Autographs 1 - On Photographs

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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

"From her friend Wilfrid Laurier"

Prime Minister Laurier has been gone for over 80 years, but he is as well known today, in Canada, as any recent Prime Minister, because his face is on the Canadian five dollar bill.

As a result, he is at the top of the list for Canadian Prime Minister memorabilia collectors.

If you look extremely hard, and long, it is possible to find an original photo of Sir Wilfrid, an autograph, or a note in his hand.

But to find them all in one is impossible you say?

Recently at a small rural Ontario auction we did just that when we discovered this huge original photo portrait with original glass and frame still intact after a century.

Wonderful enough! But at the bottom of the photo was an extremely rare treasure.

A personal note to a friend, and the autograph of Sir Wilfrid himself:

"To Calliers from her friend Wilfrid Laurier"

Autographed & Inscribed Photo, Sir Wilfrid Laurier - 1908
Orig. photo - Image size - 32 x 40 cm
Found - Palgrave, ON
Orig. inscription by Sir Wilfrid Laurier, "To Calliers, from her Friend Wilfrid Laurier," Orig. frame and glass
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Signed Photo, Emily Lavergne, c 1900
Orig. photo - Image Size - 10 x 14 cm
Found - Toronto, ON

Sir Wilfrid had another friend, Emily Lavergne, of whom a contemporary wrote: "She is probably the most brilliant society woman in French Canada since the golden age of Madame Duval."

She was also rumoured to have given Laurier a son - the old fashioned way. The talk caused enormous strife in both households. Especially because, everyone said, Armand closely resembled Laurier.

Go to the Photo Mysteries
Sir Wilfrid: Very rarely do you come across a special heritage treasure from one of Canada's truly great statesmen, as happened recently with regard to Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada's first French-Canadian Prime Minister (PM from 1896 - 1911).

Many consider him Canada's best Prime Minister as well. He practiced, to a fine art, the job of tweaking the delicate balance between French and English Canadians, who, in 1900 made up the vast proportion of Canada's population.

In an age when racial agendas - proudly - ruled in every country of the world, Sir Wilfrid rose to statesmanship by setting aside his own ethnic background, in order to speak, and to be seen to speak, for the rights of all Canadians, regardless of their backgrounds.

Reuben Benstead: Sir Wilfrid won the admiration, not only of his fellow French-Canadians, but of dyed-in-the-wool Anglos as well.

One of my earliest recollections, as a boy of ten, was riding on a horse drawn wagon in the heart of Scotch southwestern Ontario, beside Reuben Benstead, a crusty old Anglo farmer, then in his eighties.

As he clucked to his Clydesdales, Queen and King, he told me stories of Canada's past. One thing he said, and a name I had never heard before, is etched forever in my childhood memory.

"Sir Wilfrid! He was the best Prime Minister we ever had!" He paused, lost in thought, thinking back on a good memory, in a life that was long, and well lived...

That was in 1951, some 40 years after Sir Wilfrid had been in office, and lots of others had tried their hand at the top job. I don't believe Reuben - who was as steeped in the ethnic politics of the age, as anyone else - had ever met a French-Canadian, or wanted to. And his Scotch neighbours were not known as especially welcoming to non-Anglos.

Could there be a more powerful encomium for a Canadian statesman, from a less impeachable source?

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Signed Cabinet Card,, Agnes Macdonald, 1878
Orig. cab card - Size - 11 x 17 cm
Found - Grimsby, ON

Agnes was the loyal wife of John A Macdonald, first Prime Minister of Canada. She was less loyal to Canada; she returned to England when he died in 1891...

Signatures on cabinet cards are common, but most have been written by dealers etc., trying to identify the anonymous photo. But we got lucky with this one, confirming that it was done by Agnes herself, by comparing it with other of her signatures: the first from 1870, where she used a different A, and another from 1894.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Autographed Photo Portrait, General Sam Hughes, 1915
Orig. photo - Image Size - 50 x 64 cm
Found - Mt. Forest, ON
With Dedication and Original Autograph

A very rare and fabulous portrait of one who was previously Canada's most notorious general, complete with an original dedicated autograph. It hung for decades in a Canadian armoury until it was put to auction.

Sam Hughes is of course, the Canadian precedent, for dismissing top Generals who are out of step with the times and are seen as a liability for the government seeking to escape the negative branding with which the war-loving general is identified.

Canadian General Rick Hillier is known around the world as the symbol of the turn-about in Canada's role from peace-keeper to leader of a Band of Killers with his adamant press pronouncement that "our (the Canadian Forces) job is to be able to kill people" specifically "the scum bags and murderers" in Afghanistan. At home he is known as the general whose gung-ho, war-mongering has killed scores of ordinary Canadian young men and a woman, all for no gains whatsoever to show for it, on the ground, other than corpses of Afghan men, women, and children...

Sam Hughes, Canada's top general during much of World War I, fought in the Boer War, when, as a Colonel, he was the intelligence officer for British General Warren of Spion Kop infamy.

Right Canadian historian John Goldi stands on the steps at Faber's Put down which Sam Hughes, guns a-blazing, ran when woken up inside, at dawn, by gunshots of the Boers firing at him from behind the stone kraal below.

After the Battle of Faber's Put, Sam Hughes complained to the press about General Warren's poor preparations and defences of the camp that led to Canadian and British casualties.

For his indiscrete comments to the press, which undermined his superior, Sam was sacked and sent home to Canada by the British High Command.

