TORONTO – Ever wondered what Canada looked like over a century ago? It’s possible, thanks to the British Library, which released more than 4,000 images from its Colonial Copyright Collection of Canadian photographs.
The “Picturing Canada” series features collection of photographs collected by the Library between 1895 and 1924.
The photographs depict everything from the daily lives of Canadians to Confederation, the Stanley Cup playoffs and the First World War.
Phil Hatfield, British Library Curator in Canadian and Caribbean Studies, and Andrew Gray, British Library Wikipedian, explained how the photographs ended up in London.
“The answer hangs on an arcane piece of British copyright law, the colonial copyright legislation of the 19th century,” they said, in an article posted to Public Domain Review. “To be frank the law was a lame-duck: it attempted to extend a part of British law to the Empire and ensure the comprehensive collection of intellectual property from beyond the metropole but in both areas it was fairly ineffective, with only a few territories taking it seriously.”
According to Wikimedia, following an amendment to the Canadian copyright act in 1895, registration of copyright in Canada required depositing two copies of an item — one kept in Ottawa and the other sent to the British Museum in London. The requirement to send a copy to London ended in 1924 when Canadian copyright law was updated.
Any photograph created before 1948 is now public domain as copyright has expired.
Here’s a look at a selection of images from the British Library’s Colonial Copyright Collection of Canadian photographs.
Original description: Porcupine’s lady prospector. Year: 1911. Henry Peters
Original description: Col. Barker, VC, in one of the captured German aeroplanes against which he fought his last air battle. Year: 1919. Canadian Postcard Company
Original description: Sir Charles Tupper and Hugh John Macdonald. Year: 1900. William Notman and Son
Original description: Cree Indian. Year: 1903. G. E. Fleming
Original description: Queen’s Own Rifles at Toronto Armoury. Year: 1901. F. W. Micklethwaite
Original description: The farewell. Year: 1915. A. A. Chesterfield
Original description: Prince of Wales leaving City Park, Winnipeg. Year: 1919. Rembrandt Studios
Original description: Sir Wilfred Laurier at Montreal, September 27th, 1916. Montreal Standard Publishing Company
Original description: The Honourable Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Year: 1906. William J. Topley
Original description: Opening of new Parliament buildings at Victoria, B. C., February 10th 1898. John Wallace Jones
Original description: The Globe kittens. Year: 1902. Ernest J. Rowley
Original description: Performing animals. No. 1. Year: 1920. John A. Brown
Original description: Curling at Banff. Year: 1906. Byron Harmon
Original description: Ottawa Hockey Team, N.H. Association World Champions and Stanley Cup Holders, 1911. Alfred George Pittaway