Celebrating 175 years of photography

Archival Moment

August 19th, 1839

PhotoWorld Photo Day 2014 marks a special anniversary for photographers across the globe. It marks the 175th anniversary of the first permanent photographic process patented and freely released to the world on August 19th, 1839.

Scientists, artists and inventors took up the task of capturing the light at the start of the 19th century but it was not until William Henry Fox Talbot undertook a series of experiments at Lacock Abbey, Wilkshire, England in 1834-1835 that the dream became reality.

Talbot captured the first photographic negative at the Abbey, an image of a window, not much bigger than a postage stamp. However, he did not announce his invention or publish his findings immediately.

It wasn’t until January 1839, the year that is now regarded by many as the year photography was born, and that he announced his process and then only because a Frenchman named Daguerre claimed the invention for himself.

By the end of January the race was on between the two men – to claim the title ‘inventor of photography’.

On August 19, 1839, at the Institut de France in Paris, the distinguished physicist, Francois Arago, announced to the world on behalf of the French Government the details of Daguerre’s process which became known as the daguerreotype. The Daguerreotype process produced a positive image, but it is from a negative-positive process developed by William Fox Talbot that our modern photographic processes stem.

Talbot’s negative/positive process that ultimately established itself as the process used up until the digital age.

In Newfoundland photography was established as early as March 10th, 1843 with the following advertisement appearing in the local St. John’s paper the Public Ledger:


MESSERS William VALENTINE & Thomas DOANE beg leave to call the attention of the inhabitants of St. John’s and its vicinity, to an Art which has attained great celebrity and popularity in almost every city of Europe and America.

They have completed an apartment fitted for the purposes of Daguerreotype Portraiture, and have made other improvements and arrangements, by means of which they are confident of producing pictures of exquisite beauty.

The Daguerreotype Rooms, at the Golden Lion Inn, will be opened on MONDAY, at 10 o’clock, and will remain open daily from 10 to 4 o’clock. Persons unacquainted with the art, are respectfully invited to call at the Rooms, and examine Specimens.  Portraits taken in any state of the weather.

The first known photographs made around Newfoundland and Labrador were tied to the fishing industry. In 1857 Paul-Émile Miot, a French naval officer aboard the Ardent, captained by Georges-Charles Cloué, made photographs of the waters and land around Newfoundland and Labrador. Miot may have been the first to use photographs in the production of hydrographic maps. During subsequent trips to Newfoundland, he also made a series of portraits that would be published as woodcuts in Le Monde illustré, Harper’s Weekly and Illustration. Important both for their practical information and as political tools, Miot’s images also provide evocative glimpses of Newfoundland’s past.

The first commercially available 35mm film camera was developed only 90 years ago. The digital camera became popular just 20 years ago and 15 years ago, camera phones didn’t exist. Today, everyone is impacted by the influence of photography.

Recommended Archival Collection: The Rooms Provincial Archives is home to hundreds of thousands of photographs from 1843 to the present.

Recommended Reading: Antonia McGrath, Introduction to Newfoundland Photography, 1849-1949 (St. John’s, NL: Breakwater Books, 1980).

Newfoundland architecture: From the Octagon Castle to the Fogo Island Inn

Archival Moment

August 18, 1898

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives.  E 19 - 31. Octagon Castle, Topsaiil.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. E 19 – 31. Octagon Castle, Topsail.

The world press remians fascinated by the construction and opening of the Fogo Island Inn, a milestone in the work of The Shorefast Foundation and its founder, visionary Zita Cobb. Following a successful career in the high technology industry, Cobb returned to Fogo Island, her birthplace, to invest millions.

In August 1898, the world press was fascinated by the Octagon Castle, Topsail.

Travel writers have throughout history made their way to Newfoundland and Labrador to comment on this place, governments over the years have been actively courting travel writers as part of their tourism strategy.

In 1898 there was much excitement with the news that J.C. Baker, the Art Editor of the World, was in travelling in Newfoundland and he was keen to write about this place.  In particular Baker was fascinated by Octagon Castle and its owner Professor Charles Danielle.

