Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 2 – William H. H. Johnson

Last year I took on the challenge of the first-ever Local History Advent Calendar! For 24 days in a row I presented random historical tidbits I’d collected over the previous year and presented them in the form of “treats” for my 2018 Local History Advent Calendar. This year, the “Heart of Mount Pleasant” was number 1 on Heritage Vancouver’s Top 10 Watch List for 2019.  So I decided to choose Mount Pleasant as the theme for the Vanalogue Local History Advent Calendar for 2019.  Each day you can “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Mount Pleasant history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 2: Mount Pleasant’s William H.H. Johnson – varnish maker by day, author by night …

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Like many Mount Pleasant creatives today, William H.H. Johnson (1839 – 1905?) supported his art with a day job. Johnson was not only a varnish maker, he was also a writer. He wrote the first slave narrative published by a British Columbian.

Johnson wrote  ‘The Horrors of Slavery‘ and ‘The Life of Wm. H.H. Johnson from 1839-1900, and the New Race‘ while living in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood from around 1901 to 1904.

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1901 City Directory listing for 352 East 14th Avenue, Vancouver.

The 1901 Canada Census and the 1901 City Directories lists him as a 61-year-old widower living in Mount Pleasant and working as a varnish manufacturer.

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Portion of Goads 1897 (revised to 1901) Fire Insurance Plan showing Johnson’s residence at 352 E 14th and a varnish works building beside it.

Johnson lived in a house at 352 East 14th along with Henry Harvey (66), a drayman, and Henry’s wife Pheby (63). According to the 1901 census, all three were Canadian citizens born in the United States. Like Johnson, it is possible that the Harvey’s emigrated to Canada to escape slavery.

I learned about Johnson from author Wayde Compton who recently wrote the afterward to a new reprinting of William H. H. Johnson’s The New Race.

“In his memoir, Johnson writes an account of his mother’s flight from Kentucky to Indiana while pregnant with him. During his youth, his family were “station masters” of the Underground Railroad in various towns in Indiana, helping blacks escape to freedom in Canada. Although Indiana was ostensibly a free state, the law allowed bounty hunters to recapture those who had freed themselves. Johnson’s family ultimately fled to Ontario. Johnson migrated west to British Columbia, where he worked as a varnish maker in the Vancouver neighbourhood of Mount Pleasant. There he wrote his life story. Johnson also wrote a tract called The Horrors of Slavery. Both works are included in this volume.”

Description of The New Race, Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2019.

Original copies of both ‘The life of Wm. H.H. Johnson from 1839 to 1900, and the new race‘ (Bolam & Hornett, printers and publishers, 1904) and ‘The horrors of slavery‘ can be found at UBC’s Rare Books and Special Collections.

Art Show Confidential -Part 2

Christine Hagemoen – East 10th human scale, 2019, Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150

Happy to announce that I have another exhibit of (mostly) new works up all this month at the Whip Restaurant & Gallery on East 6th at Main St. The works are a continuation of what I was working on earlier this year, which I described in an earlier post.

Many people have been asking if there was any online catalogue of my work, so that has inspired this post. Here you go!

Christine Hagemoen – Dominion Building dames, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150

So, if you are unable to visit The Whip (209 E6th Ave. Vancouver) to see my show, or missed the last one, here is your chance to not only view my works, but an opportunity for you to purchase one (or, two, or three…)

The holidays are coming up, and these would make great gifts for the historyphile, fashionphile, Vancouverphile, or sewingphile on your list ,or even a great gift to yourself! Many of the collage “scenes” are situated in historic Mount Pleasant, East Vancouver, or Chinatown.

Christine Hagemoen – When You Marry, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150

Here’s the offer: Order a print by no later than December 1, 2019 and I can have a framed print ready for you by December 16th, 2019 (local pickup/delivery only)*.

The images are 12″x16″ ink jet prints on archival fine art photo paper, matted and framed in Ikea Ribba 16″x20″ frames. You have a choice of a black (my preference) or white frame.

Christine Hagemoen – Cinderella never had it so good! Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150.  My ode to “Pop Art” – the imagery in this collage print was sourced from vintage magazines.

 

Other prints for sale. All are 12×16 inches matted in a 16×20 frame. Click image to enlarge.

1. Christine Hagemoen East 10th human scale, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150

2. Christine Hagemoen East side auto service, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150

3. Christine Hagemoen Off to School, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150

4. Christine Hagemoen B.C. Sugar Refinery, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150

5. Christine Hagemoen I love you, booth, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150

6. Christine Hagemoen Chinatown alley, 2018. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150

7. Christine Hagemoen Mount Pleasant Demolition, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150

8. Christine Hagemoen East Georgia Street, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150

9. Christine Hagemoen Window Shopping, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150

10. Christine Hagemoen Mount Pleasant Pulp Fiction, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150

11. Christine Hagemoen Breeze block backdrop, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150

12. Christine Hagemoen Helen’s Cafe, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150

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Christine Hagemoen – East side auto service, 2019. Inkjet print on Prestige Fine Art paper – $150

 

*I am able to mail the artworks framed (or unframed) for additional postage costs. Last summer I mailed a framed print to Toronto via regular parcel mail (cheapest) it was about $30 for the postage. Contact me and we can discuss options. Please Note: In 2020, the prices for my artworks will be going up (inflation baby!)

