Ernest Denton & Panoramic Photograpy

Picture Perfect Panoramics

Denton Advertisement

Advertisement for Ernest Denton from the 1929 Vernon’s City Directory for Kitchener-Waterloo

With the Central Library project final push looming in early 2014, I received a query from Michel Labrecque, assistant curator at the Canadian Science and Technology Museum, about Ernest Denton, a well-known Kitchener photographer.  His query was a welcome distraction from the construction, temporary work spaces, and packing and unpacking. In fact, Ernest Denton was a familiar name – his photographic work was scattered throughout our collection.

Michel’s query seemed an innocent query enough – did we have any information on Ernest Denton?  Little did I know, I was to embark on a real journey of discovery –  the existence of a possible link between the panoramic camera at Canadian Science and Technology Museum and the Grace Schmidt Room. My interest was hooked from our initial discussions over the phone regarding Denton’s life and work.

Michel’s questions had me elbow deep into a collection that was still on the move.  While I was not able to provide a list of all Denton images as our subject-based paper photo index was not searchable by photographer, I could quickly identify his panoramic images in the collection as they are stored by size.

We had just moved into our new space and were waiting for the completion of the GSR reading room – so I had a small window of time to do some research . As I dove into the oversized boxes, I came across several Denton panoramic images in the Waterloo Historical Society collection in the GSR of the 118th Battalion, a recruiting unit of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the north part of Waterloo County.

P2683 118th Battalion, A Company

A panoramic of the 118th Battalion, A Company, taken by Denton Photo Studio, May 1916

Given Michel’s specific query about Denton panoramics dated in the 1910s, these images seemed to be a perfect fit for the Cirkut camera that he was researching. Michel had me photograph, describe and measure the images and search for any imprints or markings on the mats (including reverse sides).  With great satisfaction, I received a tweet from Michel in July 2014 that the panoramics looked authentic to the Cirkut camera!

118th Battaliion, C Company, May 1916

Panoramic photo of 118th Battalion, C Company, taken by Denton Photo Studio, May 1916

Given that the Soldier Card Project was in full swing, I felt a great kinship to these images – many of the faces of the soldiers seemed so familiar. In particular, I was able to identify Captain Solon Albright, in the front row, centre, in the B Company portrait.

Solon Albright, 118th Battalion, B Company

Solon Albright , 118th Battalion, B Company, May 1916

Solon Albright, SIC Card (KPL)

KPL Soldier Information Card for Captain Solon Albright

As an unit of the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War, the 118th (North Waterloo) Battalion began recruiting in late 1915.  After sailing to England in January 1917, the battalion was absorbed into the 25th Reserve Battalion on February 6, 1917 and dispersed into other units as needed.

Denton photographed the 118th Battalion companies A-D in what seems to be an enclosed field or grandstand – perhaps Victoria Park in the tumultuous months leading up to the name change of Berlin to Kitchener or at the training grounds in London,Ontario.  Three of the four images had horizontal labels, giving the moniker “Denton Studio” below the image, while the B Company photo had no label and was marked “Denton Bros” in the lower left corner.

118th Battalion, B Company

Panoramic photo of 118th Battalion, B Company, taken by Denton Photo Studio, May 1916

On closer examination of the B Company photo,  my eye also caught sight of the dog being held by the young man third from the left  – a touching reminder of the bond between people and animals.

P2682

Lower left corner of P2682 118th Battalion, B Company

I’d love to hear from anyone if they have ideas or suggestions as to where the images were taken, the activities of the 118th Battalion at the time of the photographs or if you recognize any of the soldiers in the images.

118th Battalion, D Company

Panoramic photo of 118th Battalion, D Company, taken by Denton Photo Studio, May 1916

It’s amazing to ponder the convergence of so many factors in these images – young men about to head off to war, a (possibly) smuggled Cirkut panoramic camera, and Ernest Denton, the world traveled photographer all coming together on a spring day in May, 1916, isn’t it?

Part 5 – Canadian Contributions to Panoramic Photography

on Friday 27 March 2015

Collecting and Connecting blog

Canada Science and Technology Museum (CSTM)

@M_Labrecque

References

1. Vernon’s City Directory for Kitchener and Waterloo, 1929 *

2. World War I Soldier Card Project. Kitchener Public Library.

3. rych mills. Kitchener (Berlin) 1880-1960. Charleston, SC : Arcadia Publishing, 2002.

Acknowledgements

Many thanks go to the following for their contributions:

Kim Grimes for her memories of Ernest Denton; Willy Nassau and Dolph Bogad for their visit to the GSR and memories of the Cirkut camera and knowledge of panoramic photography; rych mills for his insight on Denton and the 118th Battalion; and Michel Labrecque for explaining the intricacies of panoramic photography and camera technology.