Baker wrote to Danielle to ask that he:

“Send me details on how and why you took up your life on the borders of that delightful lake, (Rocky Pond, Topsail) in the solitude of the wilderness; I think it would make an interesting article …”

The World was at the time the most successful of the New York newspapers. In 1898 it was under the direction of Joseph Pulitzer who was in an aggressive era of circulation building. In 1896, the World began using a four-color printing press; it was the first newspaper to launch a color supplement.

Professor Danielle was excited about the possibility, J.C. Baker was requesting:

“Photos of yourself at present, and some of the old ones in costume, together with photos of Octagon castle exterior and interior?”

The local press, the Evening Telegram  was reporting:

“When a journal like the New York World, with a circulation of over 700,000, thinks it’s worthwhile to illustrate and publish the Professor’s enterprise, the latter must surely be a live man, and the Octagon, a most remarkable place…”

It was indeed a remarkable place.

Professor Danielle had previous to the Octagon Castle been best known for another building that he constructed the Oriental Palace, built on the north bank of Quidi Vidi in 1893. Although he named it the Royal Pavilion, in newspaper advertisement he described it as the “Magnificent Oriental Palace.” Its interior was decorated in oriental style.  Its ballroom accommodated 1,500 people; the kitchen had four large ranges and as his advertising said.

“The attendants will be attired in oriental costumes and in harmony with the general surroundings — that none but Danielle’s has ever yet gladdened the eyes of Newfoundland with.”

It appears that Professor Danielle had a difficult relationship with his landlord (Mr. Joe Ross) at Quidi Vidi and in a fit of anger disassembled the Palace, board by board and had it carted to Rocky Pond, now called Octagon Pond.  There, he reassembled the palace in octagon style and named it Octagon Castle. The castle was envisioned as a restaurant and resort. The main building was a true octagon shape, with eight sides. It was four stories in height, covered 3,750 square feet of land and enclosed 10, 880 square feet of floor space.

Octagon Castle soon became a popular resort for the pleasure-loving public of St John’s. Societies and clubs held their picnics there, and on holidays hundreds of excursionists flocked to the castle to enjoy the boating and other amenities. Once a year Danielle provided a day’s outing for orphans from the city. To publicize the place he issued pamphlets describing its attractions and even included a list of “don’ts” to prospective clients.

“Don’t bring flasks in your pockets; the Professor keeps Strang’s, Bennett’s, and Gaden’s best. . . . Don’t bring any growlers with you; they keep me awake nights. . . . I want to implore patrons again not to bring flasks and bottles with them, and break them around the grounds. I have buried broken bottles until I can’t get a whole angle worm to catch a trout, they are all cut up in bits.”

Many stories have grown up around the proprietor of the Octagon Castle. One describes him lamenting the state of his health early in May 1901 and predicting that in a year he would “be no more.” Exactly a year later he died.

Octagon Castle was destroyed by fire in 1915.

New – Old Word: Growler, a container (as a can or pitcher) for beer bought by the measure.

Recommended Reading:  Dictionary of Canadian Biography: http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=6657&terms=created

Recommended Website:The Fogo Island Inn: http://www.fogoislandinn.ca/

Recommended  Forbes Magazine: Hot  Hotel: http://www.forbes.com/sites/garywalther/2014/03/31/fogo-island-inn-the-hot-hotel-in-newfoundlands-iceberg-alley/  

Ode To Newfoundland


August 17, 1979

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives MG 956.110 Item consists of sheet music, lyrics, and illustrated cover for patriotic composition, Newfoundland. On left side a seal fisherman in oilskins holding Newfoundland pink, white and green with seal at his feet on right side a uniformed Royal Naval Reserve member, holding Union Jack, with Newfoundland dog.

On August 17, 1979, Royal Assent was given to legislation adopting the Ode to Newfoundland as the official provincial anthem of the province of Newfoundland.

The  song  the “Newfoundland”  now known as the “Ode To Newfoundland” was sung for the very first time on January 21, 1902 at the Casino Theatre in St. John’s.  The local St. John’s newspaper, The Daily News, reported that  the new song was greeted enthusiastically.

The newspaper article reads:

 “Miss Frances Daisy Foster rendered with exquisite feeling a new song entitled “Newfoundland.” It proved a pleasant surprise and the general appreciation of it was marked by the audience joining spontaneously in the chorus.”

