A Window in Time – 1899

What is that date on the window?

The Archives and Special Collections (A&SC) windows feature a series of seemingly random numbers worked into the window’s graphic pattern. The numbers are actually dates, chosen by ASC staff, that are significant to the City of Toronto, Ryerson University, and Archives and Special Collections. Over the course of the next year our blog will feature some of the window dates and explain their significance.

1899

2005.001.3.259. Canadian Kodak Co., Ltd. Headquarters (1899-1901), 41 Colborne Street, Toronto

In 1899, after successfully operating on the American market for over a decade, George Eastman dispatched Kodak employee John G. Palmer to Toronto to determine the viability of establishing a subsidiary in Canada. Palmer discovered a robust market for photographic products and, on November 8, 1899, Canadian Kodak Co., Limited was incorporated under the Ontario Company’s act. The nascent company established headquarters in downtown Toronto, embarking on a relationship with the city that would last more than a century and would constitute the heart of the company’s manufacturing operations in Canada.

For more information on Kodak Canada, please visit https://library.ryerson.ca/asc/2015/01/kodak-in-toronto-1899-2005-a-century-of-traces/

 

SPECIAL COLLECTIONS IS ON THE MOVE!

Doozer construction

Doozer construction sign from the Bob Hackborn fonds 2012.005.06.59

Beginning Monday May 16 Special Collections will be rooming with the Ryerson University Archives while renovations happen on the 4th floor. The Archives is located on the 3rd floor in the Library in room LIB387.

The move will take several weeks to complete, but we will continue to offer reference and research appointments while the shifting takes place.

To access Special Collections please email specialcollections@ryerson.ca for an appointment.

Empty shelving in Special Collections

Fitting, Kodak was Special Collections first fonds and it is the first to relocate to the third floor.

Empty shelving in Special Collections.

Clearing and disassembling of shelves has begun.

Fans of shelves against wall.

Shelves waiting for assemble in the Archives

Kodak ledgers on shelving in Archives

Kodak advertising ledgers in their home

Archival boxes on shelves in Archives.

Doesn’t take long to fill up the shelves.

We are looking forward to an exciting Summer and Fall with A&SC finally located in one place! Check back here for move updates and photographs.

 

Special Collections: Celebrating 10 Years

Untitled-22015 marked the 10 year anniversary of Special Collections at the Ryerson University Library and Archives. It seems like a good time time to have a look back at where we came from, and where we are headed.

The Special  Collections department at the Ryerson University Library was founded in 2005, with the acquisition of the Kodak Canada Corporate Archives and Heritage Collection after the Mount Dennis campus shut down. The collection includes the history of the company in Toronto since it’s arrival in 1900, and the contents of Kodak Museum that had recently opened at the Mount Dennis campus.Kodak Canada Heritage Collection

Small room with shelves of archival boxes, tables of albums and a computer workstation.

7th floor Special Collections

At that time, Special Collections occupied a small storage space on the 7th floor of the library, big enough for the two PPCM students working on the collection, but with no public research space.

By 2006, we’d moved to a larger space, and our collections had grown to include book collections, acquiring the Michael Mitchell collection and the Nicholas and Marilyn Graver collections. Students were able to visit the collection, and internships were created to process the large collections.

Graver

 

Office with many shelves containing albums, books and archival boxes. People moving boxes on carts.

2006: Moving in, a new space for Special Collections

Though safe and secure, the new space was difficult to access by researchers. This was solved in 2008, when a more permanent, accessible space was completed on the 4th floor of the library. The new  space featured more storage, exhibition and display space, as well as a research area and student work station. A modest exhibition program was instituted, and researchers gained an accessible reading room to explore the growing collections. These included the Leniniana propaganda collection, the Lorne Shields Historical Photography Collection. We also integrated the library’s existing rare book collection, and the acquisition of the Canadian Architect Magazine collection was underway.

LenincanadianArchitectToronto

Research Area in Special Collections at the Ryerson Library

The current research area in Special Collections at the Ryerson Library

 

 

The future of Special Collections at Ryerson looks bright and includes an expansion of our space, and integrating with the Archives department, which will allow more accessibility to our researchers and more space for our collections. We will continue to grow our collection, in line with our revised mandate to support teaching and research at Ryerson University.

Help us celebrate! Drop by to see a small selection of items from our most popular collections, now on display on the 4th floor of the Ryerson Library. For more information or to view the collections call or email to make an appointment.

Location: 4th Floor, Ryerson Library, LIB404
Hours: Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Phone: 416-979-5000 ext. 7027
Email: specialcollections@ryerson.caDesignArchivesSM

The Top 8 Odd and Outstanding Artist’s Books in Ryerson’s Special Collections

Ryerson’s Special Collections is filled with all kinds of unique and unusual material. Here is our list of the top 8 odd and outstanding artist’s books you can find in our collection!

DSC_0506a

  1. Scratch by Christian Boltanski

This thin artist’s book allegedly contains ten duotones of forbidden images. However, what the reader will see when browsing this book is a stiff book with five silver coloured pages. That’s because Boltanski has coated each image in a scratch-card like opaque substance. So, the only way to view the hidden images is to physically scratch off the surface of each page. In this way, the artist is making a statement about the responsibility of viewing images of disaster, forcing the reader to make a decision – either peek and look, or stare and wonder at what lies beneath the surface.

