View albums from the 1880s and 1890s were published
by Canadian stationers and booksellers, and by
the railways for whose clientele they were destined.
(Those travelling by steamer were another audience
for the view books, as later would be those touring
by automobile.) Most of the volumes from this
period appear to have been printed in the United
States for the Canadian publishers. The albums
share common characteristics: The photomechanically
reproduced drawings (which appear to have been
based on photographic views), occasionally coloured,
are printed on a single accordion-folded sheet,
encased in blind stamped, sometimes gilded, cloth
covers. The artists who produced the drawings
for these publications are not credited.
the turn of the century, a range of new photomechanical
processes had been introduced to the view book,
including photogravure, half-tone and artotype;
many of the publications assume the format of
the photograph album. Text is usually limited
to an introduction and captions for the images.
The quality of design, reproductions and printing
ranges from the modest to the elegant. Although
the local or itinerant photographers often remain
anonymous, in the early years of the century,
they begin to be identified. Accomplished photographers
such as the Livernois Family of Quebec City and
William Notman of Montréal are among them.
The albums can provide unique evidence of the
growth of the photography profession across the
country, and occasionally serve to identify little-known
regional photographers and their work.
view albums from the early twentieth century were
made to appeal not only to tourism, but to settlement
and investment as well. The albums from Western
Canada in particular contain high-spirited statistics
on such factors as population growth, the number
of building permits issued, and the number of
miles of paved sidewalks and streets, along with
inventories of urban amenities: schools, banks,
hospitals, churches, hotels, abattoirs, hydrants,
newspapers; and "gents' clubs." The
covers and title pages of the publications reflect
this civic pride and boosterism, proclaiming:
The City Phenomenal; The Wonder City; The Celestial
City; The Electric City; Steady Growth Means Solid
Prosperity; Its Present Greatness, Its Future
Splendor; and Has Never Known a Set Back.
utopian views of the potential and progress of
the new cities grace the covers of many of the
albums. A flurry of superlatives announces that
there is not a city in the Dominion that is not
matchless, glorious, irresistible, majestic, delightful,
picturesque, sublime, unsurpassed, prosperous,
marvellous, prominent, handsome or busy - a mecca,
hub, gem, bull's eye, metropolis, queen, gateway,
or doorway - well-situated, well-lighted or well-drained.
Ottawa is saluted: Fair City, Crown of Towers,
and Victoria is hailed: The Empire's City of
European Kingdoms, Babylon, Switzerland, Naples,
the Rhine, Gibraltar, and the Tropics are evoked
by way of comparison. Cities vie in claiming the
most churchgoers, the most ambitious youth, the
fewest uncouth individuals, the most fire alarm
systems, and the most right-angled intersections.
One urban centre asserts that it is the most "airminded"
(in reference to aeroplanes); another, that its
climate is the most praised, although its summers
are impossible to describe.
twentieth century titles were issued by both Canadian
and American firms that specialized in the publication
of view albums: Valentine & Sons, Montreal;
W. G. MacFarlane, Toronto; the Photogelatine Engraving
Company, Ottawa; and the Canadian Promotion Company,
Winnipeg. Printing for the Canadian firms was
frequently executed in the United States, Great
Britain or Germany. One of the most prolific publishers
of Canadian view books was the James Bayne Company
of Grand Rapids, Michigan, its volumes invariably
displaying the photographs in collages of elaborate
cartouches. Few of the Quebec albums were issued
in the French language, which reminds us of English
dominance of commerce in the province at the time.
of the albums are undated (a probable decade of
publication has been supplied). Further research
into the construction dates of buildings and monuments
(or their destruction), and details such as the
mode of transportation depicted (horse-drawn vehicles,
the horseless carriage, the automobile), or the
style of clothing of the figures, can lead to
more precise dating.
were sent to friends and family as gifts or souvenirs,
as is testified by the inscriptions they bear:
To Margaret from Flossie; With Best Xmas Wishes;
A Merry Christmas to May from Addie; Harold, with
love, Myra; With Kind Regards; En souvenir des
bonnes causeries. The popularity of the souvenir
album had waned by the late 1930s, perhaps because
the Depression affected the mobility of the population,
and a period of immigration and prosperity was
publications are of great interest to the historian
of Canadian art, architecture, urban development,
and photography. They have immense appeal as witness
to a period in a young country's history that
was characterized by rapid growth and grand ambition.
of the collections can be performed by place, by
photographer, and by publisher/printer. Bibliographical data are taken from the catalogue of the
National Gallery of Canada Library.