Heritage Lives: Columnist-Turned-Sleuth Challenges Authenticity of Photo’s Date

By Terry Hughes

Two photos that came from last year’s calendar published by the Wainfleet Historical Society deserve attention. Both show the Feeder Canal crossing in Wainfleet. One dated 1909 shows the channel at the end of its career while the other is dated in the 1840’s. What is evident when closely viewed is that these photos were shot at the same time and by the same photographer!

First let’s look at the dates. Photography first was invented and developed in Europe in the 1850’s and did not become a process that was used here until sometime later. The Civil War was the event where photography was extensively used in North America. By the late 1800’s many localities were looking for postcards that highlighted their communities. The photo dated in the 1840’s, therefore, is incorrect.

Another clue shows up in the background in the form of hydro-electric poles. Electricity did not come to rural communities until after the turn of the 20th century. Notice that these power or possibly telephone lines appear in both photographs complete with a transformer on the post nearest the bridge.

Now, let’s examine the people and children in both pictures. In the 1909 photo notice that some of the children are wearing white aprons and light coloured clothing. A magnifying glass shows these children in the 1840 photo and the head gear worn by the taller individuals on the centre of the span. The photographer simply moved his camera to the east of the bridge and captured the vessel docked nearby.

The vessel shown was the government cutter that shows up in a number of postcards on the canal. The literature on the Feeder Canal shows that among other stories mentioned here in the calendar, visitation to canal communities was common. One incident mentions how the two Anglican churches in Port Robinson and Wainfleet took turns hosting a picnic at their respective parishes. Could these people standing on the bridge be preparing to board the cutter for an adventure?

(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His opinion column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)

Next column: Heading Off To School In Another Time And Place

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