The “Ode to Newfoundland” was composed by Governor, Sir Cavendish Boyle, the original score was set to the music of E.R. Krippner, a German bandmaster living in St. John’s but Boyle desired a more dignified score. It was then set to the music of British composer Sir Hubert Parry, a personal friend of Boyle, who composed two settings.

By 1904 it was firmly established as the unofficial anthem of the Dominion of Newfoundland so much so that in the 1909 General Election, Robert Bond proposed that if elected he would make it the official anthem of the country.

When sun rays crown thy pine clad hills,
And summer spreads her hand,
When silvern voices tune thy rills,
We love thee, smiling land.

We love thee, we love thee,
We love thee, smiling land.

When spreads thy cloak of shimmering white

at winter’s stern command

Through shortened days and

starlit nights we love thee frozen land

We love thee, we love thee, we love thee frozen land.

We love thee, we love thee,
We love thee, frozen land.

When blinding storm gusts fret thy shores

and wild waves wash their strands,

Through spindrift swirls and tempest roars

we love thee windswept land,

We love thee, we love thee, we love thee

windswept land.

We love thee, we love thee,
We love thee, windswept land.

As loved our fathers, so we love,
Where once they stood, we stand;
Their prayer we raise to Heaven above,
God guard thee, Newfoundland

God guard thee, God guard thee,
God guard thee, Newfoundland

We hope that you sing this “archival moment”  and please pass it along to your many friends.

Recommended Archival Collection: Take some time to explore MG 956.110 at the Rooms Provincial Archives Division this cover illustration featuring the Ode to Newfoundland depicts some of the iconic symbols and images of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Recommended Reading:  Geoff Butler, Ode to Newfoundland. Lyrics by Sir Cavendish Boyle. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2003.

Come Sing Along: With lyrics, sheet music, MIDIs & video http://www.wtv-zone.com/phyrst/audio/nfld/01/anthem.htm

Lady Day In Newfoundland


August 15, 1864

The fishing season began with the blessing of the boats by the clergy.

 In Newfoundland and Labrador, August 15 is better known as Lady Day.  On August 15 there is a long established tradition that the “catch of fish” on this day was to be given over to the church.

‘Lady Day,’ the fifteenth of August  in some parts of the province signaled the end of the fishing season.  It  was not unusual for some fishermen to ‘give it up’  for the remainder of the summer.

On August 14, 1864 Bishop John Thomas Mullock, the Roman Catholic Bishop of St. John’s   “called on the people of the St. John’s  area  to fish for St. Patrick’s Church tomorrow”  Bishop Mullock was so determined to get the fishermen up and out fishing at an early hour that he put on a special mass in the Cathedral (now the Basilica) at 4:00 a.m. “for the people going to fish…”

August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, was one of the great feast days in the calendar of the Catholic Church. So important was this day that it was considered a Holy Day of Obligation, a day to  refrain  from work, a day demanding that the faithful attend Mass.


When the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) was being constructed Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming of Newfoundland received in 1834 from Pope Gregory XVI,  the faculty to dispense the fishermen subject to his spiritual jurisdiction from the obligation of fasting on the vigils of saints.  This allowed Bishop Fleming to give permission to the fishermen to fish for the church on holy days, like Lady Day.  Bishop Fleming referred to himself as “the prelate of a congregation of impoverished fishermen.” 

Father Kyran Walsh (the priest in charge of the construction of the R.C. Cathedral (now Basilica) would collect Lady Day fish in the summer, and so raised the thousands of pounds that were needful to complete the Cathedral.

Lady Day in many communities became a day of celebration – at the end of the “fishing day” in some communities (especially in Placentia Bay) dinner and dances were held in the parish halls.

On August 19, 1944 one writer for the Western Star newspaper in Corner Brook, lamented that:

“The 15th of August passed by rather uneventfully. However, many sadly recalled the big celebrations it occasioned in days gone by, and would like to see it return to its former festivity.”


Forgotten fisherman to be remembered

Archival Moment

August 15, 2014

Public invited to attend event.

Youth to participate

frota branca2The Commanding Officer of the Portuguese, Naval Ocean Patrol vessel, NRP Viana De Castello has confirmed that it will be docking in St. John’s on Friday, August 15th and the  crew will lay a memorial wreath in Mt. Carmel Cemetery, St. John’s at the unmarked grave of White Fleet fisherman, Dionisiv Esteves.

