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Part Two: Director's Opinion on the Admiralty House Photo

The next two blog entries are about a little cdv photograph of a building in Halifax called the Admiralty House. I bought it for less than a dollar and kept it over 30 years. I finally donated the photo to the Admiralty House Museum. It is the oldest known photograph of their building/museum. It was like finding a picture of the White House twenty years older than any other known picture. They were all excited about the whole thing. The earlier blog gives the background, and the blog below gives the results, so if you want to read them in order, skip to the next entry and come back to this one. The whole ordeal turned out to be lots of fun over such a little thing.

The email arrived from the Director of the Admiralty House and his historical savey is all over the place. Here is what he had to say:

Good afternoon

Your donation arrived this morning. I must say I was gob-smacked.

As you mentioned in your accompanying letter, it is the earliest known photograph of Admiralty House. It shows fine detail of a line of carriages and and their occupants waiting patiently for the photo to be taken.

I am particularly interested in the fact that amongst the individuals visible are army personnel including a sergeant. There is a navy officer in a for-and-aft cap as well so this appears to be a dress event.

The uniforms will give us a better idea of the date. During this period Admiralty House was one of the centres of Halifax social life and perhaps we have a view of guests arriving for a summer garden party.

As you may be aware, this structure is a National Historic Site, central to the fabric of the nation. The architectural details of the photograph fill in a number of gaps in our history of the building and will help to determine the direction of on-going renovations and restorations.

It would be a fine thing to bring the building back to the structure it was 150 years ago. In the meantime we will send the photo for digital reproduction and possible upload onto the web site.

I think the photo might be from a slightly earlier period. The uniforms need closer examination but the navy pattern and the army shako is consistent with ca 1855-65. W. Chase Photographic Gallery was active in Halifax in 1860 and had established a reputation for outdoor event informal photography.

Almost like snapshots, which is odd considering the long exposure times necessary for the process. But then again he seemed to prefer full sun shooting. As to how the photo ended up in Alabama, there was a close and unofficial connection between the South and Great Britain during the Civil War. Very close.

Southern vessels put into Halifax often including the CSS Talahasee. And Britain wanted the cotton. We have a Board member whose British ancestors were cotton merchants making buying trips into the South at the time. And there is well-documented evidence of Southern agents and their British/Canadian sympathisizers meeting and plotting in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. There may be an interesting trail of intrigue in this photo.

I have shown the photo to civilian and navy personnel on the Base; all are pleased to see this glimpse of the past.

I will foreward you a number of documents for your signature in order to transfer ownership of the photo to The Crown and to express our appreciation in a more formal manner.