DSC_0495a

  1. Cock Fight Dance by Sol LeWitt

Sol LeWitt was one of the artists spearheading the Conceptual movement in the 1960s. While he was most well-known for his painting, drawing and sculpture works, LeWitt also published multiple photographic artist’s books. This odd little book contains a photographic narrative of two roosters fighting. With a simple layout and premise, this book of photographs light-heartedly hints at dance and performance. Because the whole event is not completely recorded, LeWitt’s book suggests multiple readings and multiple endings.

DSC_0533a

  1. See by Marcia Resnick

See by Marcia Resnick contains 34 black and white portraits. Each portrait shows the subject in the center of the frame in front of various landscapes. However, instead of looking at the camera, each subject has their back to us. This simple little book from 1975 can actually be read as a deeper exploration of looking and being look at, of seeing and being seen.

DSC_0510a

 

  1. Rainbow in Your Hand by Masashi Kawamura

It won’t take long for you to read this book cover-to-cover, and it’s definitely one you’ll want to peruse again! At first, this artist’s book seems a bit underwhelming – each of its pages are completely identical with small coloured squares on each side of a black page. However, everything changes once the reader realizes it is actually a flipbook – and not a conventional flipbook either. Instead of creating an illusion of movement on the pages, this book creates a three-dimensional illusion. When this clever little book is flipped though, a rainbow appears in the space between the pages!

DSC_0526a

 

  1. Hide by Fred Escher

This book is a great example of the type of unconventional book that was published by conceptual artists in the 1970s. The book contains black and white photographs, each of the artist hiding in plain sight. Part-performance, part-photography, the work Escher creates in this book shows the landscape and artist as merged, and can be seen to the reader as a sort of grown-up version of Where’s Waldo.

DSC_0500a

  1. Mountain Dream Tarot by Bea Nettles

This collection of images firmly resides outside of the traditional form of artist’s book. Instead of bound pages, this work consists of 78 individual tarot cards. The deck from 1975 is the first known photographic tarot deck, and is one of the most collectible tarot card decks in the world. Using herself, as well as family and friends as models, the artist created the multicoloured photographic cards over the span of 5 years. A lot of skill and technique went into each image. There was no Photoshop at the time, so Nettles used darkroom tricks to create special effects in the images – collaged photographs, multi-layered images and hand-drawn symbols are some of the processes she employed.

DSC_0519a

 

  1. Octogonal Houses of Maine by Carol-Lynn Rössel Waugh

This curious book is by far the smallest in the collection – in fact it measures just 2 centimeters by 2.5 centimeters! The book chronicles the history of the eight-sided homes in the state of Maine. The author appears to have also written multiple books on the subject of teddy bears, and is a self-proclaimed “teddy bear artist”. In addition to being the smallest book in our collection, we consider it to be one of the oddest little gems in the stacks!

DSC_0514a

  1. Every Building on the Sunset Strip by Ed Ruscha

This rare and fragile artist’s book is one of the most iconic to come out of the 1970s. For Every Building on the Sunset Strip, the artist mounted a motorized camera to the back of a truck, photographing every building he passed. Ruscha then created a bound accordion-style book from one continuous folding strip that extends approximately 25 feet. Though now the book might make us think of Google Street View, the book revealed at the time a new form of topographical map-making study. Ruscha is known for spearheading a new genre of artist’s book, favouring a cheap and conceptual approach over the typical livre d’artiste of the day. Ryerson’s Special Collections is also home to various other original seminal Ruscha books, including Business Cards, Royal Road Test and Crackers.

 

Contact us to come have a look at these odd and outstanding artist’s books!

Remembrance Day and Ryerson University

Ryerson University Archives & Special Collections honours Remembrance Day with these few photographic images from our collections.

Remembrance Day

In 1948, three years after the end of World War II, Ryerson was created as the Ryerson Institute of Technology. During this post war period, memories of the conflict were still vivid for many students and staff members, and Remembrance Day therefore held a marked significance for the community.  The observations included a march past of veterans and a service held in front of Ryerson Hall and officiated by Principal Howard Kerr, as seen in the photograph above. Today, what remains of Ryerson Hall is the façade and entry to the RAC (the “facade”).

During the war years, in both the U.S. and Canada, Kodak often incorporated typical scenes from the soldier’s life and the “home front”, to advertise the innovative products Kodak made as part of the war effort. The photographic images below are from Special Collections’ Kodak Canada collection.

2005_001_03_2_001_9_143_watermark

“Home folks – home things – are always uppermost in his mind. Natural, isn’t it, that he should want snapshots…that bring [home] to him as true as life!” Canadian Kodak Co., Limited, Toronto, Ontario.

2005_001_03_2_001_10_010_watermark

Canadian Kodak Co., Limited, Toronto, Ontario. The Monetary Times, January,1944

2005_001_03_2_001_10_025_watermark

U.S. Navy Photographs using Kodacolor Aero Reversal Films. The Monetary Times, August, 1944

Visit Ryerson University Archives on the 3rd floor of the Library and
Special Collections on the 4th floor.

What is that THING in Special Collections?

If you’re been up to the 4th floor of the library and peered into Special Collections, you may have seen this funny creature sitting in the corner and wondered: “What the heck is that?”

