History Lesson 101: This undated photograph (top and 2nd photo) gives a good example of the ways that historians can determine the time and place of a photograph with some analysis and some cross-referencing. First, we start with what we know: the fashion appears to be from the early 20th century. Although it’s dark we can see a woman with her child on the bench. The woman’s to have a feather hat, a common style of this era. The men’s bowlers also fit the time period of the early 20th century. While people were leisurely they still dressed formally in public. However, fashion only tells us so much. If we have additional photos/documents we can improve our guess. In this case, a vintage postcard works well (photos 3 & 4). According to the Toronto Postcard Club, the serial number on this postcard suggests that it was made in 1911. While the photograph that inspired the postcard could’ve been taken earlier and the serial number analysis is not absolute, it pegs a more specific date for our original photo. How? Well we see the boaters sporting similar fashion in both. Also the bridge layout and the tree clustering matches. The position of the bridge and the tree clustering also gives us a solid idea of the location of where this photograph was taken. To further support the time and whereabouts, we definitely see a building in the postcard and we see what looks like one in the photo. Therefore, it is likely that the photograph is from about the early 1910s near where today’s bandshell is. Why is this exercise important? I think today with the volume of images that bombard us, many of which are fake or photoshopped, it is crucial that we can make sense of information and properly analyze it to understand its place and time as well as its value. Lesson over. I hope I didn’t put anyone to sleep.😴 • Photo 1: LAC/My own Photo 2: LAC Photo 3: My own Photo 4: Delcampe Postcards
The old post office, 1950
Dominion architect T.S. Scott designed this Queen Anne Revival style building in 1881. In 1961 it was sadly demolished. However, the post office’s legacy lives on in the towers of the Gordon Block (Festival Square) across the street and at 70 Ontario Street, both of which were influenced by its design. • Photo 1: Virtual Museum - Stratford-Perth Museum Photo 2: My own
Then and Now: Views from the Collegiate Institute
The first photo, from c. 1894, looks northeast toward the downtown from the Stratford Collegiate Institute, built in 1879 (the site of Stratford Central today). In the foreground we see the Perth County Gaol, built in 1886, (jail) followed by the Perth County Courthouse, built between 1885-7. To the left is the Dufton Woolen Mill (Shakespearean Gardens today). The steeple in the background, which stood at 227 feet, belonged to Knox Presbyterian Church, which had been relocated to Ontario and Waterloo in 1873. It was struck by lightning in 1913 and the church burnt down. Sadly this beautiful steeple was never replaced when the church was rebuilt. Note, too, that the “sidewalks” on St. Andrew Street would have been wood planks and the roads dirt (and mud in the wet weather). There’s a few more angles to come. If you find this interesting please feel free to share. • Photo 1: Stratford, Canada a souvenir of the Classic City - 1900 Photo 2: Shot on DJI Mavic Mini
Beacon Building, 104 Ontario Street
Today’s feature is a hidden gem right before our eyes on Ontario Street. The Beacon building was built in 1907, fifty-two years after William Buckingham established the Beacon itself. More than a newspaper it also served as a book bindery and press. Note in the third photo that the Beacon printed on a weekly basis. It would’ve been nice to see a restoration of the Ionic capital and the cornice, although costs and practicality take hold. Nonetheless, it is remarkable how much the facade hasn’t changed. I love the two arched doorways. A special shoutout to our local businesses that make tremendous use of Stratford’s historic buildings. • • Photo 1: LAC Photo 2: My own Photo 3: 1878-79 - Perth County Gazetteer and Business Directory, LAC Photo 4: 1908 (rev. 1913) FIP from Western University Archives and Special Collection. Copyright expired.