* For those eagle eyed readers, you may have noticed that the 1929 Denton advertisement claims that they have been in business for 20 years, which would put the start of their business around 1909. While my research places the Denton Brothers in Kitchener around 1912-1914, I will continue researching their early life and post any new findings on the blog. If you have any information on their early years in Kitchener, I’d love to hear from you!

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Ernest Denton & Panoramic Photograpy

Deciphering Denton: the Kitchener Connection

1916 Picnic in Berlin

A 1916 picnic in Berlin – image taken by Ernest Denton. (P2399 WHS). Please note that image was not taken with the Cirkut camera.

Thanks, Michel, for that fascinating introduction to Cirkut Panoramic camera and panoramic photography.  Having met with Willie Nassau and Dolph Bogad on Monday, I have a greater appreciation for the technical and artistic expertise that Ernest Denton had to operate this type of camera.

My first exposure to Denton was in exploring the rack of oversized, framed photographs in the Grace Schmidt Room.  The hand-printed and slightly skewed identifier “Denton Bros.,” “Denton Portrait Rooms,” or “Denton Photo” in the lower right hand corner was a frequent sight.  The more I saw of his work, the more I wanted to know about this man, who seems to have photographed every aspect of Kitchener life between 1913 and 1955.

P290 Visit of the Duke of Connaught to Berlin City Hall, 9 May 1914

Visit of the Duke of Connaught to Berlin City Hall, 9 May 1914 – image taken by Denton Bros. (P290 WHS). Please note that image was not taken with the Cirkut camera.

I have had much fun trying to fill in the blanks – but the details of Denton’s early life in England and abroad are still very sketchy.  I’ve been in contact with libraries and archives in Manchester, England, Wellington, New Zealand, Oakland, California and Waterloo, Ontario – in an effort to track down information about Ernest and his family.

What is known about Denton primarily comes from a cryptic first page of a 15 March 1956 letter written by Kitchener-Waterloo Record editor, Henry Koch, to Ralph Allen, editor of Maclean’s magazine and Denton’s 11 November 1957 obituary in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record.  Koch tried to entice the Maclean’s editor into writing a story about Ernest, but according to their archivist, a Denton feature did not materialize.

Ernest Denton was born 31 August 1883 in Manchester, England.  He started his photography career at the age of 16, on bicycle rigged to carry a camera and portable darkroom.  He travelled throughout the whole of England and later around the world by ship, by photographing ship crews, collecting money upfront and mailing the images later.  It’s rumoured that Denton travelled twice around the world, working in places such as Fiji, Ceylon, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Gibraltar, and Egypt.

In New Zealand, Denton operated photographic businesses in Invercargill (1907), Wellington (1907-1909) and Palmerston North (1909-1912). Koch claimed that Denton freelanced for illustrated weeklies for five years in New Zealand, which saw him photographing everything from the House of Commons, the 1906 International Industrial Exhibition to earthquakes and floods.  A report in the 23 April 1910 edition of the Wairarapa Age noted that Denton had been fined 1 shilling plus costs for working on a Sunday.  His Palmerston North studio was destroyed by fire on 17 March 1911. In June of the same year, Denton returned briefly to England for health reasons. His business last appears in the 1912 Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directory in Palmerston North and then the trail goes cold, that is, until April 1913.

1912 Wise's Directory Advertisement

Ernest Denton’s advertisement from the 1912 Wise’s Directory (New Zealand). Image courtesy of the Dunedin (NZ) Public Library.

Ernest Denton and his brother, Samuel, arrived in New York City, aboard the Adriatic on 19 April 1913, with the declared destination of Montreal. How and why they chose to come to Berlin is not known.  Local directories in the Grace Schmidt Room first catch their presence in 1915, but it likely that they arrived in 1913 or early 1914, based on some of the early Denton images in our collection.  Their first business venture, Denton Brothers Photographers, was located at 62 King Street, Berlin.

Of particular interest was a cryptic note that Koch made in his 1956 letter to Ralph Allan, mentioning that Denton owned one of two known panoramic cameras in Canada.  Koch went onto say that Denton had the camera smuggled across the border from the US.  Why would he smuggle a camera into Canada? And how would he have done it? These are questions yet to be answered.

P2683 118th Battalion, A Company

A panoramic of the A Company, 118th Battalion, taken by Ernest Denton, May 1916 (P2683 WHS) We believe that this image was likely taken with the Cirkut Panoramic Camera at the Canada Science and Technology Museum.

