Early Hamilton and Area Photographers c.1850-1880

When confronted by old, undated family photographs, it is so easy to just put them back in a box or album and forget about them. But with a little detective work, it is sometimes possible to date them quite accurately.

In the last Heritage Paper, the major categories of early photographs were outlined, so firstly try to place the family portrait into one of these groups, then the problem of dating must be tackled by painstaking comparison of the details of costume, accessories and background. This is best done with the help of photographs for which a date is known, rather than a book of Victorian costume as fashion in pioneer communities was often many years behind those of Europe.

Women’s dress, in particular, can usually be dated at least within a ten-year span. The design of sleeves, cut of a skirt, detail of a collar and arrangement of hair or cap are all important clues. A crinoline will be the 1860s, a leg-of-mutton sleeve the mid 90s, bustles in the 70s and 80s. Young women’s clothes provide a better clue to prevailing fashion than dress of the elderly. In men’s dress also there were marked changes in fashion — the width and shape of lapels for instance should be examined and compared with photographs of a known date.

Another approach to dating the photographs is possible when advertisements are included on the portrait at the base or on the reverse. Many early photographers only existed in business for a few years, so if a name is included, research within city directories, newspapers and city records can often pinpoint dates of business. This Heritage Paper lists the photographers of Hamilton and area, c1850-1860, who may have recorded the inhabitants of this area.

BOYLE, John 1858-63 James Street, Hamilton, C.W. (opposite Royal Hotel, 3 doors south of the Post Office)
BOYD & BYZANSON 1879-80 38 King Street East
BOYLE, Hilda 1879-80 James North corner of King
BOYLE, Martin 1870-72 2 James Street North near corner of King

“Photographs taken in all the latest styles and the new style of Rembrant”

BOYLE & McCRACKEN 1871-72 James Street North corner of King
CORMWALL, G. & G. 1858 14 King Street East, Hamilton, C.W. (upstairs)
COX, John 1867-69 8 King Street East
  1870-72 8½ King East
DAVIS, William A. 1862-66 N.E. Corner of King & Hughson
  1867-68 King corner of John
ECKERSON, Luther 1867-69 7 James N. (west side over Morton’s Exchange Office)
  1870-73 9 James North
  1878-79 68 King West
  1879-80 70 King West
ECKERSON & BELLSMITH 1874 King West
ECKERSON & MILLMAN 1875-77 68 King Street West
ECKERSON & LYON 1877-78 68 King West
FARMER BROS. 1877-80 10 King West
GALL, Charles & Co. 1872-73 10 King West (late of James Inglis)
GALL & Co. 1874 10 King West
GALL, Charles 1875-77 10 King West
HESS, M. A. 1874 Corner of King and John
HESS, Mss Margaret A. 1875-77 68 King East
HESS, Miss 1879-80 68 King East
HOWLAND, David 1862-63 White’s Block, King Street
INGALLS, Charles H. 1865-66 53 King East
INGLIS, James 1871-72 10 King West (a resident of Montreal
JOHNSTON/JOHNSTONE, William 1870-80 42 James North
KELLY, C. D. 1877-79 8½ King East
KIRKNESS, J. J. & Co. 1876-77 30 King Street East
LADD, Mason R. 1862-63 White’s Block, King Street
LYGHT, Joseph 1878-79 36 King East
McKENZIE & Co. 1875 38 King East
McKENZIE, A. H. 1875-76 38 King East
McKEAON & SMITH 1865-66 53 King East
MILNE, James 1871-72 66½ King East
MILNE, Robert 1853-56 7 Upper James (upstairs over Mr. Osborne’s Jewelery Store)
  1858-66 N.E. Corner of King & James
  1867-68 Corner of Main & James
  1868-69 James Street opposite Market Square
  1870-72 McNab Street corner of Main Street
  1872-73 24 McNab South
  1874-79 22 McNab South
  1879-80 18 Main West

MOYLE, R. G. 1867-68 38 James North
MOYER, Peter W. 1858 7 James, Bruce’s Building
PRESTON, David N. 1853 7 James

ROBERTSON, David D. 1862-63 James near King
SINCLAIR, Alexander 1856 10 King Street East

SMITH & SCOTT 1858 Corner of James & Market Square
TERWILLIGER, G. R. 1870 66½ King East
THOMPSON, W. E. 1865-66 16 King East
VAN GIESON, H. 1865-66 7 James Street North
  1867-68 James South opposite Fountain
WRIGHT, D. D. & Son 1862-65 King near McNab
  1865-66 34 King Street West between James and McNab

WRIGHT C. H. & Co. 1867-68 34 King W. between James & McNab
WRIGHT, C. H. 1868-69 34 King Street W. between James & McNab
  1870 36 King West
BROOKE, R. S. 1865-79 King Street, Dundas
  1872-73 King St. between Cross & Sydenham, Dundas
HILL, Thomas 1865-66 King opp. Sydenham, Dundas C.W.

Research material taken from City of Hamilton Directories 1853-80, advertisements and personal photographs.

Originally published in Heritage Happenings, February 1982.

© The Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society 1982, 2020

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