associations, the 8 acquired by the Archives and featured here were clearly from Manitoba dating from the 1860s and 70s.
|Astonishingly among these eight cartes is an iconic image of Louis Riel and a number of his councillors who joined him as part of the Métis Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia. It is likely the earliest print of this well-known image, dating somewhere around 1869 and quite possibly taken by photographer Ryder Larsen. One account states that a photographer pulled Louis Riel and others who were in a saloon together for the original photograph. Most of the individuals however were part of the Assembly of Assiniboia.
The larger collection of cartes-de-visite were likely taken around the Red River settlement by photographers James Penrose and Simon Duffin, among others. Copies of some of these prints exist in other repositories. The modern notion of copyright did not exist at this time and photographers freely rephotographed works by other people so it is difficult to say with any certainty who may have taken the original photograph in each case.
The cartes de visite however provide a glimpse into what the Red River settlement looked like at that time and provide a nice balance between civic life and the private life of citizens. The shot of Portage and Main is so different from what it is today that it is virtually unrecognizable.
The accession number for this collection is A13-5.
Ryder Larsen, photographer. Louis Riel and His Councilors. Winnipeg? 1869?
This print is very famous. Almost all of those held by other archives in Canada however are black and white copies or negatives. The original photograph is presumably lost. Note the crease mark down the center of this print. Each photographer would have been copying the original which perhaps was folded at some point.
Featured in the photograph are: (back row, L-R) Bonnet Tromage, Pierre Delorme, Thomas Bunn, Xavier Pagé, André Beauchemin, Baptiste Tourond; (middle row) Pierre Poitras, John Bruce, Louis Riel, William B. O’Donoghue, François Dauphinais, Thomas Spence; (front row) Hugh F. O’Lone, Paul Proulx.
James Penrose, photographer. Red River Settlement, showing the corner of Portage and Main in June 1872. The travellers are said to be the Nimmons family. “J. Penrose, Photo Studio, Winnipeg, Manitoba” printed on the back with floral border. Can we say that this is one of the earliest traffic jams at Portage and Main? It’s surprising to see how this famous corner looked before all the major development took place in the 1890s and turn-of-the-century.
Unidentified photographer. Land Survey Party, around the Red River Settlement. The image shows two theodolites on tripods and men holding stadial rods. Possible Dominion land surveyors. More casually dressed helpers sit crosslegged and on the far right.
Unidentified photographer. Two Carioles Drawn by Dogs, possibly at the Red River Settlement.
Unidentified photographer. Dominion Land Titles Office, Winnipeg (1872-73).
Unidentified photographer. Early Homestead Building, Family, and Red River Cart Drawn by Ox. Red River Settlement? Mid-1870s? The size and the relative complexity of the building indicates that homes at this time were not simply crude sod structures. The so-called Red River cart is famously identified with the Métis community and was made entirely without nails or any iron.
James Penrose, Photographer. Studio Image of a Man Posing as a Hunter. Winnipeg, 1873? “J. Penrose, Photo Studio, Winnipeg, Manitoba” printed on back with floral border. The man, dressed in Metis clothing, may or may not have been a hunter. One of the dogs could be pointer. This type of posed portrait was very popular at this time.