Before mass reproduction of photographs became available to periodicals, professional sketch artists would travel the Globe on assignment, just as photographers do today, to record events and places for feature articles. Because the result was a simple mainly black-and-white set of lines against a white background, it was relatively easy to turn them into an “engraving” – the lines were hand-incised onto a soft copper plate which, when inked, could reproduce the drawing on a printing press.
This one, entitled “The Chaudière Gold-fields” was featured in an article on the Province of Quebec in Illustrated London News of February 6, 1864. Rather than each individual sifting gold in a pan, these miners have adopted a means of sifting gravel that is much more productive. They have dammed a stream and directed the water from behind it into a long flume. At its base, out of sight, is a “long tom”, a sloped narrow box. The miners pour gravel from the drained stream bed into the long tom, where the fast-flowing high volume of flume water flushes out clays and lighter stones, leaving the gold behind.
While the Chaudière article described is usually associated, by Ottawa residents at least, with the Chaudière Falls, this scene is in fact along the Chaudière River that enters the St. Lawrence River opposite Quebec City from its origins in Lac Mégantic.
Museums worldwide hold large image collections and, when they are old enough that copyright has expired, selected images are sometimes made available for free online, usually with the proviso that the source of the image is mentioned, and the purpose of use is educational, not profit, and that higher-resolution versions can be had for a price. Online images are usually of sufficient quality to be used in a book, magazine or calendar. Library and Archives Canada offers a large selection under the MIKAN designation that is frequently drawn upon by researchers, but also often appears on the walls of institutions and restaurants, especially in the Ottawa area.
This one is from a set of Canadian historical images held by the British Library, and entitled “Vancouver firemen turning out for an alarm in 1910.” The photograph was certainly staged. The photographic technology of the time did not permit freezing people in motion. Another clue is that the various figures, while presumably alerted simultaneously by an alarm, are at many stages of response, from just rising from beds to already dressed and sliding down the poles.
Photographer William Jefferson Carpenter’s career spanned the years 1890 – 1913, during which time he lived and worked in Washington State (his birthplace), Colorado, and both Vancouver and the interior of British Columbia. He was trained as an architect, so it is not surprising that he marketed local city scenes wherever he set up a studio. He is also remembered in heritage circles in Colorado for his mountain imagery, and an album of that work was published as recently as 2005.
British Library Accession number HS85/10/22257