The wreath laying ceremony will take place on Friday morning, August 15 at 11:00 a.m. The short ceremony, will take place in Mount Carmel Cemetery located at Kennas Hill and the Boulevard.

Dionisiv Esteves, died during the 1966 fishing campaign while unloading his daily catch of codfish. He was crushed between his swamped dory and the steel hull of the fishing vessel Santa Maria Manuela. His unmarked grave site, which was discovered, (three years ago) has come to symbolize all those Portuguese fishermen who lost their lives fishing on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Since the grave was discovered the daughter of Dionisiv Esteves has come forward to learn more about the father that she never met. His brother, Fernando Esteves has also come forward to make inquiries about the resting place of his brother.

Portuguese Grave 034This year Captain Teixeira of the Viana De Castello will be assigning 21 military personnel for the Mt Carmel wreath laying ceremony. For the first time thirteen Portuguese naval academy cadets will be present at the ceremony.

Jean Pierre Andrieux  said that “including the youth in the ceremony is an attempt to impress on them the long association of the people of Newfoundland with the ‘White Fleet.”

Immediately following this ceremony, a short visit to the Fatima Grotto at the Basilica-Cathedral of St. John the Baptist will take place. The Statue of the Lady of Fatima was a gift to the people of St. John’s from the Portuguese White Fleet fishermen in 1955. This was traditionally the altar that the Portuguese fishermen of the ‘White Fleet’ prayed at before they left the port of St. John’s to return to the Grand banks and eventually home.

The Viana De Castello is part of a fisheries inspection mission in the NAFO zone off the Grand Banks. The vessel I will remain in port until August 17.

Commanding Officer Rui Teixeira invites the public to attend these ceremonies as well as an Open House on the vessel from 2 pm to 5 pm on Saturday. The vessel will be docked at Pier 8.

Local businessman and author, Jean Pierre Andrieux is spearheading a financial campaign to raise funds to erect a memorial at the grave site of Esteves that would also serve to remember all Portuguese fishermen who lost their lives fishing in Newfoundland waters.

The wreath laying ceremony is open to the public. Those attending are encouraged to use the Kenna’s Hill entrance to the cemetery.

For further information contact Jean Pierre Andrieux @ jpa@spmtours.com or 753-7277 (home) or 687-6429 (cell).

Volunteer Movement Acclaimed, the First 500

Archival Moment

August 12, 1914

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The origin of the phrase  “The First 500”  can likley be traced to the Church Lads Brigade Armoury, St. John’s on August 12, 1914.

On August 13, 1914 the local St. John’s newspaper reported:

“The public meeting at the C.L.B .Armoury last night (August 12, 1914) to consider the question of enlisting volunteers for land service abroad and home defense during the war, was very largely attended. All classes were represented and the greatest enthusiasm prevailed. “

The meeting was called by His Excellency Sir Water E. Davidson, the Governor of Newfoundland, and the official representative of the British crown. The Governor arrived at the Armoury “and was greeted by an outburst of cheering while the C.L.B. Armoury played the national Anthem.”

In addressing the crowd, the Governor said:

 “It behooves every British subject to aid the mother country, to finish the fight, as speedily as possible. Newfoundland must do her part laying claim as we do to being the oldest and the most loyal colony. In my telegram to the home Government, I stated we were poor in money and rich in men who are accustomed to meet all difficulties without wavering.”

The Governor continued:

I pleaded myself that Newfoundland would furnish 500 men, but I hope the number will be 5,000. “

The meeting at the Armoury concluded with a resolution that “a Committee of twenty five citizens be appointed to take such steps as may be deemed necessary for enlisting and equipping these men …”

On August 22, 1914, a call for volunteers was issued and within days 335 had signed up; two thirds from St. John’s cadet brigades. By September 26, nearly 1000 volunteers had been recruited and went to the Church Lads Brigade building on Military Road in St. John’s to enlist. Roughly half passed the required medical exams and moved to tent lines established at nearby Pleasantville.

The iconic phrase, ‘The First 500”  was born.