Following brother Samuel’s departure from Kitchener, Ernest worked with another photographer in a studio named “Denton & Gifford” between 1924-1925, and then, on his own, operating a studio at 163 King Street West.  His advertising byline was “Photos made anytime, anywhere”.  He was also very active in business interests outside of photography. In the 1930’s, Denton owned an apartment building at the corner of Victoria and Weber Streets and an indoor mini putt golf course in downtown Kitchener.  However, photography remained his mainstay and he continued to photograph schools, picnics, companies and businesses throughout Waterloo and surrounding counties. He remained at the 163 King Street West location until 1955, when his studio was destroyed by fire on the evening of 11 December.  Everything was lost – except, his panoramic camera which now resides at the Canada Science and Technology Museum.

Ernest Denton

Image of Ernest Denton from his obituary, which appeared in the 11 November 1957 edition of the Kitchener-Waterloo Record

Denton died on 10 November 1957 at his home at 55 Samuel Street, Kitchener, after a lengthy illness.  He was survived by his wife, Louisa, stepchildren Fred, William and Rose Manning and Vera (Manning) Bennett, his brother Samuel, 11 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

Koch estimated that Denton had taken over a million photographs over his career, ranging from Waterloo County school classes, factory workers and military troops to coronation of King George V, prime ministers Robert Borden, R.B. Bennett, Mackenzie King and Winston Churchill.

A very interesting life and man, don’t you think? If you have comments, questions or information to share, please let me know!

  Part 3 – The Challenge of Accurately Dating Denton’s Cirkut Camera

on 11 March 2015

Collecting and Connecting blog

Canada Science and Technology Museum (CSTM)

@M_Labrecque

 References

  1. Photographer of Prominent Persons Dies (obituary – Ernest Denton). Kitchener –Waterloo Record, 11 November 1957.
  2. Koch, Henry. Letter to Ralph Allen, editor, Maclean’s Magazine (photocopy). 15 March 1956.
  3. National Library of New Zealand. PapersPast (database: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/).
  4. Vernon’s Kitchener and Waterloo City Directory.

Acknowledgements

Many thanks go to the following for their contributions:

Jane Britton, former Head, Special Collections and Archives, University of Waterloo, for her thoughtful insights on Ernest Denton, Kirsten Baldock, Oakland Public Library, Dale Taylor, Archives and Local History -Manchester Central Library; Jenni Chrisstoffels, National Library of New Zealand, Malcolm Deans, Dunedin (NZ) Library, Heather Glasgow, Palmerston North (NZ) City Library, Jared Marconi, Cal State University – East Bay Library, Patricia Treble, Maclean’s Magazine and Rod Frketich, Photo/Graphics Editor, Waterloo Region Record for their assistance with locating information about the Denton brothers; rych mills for his Denton citations; Charlotte Prong, Kitchener Public Library, for her love of good story; and Michel Labrecque for his knowledge and infectious enthusiasm for photography and a panoramic camera owned by Ernest Denton.

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Uncategorized

Remembering Pat Kauk – GSR Volunteer

P010335 KPL -  GSR First Anniversary, 14 October 1985

P010335 – KPL Chief Librarian, Lynn Matthews, far right, and GSR staff marking the 1st Anniversary of the Grace Schmidt Room, 14 October 1985. Pat Kauk is third person from the left.

I am saddened to let everyone know that long-time GSR volunteer, Pat Kauk, has passed away.  Pat was our transcriber of the Berliner Journal birth, marriage and death entries.  Over many years, since her retirement nearly 15 years ago, she diligently worked away on translating the birth, marriage and death notices, along with other articles of interest, from the Berliner Journal.  I cannot count the number of researchers, family historians and genealogists who have been helped by Pat’s translations – her work has been invaluable to understanding local families, businesses, events and people.

I have very fond memories of my conversations with Pat – of her love of local history, pride and joy in her family and her fond memories of working with Susan Hoffman in the GSR.  She was always happy to help people with their research and to let them know that she had worked in the GSR for many years.  Staff in Information Services will also miss Pat and her frequent visits to the workroom to say ‘hello’ and to catch up on the latest news about happenings in the Library.

Pat’s love of and passion for local history will be missed. She was a truly dedicated volunteer and I will miss her.

You can find information about Pat’s memorial service here.

Information about the photo above can be found here.

