I-69993.1 | Geological Survey party at Canoe River, North Thompson River, BC, 1871

Geological Survey party at Canoe River, North Thompson River, BC, 1871
Benjamin F. Baltzly
1871, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper ? - Albumen process ?
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  History (944) , Photograph (77678)
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Employees of the Notman photography studio of Montreal, Benjamin Baltzly (1835-83) (right of centre) and his assistant John Hammond (1843-1937) (left of centre), can be seen in this photograph, in the middle of a Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) group. Geologist Alfred Selwyn (1824-1902), in the centre of the picture, led the expedition. To the right are Philip and Larue, two Native Indians who worked as porters. The other two people are not identified. The party crossed British Columbia to scout out the best possible route for the building of the proposed Canadian Pacific railway.

Benjamin Baltzly was born in 1835 at Sugar Creek, in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, and arrived in Montreal shortly after the end of the American Civil War. Hired by William Notman in June 1868, he accompanied the GSC in its exploration of the North Thompson River. He remained in the employ of the Notman studios until 1877. From 1879 to 1882 he worked for Pack Bros. in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There, in December 1882, he purchased a studio that he ran until his death on July 10, 1883.
Young adventurer John Hammond had served in the campaign against the Fenians in southern Quebec and had spent two years in the gold fields of New Zealand before landing a job with Notman in the summer of 1870. Born in Montreal in 1843, he discovered early on that he had a talent for painting, but at what age he began his training is unknown. His starting wages at the studio suggest that he had already completed some sort of art training. For Hammond, having an opportunity to work with the creative people of Montreal's most dynamic studio was a good way to advance his career while earning a living.
In June 1870, at Notman's request, he accompanied the GSC expedition to the North Thompson River in British Colombia. As assistant to photographer Benjamin Baltzly, he played a minor role that primarily involved transporting and setting up the bulky photographic equipment. Hammond spent eight years at the Notman studio in Montreal, but no work signed by him has come down to us. It is therefore hard to determine what his job was exactly. One of his tasks may have been to colour small photographs. Since he was Baltzly's assistant, it has been assumed that he was a photographer in training, but we have no evidence to confirm that hypothesis. He later worked again for Notman, at the studio in Saint John, NB, which had been rebuilt after the fire of 1877. He served as the manager of that studio from 1879 to 1884. Afterwards he had a well-documented career as an artist: a member of the Royal Canadian Academy, he taught in Saint John and in Sackville and was head of the school of fine arts at Mount Allison College. He lived in Sackville, New Brunswick, where he died at the age of 94.

Alfred Selwyn was one of the most prominent British colonial geologists of the second half of the 19th century. From 1845 he worked in Great Britain for the Geological Survey of Great Britain. In 1852 he was sent by the Colonial Office as a geological surveyor to the newly founded Australian colony of Victoria, and subsequently became director of its geological survey. From 1869 to 1895 he was the head of the Geological Survey of Canada.