II-102010 | William Notman and sons William McF., George and Charles, Montreal, QC, 1890
William Notman and sons William McF., George and Charles, Montreal, QC, 1890
Wm. Notman & Son
1890, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords: male (26812) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
"Photographer to the Queen", William Notman (1826-1891) was the first Canadian photographer to earn an international reputation. Recognized as one of the most influential photographers in North America during the 19th century, William Notman ran seven studios in Canada and another thirteen in the United States.
Born in Paisley, Scotland, William Notman left his homeland in 1856, bringing his family with him to Montreal where he established his first studio. His career as a photographer carried on until his death in 1891.
William McFarlane Notman (1857-1913), the eldest son of William Notman, became a partner in the company in 1882. He inherited the company outright on the death of his father in 1891.
The name of William Notman's second son, George (1868-1921), first appeared in studio payroll records in 1884. George, not quite 16 at the time, had just returned from his first visit to the West during which he served as assistant to his brother William McFarlane Notman. In 1887, he represented the company at Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in London and, later that year, embarked on a second journey west during which he served again as his brother's assistant. When he left Montreal in the fall of 1890, George likely went to work in Boston. His name only appeared in that city's directory in 1892 when George was working with his cousin Annie at the Park Street studio. By then, he had taken the place of his brother Charles who had returned to the Montreal studio to join his oldest brother on the death of their father in 1891.
Some time after 1893, George left Boston to open a studio on Madison Avenue in New York. Of this period, little is known about George other than he would return to the Boylston Street studio in Boston in 1898. After moving back to Montreal in 1900, George abandoned photography altogether to become director of the Eclipse Acetylene Gas Company.
Charles (1870-1955), the youngest son of William Notman, was the only one of three sons to be placed in an apprenticeship outside of Canada. After finishing high school at age 18, Charles was sent to the Park Street studio in Boston in 1888. The following summer, he worked as an assistant to his brother William McFarlane Notman who was then making his third journey west along the Canadian Pacific Railway. Charles resumed his work in Boston before returning to the Montreal studio on the death of his father in late-1891. Named a junior partner by his brother William in 1894, Charles' talent and reputation as a portrait photographer would flourish over the years, solidifying the status of the Montreal Notman studio as a leader in its field.
As his retirement neared, Charles likely found it hard to run a competitive business, particularly in the midst of an economic crisis. In 1935, he sold the company and its collection of 400,000 prints and negatives - representing 78 years of photography - to Associated Screen News. After the sale, Charles stayed on as the studios director and vice-president.