Max2

Large yellow plush Kolorkin in the Special Collection stacks

Max, the Kodak Kolorkin (Special Collections, 2005.001.04.058 )

Well, that’s Max, a larger version of the plush Kodak Kolorkins toys, produced by Kodak from 1988 until the later 1990’s. Beginning in 1988, Kodak Canada began giving away the tiny, stuffed promotional toys away in exchange for mailed-in points that customers collected from film and batteries. The promotion was wildly popular, and by the time the first promotion was over, they had given away 225,000 toys and were recognized as runner up in the Council of Sales Promotion Agencies’ first “Awards of Excellent”.

There were three series of Kolorkins, and our friend Max (along with his friends Click, Zoom, Check and Digit) was part of the last series, produced in 1999 as part of Kodak Canada’s centennial.

5 small plush toys (yellow, black, blue, green and red) in a cardboard box that reads "Caution this box contains living color"

Group of small Kodak Kolorkin, in original box (Special Collections, 2005.001.04.057 )

If you’d like to visit Max, or explore more of our collections, please drop by Special Collections, located on the 4th floor of the library building, or make an appointment by emailing specialcollections@ryerson.ca.

Sources:

“The Awards for Excellence.” Adweek’s Marketing Week 12 June 1989: p12+. Academic OneFile. Web. 30 July 2015. URL http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA7694025&v=2.1&u=rpu_main&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=c3942ee28e69dc4ec3ca77e9effae9a0

“Kodak unveils promo series.” Chain Drug Review 17 June 1991: 158. Academic OneFile. Web. 30 July 2015. http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA10958413&v=2.1&u=rpu_main&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=d90584f76f2719b2adfdc837671b8318

“MARCH OF THE KOLORKINS.” Toronto Star, Feb 20, 1989. http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/435873367?accountid=13631.

Caring for Your Family Photograph Collection

Over the past twenty years with the transition into a digital world, the way we collect, view and capture photographs has changed. Gone are the days when each of our snapshots took a physical form and held value in the time and money it took to create it. With digital technology offering high quality images with the use of a cell phone, and the cost of storing those images continuously decreasing, the decision to make and keep an expansive collection takes little deliberation. For those of us who were around to watch the transition from analogue to digital photography formats, we can still remember the days when that push of a button created a real object that held our memories and could be kept as a souvenir for the years to come. So how do we care for and ensure the longevity of our shoe-boxes and albums of prints combined with our hard drive of digital images?

If your photograph collection looks like this, you should probably read this blog post.

If your photograph collection looks like this, you should probably read this blog post.

Digitization

Analogue photographs, whether developed in a drug store or printed in a dark room, are far from permanent. In fact, if your photo collection is anything like mine, the majority of those photographs are probably colour 4×6, Polaroid, or photo paper print. These colour prints are actually at a higher risk of fading than your great grandmother’s old silver gelatin black and white prints. In fact, if you go take a look, they are probably far from the way they looked when you got them already. This is why, if you want those pictures of you as a kid or your wedding day to be around for your grandchildren and great grandchildren, your best option is to re-capture them digitally.

Digitization doesn’t have to be expensive, but it can be time consuming. Deciding to digitize is the first step, but depending on time, technical know-how, digital storage capacity and available equipment, executing your digitization plan can  take a variety of forms.

 

Scanning

Ideally, for long-term preservation, scanning is the way to go. A good scanner can provide you with high quality images that will allow you to view, print and display your family photos however you choose. Depending on the type of photographs you have (especially if there are negatives or slides in your collection), you may need a scanner capable of transparency scanning. A good scanner goes up in price pretty quickly, but there are other options. For instance, the Toronto Public Library has Digital Design Workstations equipped with Epson scanners that can be reserved for two hours at a time to help get you through that shoebox or two in your closet. Software such as PhotoShop, EPSON Scan in professional mode, or SilverFast will provide you with all the settings you need and usually come with the purchase of a scanner.

 

Essentially, the settings you will be looking for include things like Document Type, Image Type, Resolution and Image Format. Features such as batch scanning that speed up the process by allowing you to select and scan more than one photograph at a time are also something to look for. Generally, the auto settings of the scanner should work fine, but you will want to ensure a resolution of at least 300 dpi/ppi with 24-bit colour RGB depth and that you are saving in TIFF or JPEG format. Make sure you are working with a clean scanner and have dusted off your photographs to prevent it from appearing in your digital image and avoid timely editing later on.

 

EPSON scan Professional Mode screenshot

If you are really concerned about capturing the colours of your photograph as accurately as possible, the FADGI Guidelines for Digitizing Cultural Heritage Materials reviews how to scan a photograph for conservation and long-term preservation, and cover topics such as using a colour reference target, preparing your viewing environment, monitor calibration, spatial and signal resolution, colour gamut, colour mode, colour space. Generally, for heritage preservation the recommended pixel array is 4000 pixels along the longest dimension of your photograph. So if you are scanning a 4 x 6 inch print, your spatial resolution should be set to (4000 ppi ÷ 6” =) 600 dpi/ppi.

 

 

 

Re-photographing

If a scanner is out of your budget, and your local library doesn’t have scanners for public use, you might want to consider the option of re-capturing your photographs in a digital format. This can also be as simple or complex as you decide to make it.