General Hillier, a century later, made similar outspoken pronouncements - his reputation is that he talks a better war than he fights - that made his superior, the Minister of Defence, look and sound like a buffoon. He did it so often, the media howled until the Government was finally forced to act, and dismissed - you guessed it - the civilian Minister, not the Army General. The Government wanted to promote the war to please the American Republican war lobby so sacking the civilian Minister, instead of the insubordinate General, was the judicious way to go. PS: Bush and Cheney were extremely pleased.

Sam Hughes rose again from the ashes, a hero at home for bucking, like so many Canadians did, during the Boer War, the supercilious British officer corps that looked down on the Canadians. He had become an MP in 1892, and in the Robert Borden Government of 1911, Minister of Militia and Defence.

He championed Canadian civilian soldiers over professionals, but like powerful men everywhere, got embroiled in scandals he promoted fiascos like the Ross rifle and other schemes by cronies.

During World War I, when Borden created a new Ministry that would split off overseas forces fighting in Europe from Hughes' control as the Minister of Militia and Defence, Sam rebelled, howled, and insulted the Prime Minster himself.

Borden sacked him in November 1916, and Sam, toppled from glory, spent his remaining years as a brooding back-bencher.

Go to Sam Hughes
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Signed Cabinet Card, William Raphael, 1900
Orig. cab card - Size - 11 x 17 cm
Found - Toronto, ON

William Raphael was one of Canada's most eminent Victorian painters.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Walter Allward's original plaster casting for one of his powerfully sad statues that he designed for Canada's famous Vimy monument in France.

Signed Photo, Walter S Allward

Orig. photo - Size - 18 x 23 cm
Found - Toronto, ON

A fabulous discovery is this large photo personally autographed by Canadian sculptor Walter S Allward.

Walter Allward is one of Canada's most esteemed sculptors of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is responsible for creating some of Canada's finest sculptures, and monuments.

Untold thousands pass by them daily without knowing the man who created these works of art that are now familiar signposts of their world as they walk or drive to work in Toronto, ON, or visit Parliament Hill in Ottawa, ON.

Few men are privileged to leave such a treasure trove of heritage riches to posterity, surely a grand testament to a life well lived. Walter would not have seen it that way; he was modest and unassuming, a man totally devoted to his art.

Go to Walter Allward
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure An extremely rare signature to come across, especially on a photograph, is that of Paul Kruger, the late, lamented President, from 1882 to 1900, of the South African Republic (SAR) or Transvaal Republic, until the British invasion, during the Boer War, sent him into exile in the Netherlands.

The press, cheerleading the invading forces - some things never change - portrayed him as being as evil, at that time, as Saddam Hussein was vilified in ours.

But Kruger had not the slightest similarity to the mass murdering dictator.

Not, of course, that the members of the press would notice or care; they're just told who the enemies are and then go shape the news to fit the target...

In fact Paul Kruger, affectionately known as Oom Paul - Uncle Paul - was democratically elected for four terms as Transvaal President and much beloved by his people.

Which politician, in our day, can say that, especially after we have watched them in office for only a few years... ? Can Tony Blair? George W? And recent Prime Ministers of Canada who fare well in that department, are usually dead! Good and dead seems to be the message, from the Canadian electorate...

CDV, President Paul Kruger, c 1890

Orig. Carte de visite - Image Size - 6 x 10 cm
Found - Archdale, NC

Go to Oom Paul
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Signed Cabinet Card, Gabrielle Lavergne, c 1900
Orig. cab card - Size - 11 x 17 cm
Found - Toronto, ON

An also-ran in history. Gabrielle had, a notorious mother, a very close friend of the Prime Minister, and maybe, a half-brother?

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous portrait of a Canadian Boer War volunteer, Trooper GS. Palmer of Troop 3, Sqd A, Strathcona's Horse, which is doubly fine because he has signed a dedication on the back.

His wedge cap features a chin strap, possibly because, since he was in a mounted force, at the gallop these hats would go flying off regularly without one...


Go Trooper Palmer's Wedge Cap

Photo, Trooper GS Palmer, Strathcona's Horse - 1900
Orig. photo - Size - 13 x 19 cm
Found - Brecon, Wales, UK
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

No one knew who this was - just another unnamed photo of an anonymous miltiary officer whose name was lost in the mists of time.

But his face looked familiar, so we went looking...

Read all about the discovery, and the search for a name and proof for his identity.

Go to Earl of Dundonald

Then we discovered, very faintly, what no one had previously spotted, the name Dundonald, a Boer War general who became the 2nd last British General to head the Canadian Army from 1902-04.

Signed Photo, Earl of Dundonald - 1904
Original Autographed Photo - Image Size - 5" x 10"
Found - Ottawa, ON
Stamped Pittaway, Ottawa. Original frame & glass, cedar shakes on back, containing newspaper dated Nov. 1904
Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005

William Raphael lived in Montreal from 1857, till he died in 1914.

He painted mostly portraits but also scenic oils.

Behind Bonsecours Market, featuring the busy Montreal waterfront is one of his best.

Another fine one is the other side of the market, showing the bustling street traffic overseen by the market's large dome.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous signed photo of a Canadian Boer War soldier.

There are countless photos of Boer War era soldiers, all unsigned, of anonymous faces staring back.

That's why this superlative photo or three Boer War soldiers, all sporting Martini-Henry carbines, is so fine.

It was the private photo of Pvt. James Diffey ASC, far left, who became a proud veteran of the Boer War and World War I. And was lucky to survive them both.

Leaving a fine lot of memorabilia behind.

Go to James Diffey

Driver James Diffey ASC, South Africa 1900
Orig. photo - Image Size - 9 x 13 cm
Found - Wingham, ON