Recommended Archival Collection: Distinguished Service: the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War, this on line exhibition documents the lives and experiences of the province’s soldiers and aims to encourage interest in research on the Royal Newfoundland Regimen. The service records of the First 500 and others are available at the Provincial Archives at The Rooms. Many of the service records (but not all ) arte on line http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium Pleasantville before the First World War was the site of the St. John’s cricket grounds. With the declaration of war, Pleasantville quickly emerged as a tent city, the home of the storied “First 500”. It was here that the First Newfoundland Regiment recruits began preliminary military training during the months of September and October of 1914. This exhibition highlights some of the activities and training of the Blue Puttees up to their emb

COLLECTING THE GREAT WAR ENLISTING YOUR HELP: The Rooms needs your help to tell the stories of the men and women who served overseas and at home during the First World War and the impact that the war had here. The Rooms staff will be available to collect stories and document photographs and artifacts. Help us preserve stories of the First World War before they are lost. The information gathered will be used to develop a new permanent exhibition on The Great War to open in 2016.  Have you any connection to the First 500?  More Information: http://www.therooms.ca/firstworldwar/default.asp

Grand Organ for the Cathedral of St. John’s, Newfoundland

An organ built by Thomas J. Robson organ builder to her majesty. Likely like the first organ in the Basilica Cathedral, St. John’s.


August 12, 1852

On  August 12, 1852 the local newspaper The Newfoundlander copied an article from a London newspaper The Sun that made reference to a grand organ that was destined for Newfoundland

The article reads:

 “A magnificent organ, destined for the above Cathedral, (the R.C. Cathedral) as just been completed by Mssers Robsons of St. Martin’s Lane, where, prior to its transmission across the Atlantic, a numerous and fashionable assemblage of ladies and gentlemen, including many amateurs and professors, have for several days past  attended to hear the merits tested by Messer’s, Rea, Noble, Pritchard, Nottingham, and other eminent artists. The whole cost, amounting to 1500 has been defrayed by the Right Reverend Dr. (Bishop John  Mullock),  who presents this stupendous and brilliant instrument to the Cathedral in St. John’s, Newfoundland.”   – Sun

Thomas J. Robson  was no ordinary organ builder,  he carried the title “organ  builder to her majesty.”

Upon the arrival of the fine instrument in St. John’sthe first organist appointed to the R.C. Cathedral and to the care of the organ was Thomas Mullock an accomplished organist in Limerick, Ireland, he came toSt. John’s at the invitation of his brother (the bishop). He stayed inSt. John’s and remained as organist for about fifteen years.

For much of his life, Thomas remained in the shadow of his brother. He lived quietly supplementing his income by teaching music and raising his young family. In December 1854 he was devastated when his only child Charlotte Mary died at the age of 2 years,10 months.

Upon returning toIrelandhe was employed as the organist at St. Mary’s,Irish Town, Main Street, Clonmel. He knew the town well as he was married to Charlotte Frances O’Brien daughter of Daniel O’Brien of Clonmel.

Due to deterioration this “Grand Organ” over the years, it was dismantled in 1938 under the direction of (Sir) Charles Hutton and was replaced by a Hammond electronic organ.

This, in turn, was replaced in 1954-55 by the organ that is presently used in the Cathedral Basilica. The new organ has 66 stops and a total of 4050 pipes.

The installation actually comprises two organs; the main organ of 51 stops located in the organ gallery, and the sanctuary organ of 15 stops arranged behind the main altar. Each organ may be played from the main organ gallery either separately, or, if desired, simultaneously with the main organ. The organ was built and installed by Casavant Freres Limited ofSt. Hyacinthe,Quebec.

Recommended Archival Collection:  Take some time to explore MG 590 at The Rooms Provincial Archives; MG590 is the Charles Hutton and Sons fonds. It consists of textual records relating to the business interests of Charles Hutton & Sons in St. John’s 1930-1938.  The collection consists of correspondence between the company and patrons inNewfoundland andCanada, requesting songs, musical instruments and other enquiries.

Recommended Reading: An introduction to the Pipe Organs in Newfoundland and Labrador by Dr. David Peter’s, 2012 (unpublished)

Recommended Reading: The British Invasion Lives on! Pipe Organs of Newfoundland and Labrador Canada by Lester Goulding and William Vineer : The Diapason, July 2013.