 

Just as easily as your cell phone helps you capture everyday moments, it can also help you digitize your family photograph collection. Although there are apps like CamScanner, that can help edit a poorly captured reproduction, use these as a last resort or when time is limited, as they will likely provide you with low quality and slightly distorted images. Whether using your cell phone camera, a digital point-and-shoot, or a professional digital camera, here are some things to think about before creating a digital version by re-photographing that old family photo:

  • If the size of your original photograph is information you find valuable in its preservation, include a ruler or other measurement scale in your image.
  • Other information about the photograph, such as geographical location where the image was taken, or the names of its subjects, that you do not want to lose can also be included in the frame of your new image.
  • Place photograph on a solid grey background, use an easel or copystand if available.
  • Use a tripod (and a release cord if possible)  or other steadying device to prevent blur from occurring in your digital images.
  • Line up the frame of your digital image with the frame of the photograph.
    • Try to ensure each corner of the original photograph appears as a right angle in your viewfinder to prevent distorted imaging.
  • Be aware of light and shadows. Optimally you will want to set up two lights, the same height and distance away and on either side of the photograph to ensure even illumination.
    • Additional light sources can help prevent shadows caused by curling or frames.

 

Diagram depicting the set-up for digitizing a photographic print using a digital camera.

Diagram depicting the set-up for digitizing a photographic print using a digital camera.

 

Storage

Digital storage

Preserving your family photograph collection doesn’t end with digitization. To ensure that your memories don’t get lost in a sea of desktop files or become an obsolete file format, you will need to maintain and follow a system. Organization is key in the prolonged care of both physical and digital photography collections.

 

An effective and easy way to start thinking about how to organize your digital images is to picture their file structure like a hierarchical tree:

 

Example of a tree-style arrangement for digital photograph storage. If you are an avid photographer, you may choose to add another level, such as "2011 artistic" and "2011 events."

Example of a tree-style arrangement for digital photograph storage. If you are an avid photographer, you may choose to add another level, such as “2011 artistic” and “2011 events.”

 

Choose file names that will make your images easy to search so that they won’t be hard to find when you need them, and save in formats that you know you will be able to access in five years (e.g. JPEG, TIFF). Keep a backup (or two!) on a cloud or an external hard drive, so that if something should happen to your computer and your files are destroyed, you will always have another copy. Set a reminder to update your backup weekly, monthly, or yearly depending on how many pictures you’re taking and if possible, store the backup at a different location.

 

Physical storage

A rule of thumb is that generally photographs like to be stored in the same environment that people like to be in. A cool, dark place with about 40% relative humidity is ideal, so it is best to avoid storing your prints in a damp basement or humid attic. Also remove any potentially harmful storage materials, such as glassine, which has been a popular material for photo sleeves.

Acid-free paper sleeves are a good option for storing photographs you don't intend to handle often.

Acid-free paper sleeves are a good option for storing photographs you don’t intend to handle often.

If your prints are in a shoebox you’re on the right track, but ideally it is best to store them in a material less acidic than cardboard to ensure they will not be subject to the harmful results of off-gassing. To prevent any warping it is best to lay them flat, and in case there is any adhesive, try to separate each print with Mylar, acid-free paper, or acid-free tissue. House them in individual sleeves, envelopes or enclosures to protect them from handling and changes in the environment.

Polyester sleeves will protect your prints while also allowing you to look at them.

Polyester sleeves will protect your prints while also allowing you to look at them.

If you want to store your prints upright, make sure they are kept flat by including a spacer to prevent warping.

If you want to store your prints upright, make sure they are kept flat by including a spacer to prevent warping.

Albums can also be a great place to store photographic prints, but you need to be careful that you are using a photo-friendly style of album. Avoid self-adhesive albums! These albums can destroy the image of your photograph and speed up deterioration. If you have some of these already in your collection, you may no longer be able to remove your prints without causing them serious damage, in which case digitization is your best bet for image preservation. If you are creating a new album here are some best practices to follow:

  • Use photo-corners to attach prints to the pages. This way, only the corners will touch adhesive, and not your prints. Should someone want to remove the print from the album they will be able to do so with little to no damage to the object.
  • Use acid free paper. This will delay deterioration such as silver mirroring and fading.
  • Separate the prints so they are not stored facing each other. Some albums are sold with acid free tissue in between the pages that will do this for you. If you are using a binder, you can also do this by inserting each page into a Mylar (Polyester) sleeve.
  • Avoid writing directly onto your prints. If you have information to include about the subject of an image, inscribe this on the space surrounding your print. Inks can bleed or gradually discolour your images.

Don’t use self-adhesive albums! Reference number: 2005.001.06.01.008.2.

Do use photo corners, archival sleeves and tissue to protect your prints.

Do use photo corners, archival sleeves and tissue to protect your prints. Write descriptions on the area around the photograph, and not on the photo itself. Reference number: 2008.001.2.010.

Other notes on preserving your family photographs

Negatives and transparencies

If you have negatives interfiled with your prints they can also benefit from re-housing and separate enclosures. Acetate negatives in particular might be something you choose to digitize, as they are prone to vinegar syndrome, a form of deterioration that can only be delayed by freezer storage.

 

 

Undeveloped rolls of film

If you have undeveloped rolls of film that you’ve been meaning to process, but haven’t got around to, sooner is better than later. Just like your prints, film is subject to natural deterioration that may have already distorted your undeveloped images. Also, your opportunity to have someone else print them is quickly diminishing as the onset of digital takes its toll on commercial printing businesses.

