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Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

A glass menagerie: Rare negatives give glimpse into city's history

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In 1898, you could purchase a Vive box camera for $5. More than 110 years later, no one at the Free Press knows how the old Vive glass negatives ended up in one of the drawers in our photo archives — decades untouched. But the power of a photograph in capturing a moment in time is undeniable when the negatives have been scanned and viewed as positive images. — Wayne Glowacki, Winnipeg Free Press photojournalist

  • Glass negatives by photographer E.J.C. Smith, taken circa 1898. His photo store was located at 276 Smith Street in Winnipeg.

    Wayne Glowacki/Winnipeg Free Press

    Glass negatives by photographer E.J.C. Smith, taken circa 1898. His photo store was located at 276 Smith Street in Winnipeg.

  • The glass negatives transport viewers to early life in Winnipeg, portraits of its citizens and even a canoe ride down the Red River. Often the background is as important as the main subject.

    The glass negatives transport viewers to early life in Winnipeg, portraits of its citizens and even a canoe ride down the Red River. Often the background is as important as the main subject.

  • View from the Forks across the Red River at the original St.Boniface Cathedral on Taché before the basilica was built.

    View from the Forks across the Red River at the original St.Boniface Cathedral on Taché before the basilica was built.

  • The negatives were found in faded boxes that bore red stamps — SMITH PHOTOGRAPHER 276 Smith Street, Winnipeg — and contained the four-and-a-quarter-inch square Vive Special Rapid Dry Plates made in Chicago.

    The negatives were found in faded boxes that bore red stamps — SMITH PHOTOGRAPHER 276 Smith Street, Winnipeg — and contained the four-and-a-quarter-inch square Vive Special Rapid Dry Plates made in Chicago.

  • E.J.C. Smith frequently placed advertisements in the Manitoba Free Press at the turn of the century selling the latest camera equipment from his shop or the want ad: “A1 Man Needed For Developing.” Unfortunately, it’s unclear if Smith was the photographer of these images.

    E.J.C. Smith frequently placed advertisements in the Manitoba Free Press at the turn of the century selling the latest camera equipment from his shop or the want ad: “A1 Man Needed For Developing.” Unfortunately, it’s unclear if Smith was the photographer of these images.

  • It's easy to understand why most of the pictures were taken outdoors. The manual states the camera may require an exposure time of a minute or a minute-and-a-half when taking interior pictures by dull, cloudy window light.

    It's easy to understand why most of the pictures were taken outdoors. The manual states the camera may require an exposure time of a minute or a minute-and-a-half when taking interior pictures by dull, cloudy window light.

  • The Vive Camera Company ended operations in 1908. The camera manual states: “No other camera is so simple and sure.”

    The Vive Camera Company ended operations in 1908. The camera manual states: “No other camera is so simple and sure.”

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