19th Century, Businesses, Culture

Photography’s Early Days

An 1856 daguerreotype of Mr. John Shiels of Kingston, taken by Henry K. Sheldon. Art Gallery of Ontario. (click image to go to source)

I’ve posted this daguerreotype on the blog before; you can read a short post I wrote about it here. I’m using it again because I think it may be the earliest photograph I’ve seen that was taken in Kingston (but I’m not sure). The photographers I’ll be talking about in this post are 10-15 years earlier than this, however, and I assume no one has any idea what’s happened to the pictures they took. It would be really interesting to find out what the earliest known photograph of Kingston is!

The following paragraphs have been copy-and-pasted from a short assignment I did recently for class, where we had to go through old Kingston newspapers online and find any and all references to photography between 1839-1845. The tone is a bit drier than usual because of this, and I don’t go into the usual amount of detail, but I’ve found that after I complete an assignment it gets marked “DONE” in my head and I find it hard to go back and delve into it again. Anyway, with that in mind, read on to learn (a very tiny bit) about photography’s early days in Kingston!

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20th Century, Businesses

Women in Business: 1909 Edition

Princess and Wellington in a 1910 postcard. Toronto Public Library. (click image to go to source)

Poking around old Kingston ephemera is one of my favourite ways to get ideas for this blog, and to learn about aspects of day-to-day life that I might not always think much about: I’m a primary source junkie. (Having so much material available online helps a lot.) Today I’ve rounded up all the women profiled in the “Special Industrial Souvenir Number” of the Daily British Whig, which was published in 1909. Because this is Kingston, famous for having nothing going on for over a century now, “industrial” for the most part means businesses and entrepreneurs.

I’m not sure how businesses were chosen for this publication. The introduction just gives the ubiquitous historical sketch of Kingston, then goes on to mention its “progressive” businesses, “ideal” location, and “adequate” street car service (they didn’t beat around the bush). In any case, there were far more women involved in businesses in Kingston at this time then were listed in the issue. However, they are a pretty good cross-section of what fields women were involved in. In 1909 there were approximately these numbers of women either owning businesses or offering professional services in Kingston: 2 artists, 39 boarding house ladies, 1 carpet weaver, 1 confectioner, 2 corset-makers, over 120 dressmakers, 1 elocutionist, 8 dealers in “fancy goods” (i.e. needlework and supplies), 1 florist, 14 grocers, 1 dealer in “hair goods,” 1 ladies’ tailor, 5 laundresses, 7 milliners, 26 music teachers, 31 nurses, 1 photographer, 1 doctor, 1 registrar at the courthouse, 2 restaurant owners, and 1 dealer in sporting goods and cigars.

(If the cigar lady strikes you as odd, it appears she took over the business from her late husband.)

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18th Century, 19th Century, Businesses, People

“As white a heart as any man…”

Vandervoort's Hardware is the site of George Mink's first livery business with Serge Carmino in 1837. (my photo)

Present-day Vandervoort’s is the site of George Mink’s first livery business with Serge Carmino in 1837. (my photo)

Kingston has been seen as a conservative Anglo-Saxon bastion almost since day one, but of course it’s not surprising to learn that what we would today consider ethnic or racial minorities have also been part of Kingston since day one. Aside from the ever-present Native population in Canada, we began to acquire a black population immediately after the American Revolution when the first United Empire Loyalists arrived, occasionally with slaves in tow.

This is how George Mink, the son or possibly grandson of a slave brought under such circumstances, got his start in Kingston. Becoming a successful businessman and leader of the local black community, he also experienced conflicting levels of support and discrimination from white Kingstonians. Although early-to-mid nineteenth century Canada appears to have been a comparatively liberal place for blacks, as we’ll see, there could be limits to this freedom.

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Buildings, Businesses

Ghost Signs in Kingston

Kingston has a number of “ghost signs” of various kinds in the downtown area. Although the term is normally used to describe old painted signs on the sides of buildings, I’ve included some interesting examples of more permanent types of signage that have remained. If there are any more out there I’d love to know!

Excuse my un-artistic and kind of spatially disorienting photos – I had wanted to take photos of each whole building but found I couldn’t get enough detail that way.

University Drug Store sign, 260 University Avenue


This sign will be most familiar to Queen’s students. It’s visible on the Johnson St. side of 260 University Ave. and is partially obscured by some later brickwork. A grocery store operated at the corner of University and Johnson since at least the 1880s, but the University Drug Store didn’t open until 1916. It’s hard to tell how old the sign is, because I don’t know how long the University Drug Store was in operation. Judging by the style I’d guess it’s no later than the 1950s. However, examining the lettering reveals that there may actually be two signs overlapping each other here.

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20th Century, Buildings, Businesses

The Failed Chateau Rideau

This never happened.

This never happened.

As I was searching for a new topic to write about, I came across a short article written by Brian S. Osborne on the Kingston Historical Society website. Entitled “Kingston’s Chateau Rideau,” it briefly goes over the short life and death of the hotel pictured above. Yes, only pictured. It was never built.

It reminded me that a few months ago I had found, on Archive.org, the original booklet advertising the potential for such a hotel in Kingston, so that’s what I’ll be sharing with you today! (Research on the internet is shamefully easy…)

You might think that this hotel looks rather large and unwieldy for Kingston, which is probably true. But in the early twentieth century, when the Chateau Rideau was proposed, tourism in the Thousand Islands by prominent Canadians and Americans, as well as by simple pleasure-seekers, was quite high. For Kingston, an “if you build it they will come” approach may have seemed like a good way to capitalize on the traffic coming through the area.

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