 

Sources:

Cornell University Library https://www.library.cornell.edu/preservation/brochure/Family%20Photos%20Text%2001.pdf

Northeast Document Conservation Centre Leaflets https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/overview

“Technical Guidelines for Digitizing Cultural Heritage Materials: Creation of Raster Image Master Files,” Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative. August 2010. http://www.digitizationguidelines.gov/guidelines/FADGI_Still_Image-Tech_Guidelines_2010-08-24.pdf

Tony Hoffman, The Five Best Photo Scanners, PCMag. July 2014. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2362752,00.asp

Toronto Public Library Digital Design Work Stations http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/using-the-library/computer-services/innovation-spaces/workstations.jsp
U.S. National Archives http://www.archives.gov/preservation/family-archives/

Days Gone By: A Summer Guide to Toronto

With the first day of summer quickly approaching, the people of Toronto are flocking outdoors to enjoy the many events and activities taking place across the city. And although there are endless ways to take advantage of such a lively time of year, the pages of a Toronto family scrapbook may help to determine how best to enjoy the season.

 

The following is a list of activities to consider this year, recommended by Torontonians circa 1913:

Enjoy a promenade through Allan Gardens, one of Toronto’s oldest parks founded in 1858. While you’re there you may want to drop into Allan Gardens Conservatory, built in 1910, just a few years before these photographs were taken.

Scenes from Allan Gardens. [ca. 1911]

Scenes from Allan Gardens [ca. 1911]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

 

Visit one of North America’s largest fairs, taking place annually at Exhibition Place.

Image from "A Souvenir of Toronto." (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?])

Image from “A Souvenir of Toronto.” (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).

First held in 1879 to celebrate the best in Canadian agriculture and technology, the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) has become a major city attraction. These photographs were captured in 1911, the final year the fair was known as the Toronto Industrial Exhibition before changing its name to CNE in 1912.

First held in 1879 to celebrate the best in Canadian agriculture and technology, the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) has become a major city attraction. These photographs were captured in 1911, the final year the fair was known as the Toronto Industrial Exhibition before changing its name to CNE in 1912. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

 

 

Venture out to the Scarborough Bluffs and explore a unique geological feature of the city’s landscape.

The first side of a spread in the scrapbook dedicated to a trip to the Scarborough Bluffs. 1913.

The first side of a spread in the scrapbook dedicated to a trip to the Scarborough Bluffs, 1913. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

The second side of the scrapbook spread featuring images from a trip to the Scarborough Bluffs. [ca. 1911]

The second side of the scrapbook spread featuring images from a trip to the Scarborough Bluffs, 1913. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

 

Gather some friends and head to one of Toronto’s many parks and beaches.

Taken at Kew Beach, summer 1911. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

 

Image from "A Souvenir of Toronto." (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).

Image from “A Souvenir of Toronto.” (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).

 

The waterfront is at its best this time of year. Venture out on the Toronto Harbour and hop aboard a boat cruise, or take out a canoe. Maybe pay a visit to the Island.

Image from "A Souvenir of Toronto." (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).

Image from “A Souvenir of Toronto.” (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).

The S. S. Cayuga, launched in 1906, sailed from the Toronto Harbour to the Niagara Region transporting passengers and cargo until 1960. Photos taken circa 1912.

The S.S. Cayuga, launched in 1906, sailed from the Toronto Harbour to the Niagara Region transporting passengers and cargo until 1960. [ca. 1912]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

 

[ca. 1912]

[ca. 1912]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

Image from "A Souvenir of Toronto." (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).

Image from “A Souvenir of Toronto.” (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).

 

Image from "A Souvenir of Toronto." (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).

Image from “A Souvenir of Toronto.” (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).

Bike along a trail or through your favourite neighbourhood.

'Some boy' posed in front of a bike. [ca. 1911]

‘Some boy’ posed in front of a bike, [ca. 1911]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

Image from "A Souvenir of Toronto." (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).

Image from “A Souvenir of Toronto.” (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).

 

 

Wander over to your favourite store or market.

Moore's Ltd. would have been located at the North West corner of Yonge and Gerrard.

Moore’s Ltd. would have been located at the North West corner of Yonge and Gerrard [ca. 1912]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

Shoppers at the crosswalk between Eaton's and Simpsons. [ca. 1905]. Image from: "The Simpsons Century." (Toronto, Ontario: Toronto Star Limited, 1972).

Shoppers at the crosswalk between Eaton’s and Simpsons. [ca. 1905]. Image from: “The Simpsons Century.” (Toronto, Ontario: Toronto Star Limited, 1972).

 

 

Embrace local history and check out how the city has evolved.

Image from "A Souvenir of Toronto." (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).

Image from “A Souvenir of Toronto.” (Toronto: The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Limited: [1913?]).

Scarboro Beach Park was an amusement park located near the present site of Beaches Park. It operated from 1907-1925.

Scarboro Beach Park was an amusement park located near the present site of Beaches Park. It operated from 1907-1925, [ca. 1911]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

 

 

If the city has become too overwhelming, maybe it’s time to get away and take a weekend or day trip to the surrounding area.

“Dingle near Simcoe” [ca. 1912]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

“Summer time in ‘Johnstown'” [ca. 1912]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

Put-in-Bay, Ohio, is a popular recreational attraction during the summer months.

Put-in-Bay, Ohio, is a popular recreational attraction during the summer months, [ca. 1912]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

 

 

So long as there are friends and family, there are no shortage of ways to appreciate summer in and around Toronto.