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Ernest Denton & Panoramic Photograpy

A Picture Perfect Project for the GSR

Ernest Denton camera

P009948  Ernest Denton camera

I am happy to announce, after many months of research and planning, the launch of a series of collaborative Grace Schmidt Room/KPL and Canada Science and Technology Museum blog posts about panoramic photography and renowned Kitchener photographer, Ernest Denton. The blog posts will start today and will appear every Wednesday until the end of March. It’s been an amazing year working with Michel Labrecque, Assistant Curator at the Canada Science and Technology Museum (CSTM), in Ottawa, and I hope that you will enjoy our findings. Michel kicks off the series today on the CSTM blog, Collect Connect. Click here to see Michel’s post. Enjoy!

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KPL Genealogy Fair 2015

Pleased as Punch to announce the 4th KPL Genealogy Fair Keynote Speaker!

Lynn Headshot

As plans forge ahead for the 4th KPL Genealogy Fair, I am very pleased to announce that the Armchair Genealogist, Lynn Palermo, will be our genealogy fair keynote speaker!  A blogger, writer and family history writing guru, Lynn will share her insights, tips and advice on how to write your family history.  In fact, she’s busy now leading the 5th Family History Writing Challenge, from Feb 1-28th .

Be sure to check out her blog, the Armchair Genealogist for great information on genealogy. Interested in Lynn’s Family History Writing Challenge? You can find it here (please note that registration is required).  Lynn’s also on Facebook  and Twitter.

Looking forward to seeing everyone at the 4th KPL Genealogy Fair – Saturday 25 April 2015 at the Central Library!

Cheers, Karen

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Programs

The Boy from Berlin

Mackenzie King, 1926

William Lyon Mackenzie King, 1926

Born 140 years ago today, 17 December 1874, in a home on Benton Street, Berlin, Ontario, William Lyon Mackenzie King grew up to become Canada’s longest serving Prime Minister.  As a person and politician, Mackenzie King has been source of inquiry, speculation and debate among academics and the public. Raised at idyllic Woodside (now a National Historic site managed by Parks Canada) from 1886 to 1893, how did King’s early experiences in Berlin (now Kitchener) affect his later political decisions and thinking?

Join us tonight at 7pm for a free public lecture at the Central Library on King’s early life in Berlin by Dr. John English, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Waterloo and Founding Director of the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History at the University of Toronto. No registration is required.  Displays, book sales and refreshments will be available in the Theatre reception room starting at 6:30pm.

The lecture has been organized by an informal committee known as the Mackenzie King Kitchener-Waterloo Legacy Network. The committee is non-partisan and promotes public discussion about King’s role in Canadian history.

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Uncategorized

Movember Moustache

P420 - David Forsyth

Studio portrait of David Forsyth (P420 WHS)

It’s that time of the year again. Movember – a November month long campaign to raise awareness of men’s health.  And this is my new favourite ‘stache sported by the one and only, dapper David Forsyth.

David Forsyth was born in 1852 in Perthshire, Scotland. He came with his parents to Canada at the age of one year old. He attended Dundas High School and later graduated from Galt Collegiate. In 1875, Forsyth completed his studies at the University of Toronto with a silver medal standing in mathematics.

Forsyth, in the following year, joined the staff of the Berlin High School as a teacher of mathematics and science. In 1901, he succeeded James W. Connor as Principal. As an educator, Forsyth was the first in Ontario to introduce practical laboratory work for science students in high school. Under his leadership, the Berlin High School grew in staff, attendance and equipment, putting it in the front ranks of Ontario schools. Prominent graduates included future Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King and W.D. Euler, North Waterloo Member of Parliament and Minster of Trade and Commerce. Forsyth also served on a Royal Commission on Industrial Training and Technical Education, which travelled around the world gathering information for its report.

His connection to the Kitchener Public Library was as a board member for over 30 years, many of which were spent as Secretary and four terms as Chairman.  He was also instrumental in securing land for the Carnegie Library building at Queen and Weber Streets.  Additionally, he was a member of the Berlin Board of Health, Waterloo Historical Society and Mathematical Association of Canada, American Association of Science and the National Geographic Society.

David Forsyth was also well known in sporting circles as a member of the Berlin football (soccer) team, which later became the Rangers.  He was responsible for organizing the Western Ontario Football Association in 1880, serving as secretary, president and honorary president. Forsyth was a captain of the Berlin lacrosse team, a prominent member of the Berlin Cricket Club, an avid cyclist, enthusiastic canoeist, lawn bowler, and curler.

He was married to Augusta Mylius in 1882, who died in 1912. Upon his retirement from the Berlin High School in 1921, Forsyth went to live in Beamsville, ON  where his son, Otto, resided. He died on 13 September 1936 in Beamsville and was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Kitchener.

A classy man and moustache, don’t you agree?

Cheers, K.

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