 

The curious case of the 1956 roll of Kodak Super XX

When I took my roll of previously exposed film from 1956 in for processing at The Lab early last year, I wasn’t expecting much.  First, it had been 62 years since the film was exposed – I was convinced the “statute of latent image limitations” had passed for this roll. Second, it was stored at room temperature the whole time. And third, the roll was wound so loosely, I was convinced it was most likely completely fogged.

When I went in to collect the film  (plus some other film I dropped off) at the appointed time, it was not ready. In fact, they couldn’t quite determine its exact location. Not only was I worried that something had gone wrong, but I was also a little peeved that I would have to make a second trip to pick it up.  So, imagine my surprise when I got a phone call from the folks at The Lab later that day telling me that there was not one roll of film, but 5 rolls of exposed film wound onto the single spool!  Even though they never said it directly, the tone used on the phone indicated that there may have been something on the film ( x 5).

And there was…

Negatives on light table at The Lab. The film is a little brittle and sadly the last image on the last roll lost a corner during processing.  Photo: C. Hagemoen

For film that was older than me… these negs looked really, really good! How was this even possible?  I saw the paper backing on the film when I delivered it to the photo lab, so I know it hadn’t been processed yet. But, I still don’t understand how (or why) multiple rolls of exposed film were wound around a single spool, and none of it was fogged?  A mystery for sure.

The film was Kodak Super XX. This film was Kodak’s standard high-speed film from 1940 until it was discontinued (in roll format) in 1960.  It was replaced by Kodak Tri-X. It could be partially due to its age, but the contrast of this film is really good. Just the way I like it.

When I first came across the film over 10 years ago it was headed for the bin. I suppose to the uninformed eye this roll of old, unexposed film did not look viable. The roll was wrapped in a paper cover with “Chinatown April 1956” written on it. I was intrigued. Since the film was being discarded,  I decided to rescue it. I thought it might be interesting to see if there was anything on the roll after all those years.  In my mind, it was worth a try.  A photo experiment of sorts.  I stored the roll in a drawer for several years, even moved house with it, before I decided to finally take a chance and process the film.  I’m glad I did.

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Group of children on street in Chinatown. I love this image, not only are the children (now senior citizens) adorable, but it shows the once prevalent sidewalk prisms and old wood street paving blocks exposed through the asphalt. Photo: Photographer currently unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.

What a find! These photos depict Chinatown and False Creek ca. 1956,  an area of Vancouver that looks very different today. They are also clearly shot by someone who knew what they were doing. There was a name included on the wrapper. This may be the name of the shooter, but it is hard to tell at the moment. More investigation will be required to determine who shot these wonderful images and to figure out why the films weren’t processed back in 1956.

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This image captures the yet unknown photographer. Photo: Photographer currently unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.

In the meantime, I scanned a few of the negatives…

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Man shopping in Chinatown. Photo: Photographer currently unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.
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400 Block Carrall Street. Photo: Photographer currently unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.
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Man walking by poultry shop. Photo: Photographer currently unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.
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Rooftops. Photo: Photographer currently unknown, C. Hagemoen personal collection.

 

*I first published this post on my (now stagnant) Expired Film Project blog in early 2018. I thought it was worth another kick at the can. I’m still working on figuring out the identity of the photographer, but I have a lead that I am following.

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 12 – Vancouver’s first female newspaper publisher

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 12:  Rena Whitney was the city’s first female newspaper publisher…

Sara Ann McLagan may have been the first female publisher of a daily newspaper (Vancouver Daily World) in Vancouver, however, the title for the first female publisher of a newspaper in the city goes to Rena Whitney. Like McLagan, who took over as publisher after the death of her husband, John McLagan, in 1901, Whitney took the helm at the weekly paper, the Mount Pleasant Advocate, after the death of her husband publisher Mayo Whitney in March of 1900.

Clippings from the Mt. Pleasant Advocate. Available via UBC Open Collections.

The Advocate was established April 8, 1899, by newspaper publisher/editor and lawyer, (Charles) Mayo Whitney. Whitney originally from Massachusetts moved to British Columbia with his first wife Laura and son Charles Francis Whitney sometime in the late 1880s. By 1890, the Whitneys had settled in Courtenay, B.C. where Mayo and his son Charles (Frank) started a newspaper, the Courtenay Weekly News. After the death of Laura Whitney on December 22, 1893 in New Westminster, the Whitney father and son team continue to run the newspaper in Courtenay until at least 1895. They drop off the radar until 1899, when widower Mayo Whitney and his second wife Rena show up living in Mount Pleasant and publishing the Mount Pleasant Advocate.