[ca. 1912]

[ca. 1912]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

[ca. 1912]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

A family posed in front of a monument at the corner of Sherbourne and Carlton Streets, with St. Luke's United Church in the background.

A family posed in front of a monument at the corner of Sherbourne and Carlton Streets, with St. Luke’s United Church in the background, [ca. 1914]. Album reference number: 2008.001.049.

 

 

This blog features items from the Historical Collection, the Robert MacIntosh Collection on the History of Toronto, and the Rare Books Collection held at Ryerson’s Special Collections on the 4th floor of the library. Drop in and see what else these collections have to offer. Call 416-979-5000 ext. 4996 or email specialcollections@ryerson.ca to make an appointment.

The Automobile in Early Twentieth-Century Portraiture

The trend of portraiture rapidly evolved after the birth of the medium of photography. With this new and fascinating technology it became a novelty to have your photograph made and to use it as a symbol of personal identity. Through image content and format, a photograph can tell many things about its subject such as class, position, time period and personal values. With the first internal-combustion engine patented by Karl Benz in 1896, the rise of the automobile commenced and its increasing presence in photography is representative of the role it played in society during that time.

 

Figure 1: 2008.001.221. William Lees, [Family group sitting in a studio car prop], cabinet card [between 1898 and 1914], Portobello, Scotland, 16.4 x 10.3 cm.

Figure 1: 2008.001.221. William Lees, [Family group sitting in a studio car prop], cabinet card [between 1898 and 1914], Portobello, Scotland, 16.4 x 10.3 cm.

The presence of the automobile in this cabinet card (figure 1), made at a photography studio in Portobello, Scotland, suggests a general excitement for the ever increasing popularity of this new method of transportation. William Lees, a photographer known for his unique and entertaining studio backdrops, captured this family in front of a painted landscape where they are positioned around and inside of a painted studio prop car. Although this may have created an image that seems somewhat comedic to modern day viewers, the inclusion of this horseless carriage, even as a painted cardboard cut-out, speaks to the values and studio practices of the time period.

W. Lees has paid attention to popular recommendations for photography studio backdrops that encouraged photographers to approach the background of their composition with “as much attention as would an artist painting a picture.”[i] For instance, he painted this backdrop with gradation, creating depth complimentary to the presentation of his subjects. However, whether Lees has approached the Leonardo da Vinci level of natural authenticity desired by contemporary Henry Peach Robinson is left open for debate. As stated by the pioneer of combination printing, “be the figures ever so good, their effect may be seriously injured by ineffective support.”[ii] Lees’ use of the car prop also may not reach Robinson’s standards for accuracy, as although Robinson encouraged the photographer to pursue the use studio props outside of conventional columns and curtains, he warned that to do so is a fine art “in which departure from truth becomes absurd.”[iii]

Regardless of the quality found in the studio backdrop and props, W. Lees was working at the request of a customer desiring to be photographed in this specific way. What would have motivated a family to want their professional portrait taken in a makeshift cardboard car placed in front of a landscape backdrop that it does not quite fit into? Through the 1890s and the first decade of the twentieth century, cars were a luxury that only the wealthy could afford to buy and maintain.[iv] They were a symbol of status and more of a plaything than a practical method of transportation. At the same time, they were new and increasingly accessible inventions that were readily gaining popularity in the U.K. throughout the late nineteenth-century. That a Scottish family such as that in figure 1 would have been eager to take part in this cultural experience, or even a makeshift version of it, is not a surprise.

 

Figure 2: 2008.001.1821. Unknown, [Group portrait with a car], tintype [ca. 1905], 8.5 x 6.5 cm.

Figure 2: 2008.001.1821. Unknown, [Group portrait with a car], tintype [ca. 1905], 8.5 x 6.5 cm.

Seen in this tintype (figure 2) is another example of a group choosing to sit within an automobile for their studio portrait. Although the photographer is unknown, the painted backdrop and presence of an actual car suggest the importance for this group to own a photograph documenting themselves within it. Generally, America had adopted the automobile by 1899, but it was still a novelty few were fortunate to own, an estimated 2500 produced in the United States that year for a population of approximately 74.5 million.[v]  Perhaps the photographer was a travelling one, as many tintype studios were, and set up their backdrop outdoors allowing the inclusion of a real automobile to be a plausible option. Regardless of how it got there, its presence in this photograph makes a statement to the growing interest in this new machine.

 

Figure 3 (above): 2009.005.026. Stanley Park Photographers, [Group seated in a car in front of the Hollow Tree in Stanley Park], gelatin silver print on card mount [ca. 1910], Vancouver BC, 20.2 x 25.4 cm (with mount). Figure 4 (below): 2008.001.622. Stanley Park Photographers, [Portrait of men in car at Stanley Park], gelatin silver print on card mount [ca. 1915], Vancouver BC, 22.0 x 26.7 cm (with mount).

Figure 3 (above): 2009.005.026. Stanley Park Photographers, [Group seated in a car in front of the Hollow Tree in Stanley Park], gelatin silver print on card mount [ca. 1910], Vancouver BC, 20.2 x 25.4 cm (with mount).
Figure 4 (below): 2008.001.622. Stanley Park Photographers, [Portrait of men in car at Stanley Park], gelatin silver print on card mount [ca. 1915], Vancouver BC, 22.0 x 26.7 cm (with mount).

