Late in the summer of 1922 a photographer from the Keystone View Company of Meadville Pennsylvania visited Prince Edward Island. The company was preparing a series of photographs of industries across the country. In addition to Charlottetown the photographer visited farms and took photos in Emerald, Mount Albion, and Augustine Cove as well as at the Experimental Farm in Charlottetown. Most of the photos from Prince Edward Island, aside from shots of the Provincial Building, Prince of Wales, Prince Street School and St. Dunstan’s were not-so-riveting shots of turnip harvesting, old and new methods of potato picking and hen houses for comparative egg-laying experiments.
Following the agricultural theme the photographer also captured several images on the waterfront. At the Buntain & Bell wharf a steamer with stalls built on the deck (possibly the Canadian Steamships Line S.S. Morona which had a regular service from Montreal to St. John’s, stopping at Charlottetown) was loading livestock for Newfoundland and images of sheep being driven aboard and cattle winched from the wharf are included in the collection. Besides being a labour-intense operation the loading was also of considerable interest to boys and other by-standers for whom the wharf-side activity was a source of entertainment. At the next wharf over several coal schooners were in port and although hardly picture-postcard material shots of coal carts being loaded were captured by the lens. They give a good view of Charlottetown’s working waterfront in 1922. These types of shots are rare because most photographers of the time focused on streetscapes, dramatic events or the impressive public buildings of the city.
Across the harbour on the Langley shore another type of farm was in operation, The early 1920s were the height of the fox farming boom and Dr. Leo Frank’s Rosebank Fur Farms was one of the leading fox ranches in the country. The Keystone photographer took a whole series of images at the fox farm and the black silver foxes were clearly of interest. Silver fox breeding had been developed in Prince Edward Island like no where else in the country and it is not surprising that a series concentrating on industries would include photos of this type.
Another image, probably taken at about the same time shows aboriginal basketmakers, in an encampment at Rosebank, with Minchin’s Point and the ferry wharf at Southport in the background
The photos taken in 1922 were stereoviews, taken with a dual lens camera that resulted in a double image. When viewed through a stereo viewer the image appeared as a three dimensional representation of the subject. Beginning in the mid-19th century the views were popular. Series of views of exotic locations, dramatic events and even pornography were produced. Besides being a parlour entertainment the views were promoted as an educational tool. Several factors which helped increase stereography’s popularity was the novelty of experiencing explicit three-dimensional detail in a stereo card and the potential for card owners to frequently revisit views of world events in private or during social gatherings. By enabling armchair observers to have vicarious experiences in faraway places stereographs became to the later nineteenth century, what television and the Internet are to contemporary culture. Some stereoviews were produced by local photographers and even amateurs but most were created by companies with traveling photographers and the views were marketed in series. Special boxes and furniture were also produced to house collections of images. The standard stereocard was about 3.5 x 7.0 inches with a curved surface to enhance the 3-D effect and a variety of viewers produced to provide the 3-D effect.
The Keystone View Company was founded in 1892 by an amateur photographer, B. L. Singley of Meadville, Pennsylvania. Starting with a series of thirty views of a local flood he soon expanded his work and eventually became the largest producer of stereocards in the world and by 1905 was offering 20,000 different views. Taking over the collections of competitors the company eventually gathered a established a collecton of over 2 million negatives and continued to produce images into the 1950s. In the 20th century Keystone specialized in educational stereocard sets and promoted their use for teaching of geography, social studies, science, history and reading. Their educational nature can be seen in this excerpt from the text on the back of Charlottetown lamb loading view:
Did you ever play “follow the leader”? Lambs and sheep always follow their leader. In this picture their leader has gone on board this boat and the lambs are crowding each other to follow. You wonder where they are going. They have been raised on an Island and are going to be shipped to the mainland., There they will be taken to the stockyards.
After 1955 the company moved into other lines of business and In 1978, the company’s records, prints, and inventory of negatives, weighing more than 30 tons, were donated to the UCR/California Museum of Photography at the University of California Riverside, where they are now known as the Keystone-Mast collection. Of the more than 250,000 glass plates and negatives and 100,000 images some 40,000 are available on line and can be searched here. In the on-line selection some 2700 items are from Canada and about 60 are from P.E.I. The collection includes duplicate views as the photographer tried to get the best exposure and framing. Not all of the shots were turned into finished stereo cards.
Some of the raw PEI images are shown below: Click on any item to start the slide show:
All images from Keystone-Mast Collection, UCR/California Museum of Photography, University of California at Riverside.