The Advocate newspaper office was located at 2525 Westminster Avenue (Main Street) in the heart of the Mount Pleasant village. “Devoted to the interests of Mt. Pleasant and South Vancouver”, the paper was not known for its hard-hitting news, but was nonetheless an important part of the growing community of Mount Pleasant.

Sadly, there is not much known about Rena Whitney. The 1901 Canada Census for Vancouver reveals that Rena Whitney was born in the U.S.*, on July 3 1854, was a widow, working as a newspaper publisher, and living with her son, Ralph Cummings (from a previous marriage), a printer, who was born September 24, 1878. Ralph worked at the newspaper with his mother, first as a printer and later as the Advocate manager.

Vancouver Daily World February 28, 1908.

Rena Whitney sold the Advocate in early 1908 due to health reasons. The Vancouver Daily World item (above) explains that she left the city for California. Unfortunately, this is the last information we hear about this intriguing woman who was part of Vancouver’s newspaper history.

*Update: An archivist friend of mine located Rena Whitney’s California 1934 death certificate it appears that she stayed in Los Angeles with her sister for the remainder of her life. The death certificate also revealed that she was born in the US not NS (Nova Scotia) as I previously stated.

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Fun Fact: The first female publisher/editor in Canada was Mary Ann Shadd Cary who ran an anti-slavery newspaper called The Provincial Freeman (1853-1860).

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 5 – Bicycle Livery

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 5: Vancouver once had bicycle liveries …

At the turn of the last century, before the automobile took over our city streets, bicycles were a common and popular mode of transportation. So popular in fact, there was a bicycle “craze” of sorts. Men, women and citizens of all ages were caught up in “cycling’s first golden moment”. But, what is the owner to do if they should find their “silent steed” in need of repair? Enter the bicycle livery.

What is a bicycle livery? Think of it like a horse livery, but for bikes. It was a place where you could rent a bicycle (perfect for visitors or fair weather riders) and where wheels were repaired and sold. There were several dotted around the city.

The popularity with all things two-wheeled resulted in bicycle races becoming very common in the late 1800s, and in 1890 the Terminal City Bicycle Club was formed in Vancouver.  Stories of some bicycle riders who were not only “reckless as to their own safety, but were indifferent to the safety of pedestrians” started appearing in the local newspapers, so on July 13, 1896, Vancouver City Council passed by-law (No. 258) to regulate the use of bicycles in the city.

Province Newspaper, 1898

Major J.S. Matthews, the first City Archivist, documented Vancouver’s fin-de-siècle bicycle “craze” in his book Early Vancouver. Here are some excerpts:

“The bicycle became so popular that racks were put up in the vestibules of the small office buildings to receive the “machines” of those employed there and who had business there. At the City Hall, there was a long rack which would accommodate perhaps two dozen bicycles. Similar racks existed at the C.P.R. Depot, and also public places such as parks, post office and hotel lobbies.”

“The “machines” were so numerous that the City Council ordered special bicycle paths constructed on those streets which were most frequently used. These paths were invariably cinder surfaced, and rolled flat, and ran along the edge of the street between the gutter and wooden sidewalk. They were about six feet wide, and constantly kept in order, level and smooth, by city workmen.”

“The bicycle paths led to and from some well-frequented area, or beside streets where there was considerable vehicular traffic. One ran from Seymour Street, along the north side, to the entrance of Stanley Park; another on the west side of Seymour from Robson to Pacific Street; a third from Granville Street South (from the Third Avenue Bridge) from the bridge, along the north side of Third Avenue to about Maple Street, where the track turned off in an indeterminate direction through the clearing until it reached Greer’s Beach.”

Terminal City Cycling Club at the reservoir near Prospect Point, Aug. 12, 1892. Photo: COV Archives, P18

By 1910, the automobile was starting to gain popularity and the street car system was well established in the city. So, like their equine counterparts, the bicycle went out of favour and bicycle liveries began to die out.

 

 

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 4 – Woodward’s Peanut Butter factory

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 4: Woodward’s once had a peanut butter factory in the sky…

1956 ad for Woodward’s peanut butter.

The base of the tower that supported the revolving ‘W’ on top of the Woodward’s Store on Hastings once housed the Woodward’s brand peanut butter factory. The one person plant, located in the 4-storey extension from the roof, processed thousand’s of tons of peanuts using a cast iron machine that was first installed at the Hastings Street store in 1910. A sentimental favourite for fans of Woodward’s Food Floor, Woodward’s brand peanut butter was produced in the factory until the 1980s.

Photo: HBC Heritage – Woodward’s

 

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 3 – First large-screen TV

Day 3 : In 1975, Morris Wosk installed the city’s first large-screen TV in the Sunset Inn Pub at the Blue Horizon Hotel….

We can thank Morris Wosk and the team at Blue Horizon Hotel for introducing large-screen TVs to the city, thus putting in motion the beginning of the end of the art of conversation in pubs and bars. In January 1975, the Sunset Inn Pub at the Blue Horizon Hotel installed the city’s first large-screen TV at a cost of $30,000. At the time, it was only the third such system in North America, and the first large-screen TV in Canada.

Province newspaper, January 22, 1975.

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.