These two portraits (figures 3 and 4), taken in front of the Hollow Tree in Vancouver, B.C., illustrate the role of the automobile and photography in tourism. Between 1900 and 1910 considerable progress was made in North American automobile production and automobiles were surpassing speeds of 25 kilometers per hour. Owning an automobile provided not only an opportunity to show off your wealth, but also an efficient way to travel through the countryside. No longer requiring the long set-up of horse and carriage, groups and families could spontaneously decide to take their car out to see sites and landmarks such as the Stanley Park Hollow Tree.[vi] Here we see the results of when these lucky travellers were met with a strategically placed camera in front of the Western Red Cedar tree, where a photographer was ready to snap a picture and document their visit.

 

Figure 5: 2008.001.1471. Unknown, [Men in car], gelatin silver print on card mount [ca. 1910], United States, 25.5 x 30.6 cm (with mount).

Figure 5: 2008.001.1471. Unknown, [Men in car], gelatin silver print on card mount [ca. 1910], United States, 25.5 x 30.6 cm (with mount).

As the introduction of the Kodak Brownie camera in 1900 provided the masses with an easy and inexpensive method of making their own snapshot pictures, professional photographers also found an increased mobility in their practice. Moving towards the 1920s, the increasing commonplace of photography was mirrored by that of the automobile, increasing the likelihood of seeing a car parked in front of your neighbour’s house. Combined, the presence of cars in photographs became more frequent and less formal. Groups and individuals were photographed in their cars at events, at their homes and anywhere else their car could take them (figures 5 and 6).

Figure 6: 2008.001.1482.2. Unknown, [Portrait of two men in a car], gelatin silver print on card mount [ca. 1905], 24.8 x 30.5 cm (with mount).

Figure 6: 2008.001.1482.2. Unknown, [Portrait of two men in a car], gelatin silver print on card mount [ca. 1905], 24.8 x 30.5 cm (with mount).

The phenomenon of including an automobile within portrait photographs is not restricted to the early twentieth century. Cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles, RVs and ATVs are still among our most expensive and prized possessions and it is not unusual to desire a picture taken of ourselves with it. However, as technology changes, so too does the appearance of the vehicle we are sitting in (or standing beside), the ease at which we can acquire such an image, and the format in which we capture and display it.

Figure 7: 2005.001.06.03.006. Unknown, Kodak Canada Inc., [Vehicles], gelatin silver print [ca. 1910], Toronto ON, 20.32 x 25.4 cm.

Figure 7: 2005.001.06.03.006. Unknown, Kodak Canada Inc., [Vehicles], gelatin silver print [ca. 1910], Toronto ON, 20.32 x 25.4 cm.

If you have any additional information about these photographs or the automobiles in them, we would love to hear from you!

Special Collections, located on the fourth floor of the Ryerson Library, holds numerous examples of late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century photographs, including cabinet cards, cartes de visite, tintypes, daguerreotypes and ambrotypes, as well as contemporary guidebooks and manuals. To access Special Collections give us a call or send us an email to book an appointment at: specialcollections@ryerson.ca or 416-979-5000 ext. 4996.

Notes

[i] W. Whitehead, “Home-made Backgrounds,” The Photo-American, Vol. 3, no. 3 (January 1892): 70.

[ii] Henry Peach Robinson, Pictorial Effect in Photography Being Hints on Composition and Chiaroscuro for Photographers, (1869. Reprint, Pawlet, Vermont: Helios, 1971): 102.

[iii] Ibid., 106.

[iv] John Heitmann, The Automobile and American Life, (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2009): 10.

[v] James J. Flink, America Adopts the Automobile, 1895-1910, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1970): 29.

[vi] George S. May, A Most Unique Machine: The Michigan Origins of the American Automobile Industry, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975): 42-45.

Bibliography

Flink, James J. America Adopts the Automobile, 1895-1910. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1970.

Heitmann, John. The Automobile and American Life. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2009.

May, George S. A Most Unique Machine: The Michigan Origins of the American Automobile Industry. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975.

Neal, Avon. “Folk Art Fantasies: Photographers’ Backdrops.” Afterimage. Vol. 24, issue 5 (March/April 1997): 1-13. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (9703172176).

Roberts, Peter. A Pictorial History of the Automobile. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1977.

Robinson, Henry Peach. Pictorial Effect in Photography Being Hints on Composition and Chiaroscuro for Photographers. 1869. Reprint, Pawlet, Vermont: Helios, 1971.

Thomas, Alan. The Expanding Eye: Photography and the Nineteenth-Century Mind. London: Croom Helm Ltd., 1978.

The Studio. Edited by Jerry Korn. New York: Time-Life Books, 1971.

Vogel, Dr. Hermann. “Filling the Picture. Accessories and Backgrounds.” Handbook of the Practice and Art of Photography. 2nd ed. Translated by unknown. Philidelphia: Benerman & Wilson, 1875.

Whitehead, W. “Home-made Backgrounds.” The Photo-American. Vol. 3, no. 3 (January 1892).

Wilson, Edward L. “Lesson K. Accessories and Light.” Wilson’s Photographics: A Series of Lessons, Accompanied by Notes, On All the Processes Which are Needful in the Art of Photography. New York: Edward L. Wilson, 1881.


 

 

 

Such Beautiful Shirts: Gatsby-era Fashion at Ryerson A&SC

For those who can’t get enough of Gatsby fashion, RULA Special Collections recently acquired a small donation of 1910s- and 20s-era stylebooks from American clothiers Hart, Schaffner & Marx and The House of Kuppenheimer.

From The House of Kuppenheimer Stylebook, Spring and Summer, 1916.

From The House of Kuppenheimer Stylebook, Spring and Summer, 1916.

From Hart, Schaffner & Marx Stylebook for Men, Young Men & Boys, Spring and Summer, 1920.

From Hart, Schaffner & Marx Stylebook for Men, Young Men & Boys, Spring and Summer, 1920.

The companies date back to the late nineteenth-century. Hart, Schaffner & Marx began operations as Harry Hart & Bro. in 1872, when brothers Harry and Max Hart opened a small men’s clothing outlet in Chicago. By 1887, the company had undergone two name changes and a series of new partnership agreements but settled on the name Hart, Schaffner & Marx. It was soon the largest manufacturer of men’s clothing in America, selling nearly $1 million worth of clothing annually.[1]

Cover, Hart, Schaffner & Marx Stylebook, Fall Suits and Topcoats, 1926.

Cover, Hart, Schaffner & Marx Stylebook, Fall Suits and Topcoats, 1926.

The company’s rival, The House of Kuppenheimer, was also based in Chicago. Established by Bernard Kuppenheimer in 1876, the company reached sales of $1 million per year by the 1880s. By the 1910s, it employed nearly 2000 workers.[2]

Cover, The House of Kuppenheimer Stylebok, Autumn and Winter, 1919-20.

Cover, The House of Kuppenheimer Stylebok, Autumn and Winter, 1919-20.

The companies specialized in tailored clothing for men, young men, and boys and distributed their catalogs through the retailers that sold their products. These catalogs capitalized on the allure of the wealthy American elite as the companies hired well-known illustrators[3] to create images that associated the brands with the fulfillment of the American dream. Taglines referring to “prep school boys” and “stylish business men” accompanied images of young men and women hunting, horseback riding, attending lavish banquets and performing other activities associated with America’s burgeoning leisure class.

From Hart, Schaffner & Marx Stylebook for Men and Young Men, 1916.

From Hart, Schaffner & Marx Stylebook for Men and Young Men, 1916.

From Hart, Schaffner & Marx Stylebook for Men and Young Men, 1925.

From Hart, Schaffner & Marx Stylebook for Men and Young Men, 1925.

From Hart, Schaffner & Marx Stylebook for Men and Young Men, Spring and Summer, 1916.

From Hart, Schaffner & Marx Stylebook for Men and Young Men, Spring and Summer, 1916.

From Hart, Schaffner & Marx Spring and Summer Stylebook for Men, Young Men & Boys, 1921.

From Hart, Schaffner & Marx Spring and Summer Stylebook for Men, Young Men & Boys, 1921.

Yet, much like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic literary portrait of the era, the catalogs also reveal the tensions underlying the pursuit of this elusive lifestyle. Indeed, the catalogs’ subjects are, like Gatsby himself, often as remarkable for their gaiety as for their unshakeable ennui. Meanwhile, the catalogs’ recurring concern with ‘rightness’ and ‘correctness’ betrays the intense pressures of conformity that governed the American upper classes.

From The House of Kuppenheimer Stylebook, Spring and Summer, 1919.

From The House of Kuppenheimer Stylebook, Spring and Summer, 1919.

From The House of Kuppenheimer Stylebook, 1920.

From The House of Kuppenheimer Stylebook, 1920.

From Hart, Schaffner & Marx Stylebook for Men and Young Men, Spring and Summer, 1916.

From Hart, Schaffner & Marx Stylebook for Men and Young Men, Spring and Summer, 1916.

From Hart, Schaffner & Marx Stylebook for Men and Young Men, Spring and Summer, 1925.

From Hart, Schaffner & Marx Stylebook for Men and Young Men, Spring and Summer, 1925.

Despite the catalogs’ glamourous subject matter, their emphasis on value and economy additionally reveals a target consumer more likely to pinch pennies and aspire to upward social mobility than to enjoy the breeze from an already-purchased yacht. In their most disconcerting form, the images flatly expose the American dream as a reality accessible to only a precious few in terms of race and gender.

From The House of Kuppenheimer Stylebook, 1920.

From The House of Kuppenheimer Stylebook, 1920.

From The House of Kuppenheimer Stylebook: Autumn and Winter, 1919-20.

From The House of Kuppenheimer Stylebook, Autumn and Winter, 1919-20.

The catalogs thus stand as a rich resource not only for those interested in the history of fashion, graphic design, or advertising, but also for anyone exploring race, class, and gender politics in America in the 1910s and 20s. Stop by Ryerson Special Collections on the 4th floor of the library to see these small but powerful documents of American history (call numbers: TT620.K87 1916-1921 ; TT620.H36 1911-1925) and to peruse other resources related to the history of fashion in North America, Europe and elsewhere.

 

Bibliography

1. Hart, Schaffner & Marx. (2005). In J.L. Reiff, A. D. Keating, & J.R. Grossman (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago: The Chicago Historical Society.

2. Kuppenheimer (B.) & Co. (2005). In J.L. Reiff, A. D. Keating, & J.R. Grossman (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago: The Chicago Historical Society.

3. Price, C.M. (1922). Poster design: A critical study of the development of the poster in continental Europe, England and America. New York: George W. Bricka.