GHS fo­cuses on local pho­tog­ra­pher

The Glengarry News - - News - BY SCOTT CARMICHAEL News Staff City Work at Coun­try Prices: the Por­trait Pho­to­graphs of Dun­can Dono­van. His pho­tos re­main col­lec­tors’ items to this day.

Dun­can Dono­van, one of the first peo­ple to chron­i­cle life in the county through a cam­era lens, was the sub­ject of the lat­est in­stall­ment of the Glen­garry His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety’s Speaker Series on March 9, courtesy of Dane Lanken.

Mr. Dono­van was born in Jan­uary 1857 in McCrim­mon in the for­mer Lochiel town­ship to Ir­ish im­mi­grant Richard Dono­van and his wife Sarah (née MacMil­lan).

By the 1890s, he was “one of the trav­el­ling tin­type pho­tog­ra­phers who were fa­mil­iarly seen at fairs and other public events,” ac­cord­ing to Royce McGil­livray’s Dic­tio­nary of Glen­garry Biog­ra­phy.

It’s be­lieved that Mr. Dono­van as­sumed con­trol of the Alexan­dria pho­tog­ra­phy business he’d shared with part­ners A.G.A. Robin­son and Dun­can McMil­lan circa Au­gust 1897 when the for­mer left town to seek his fame and for­tune in the Klondike.

Five years later, and fol­low­ing a roughly dozen-year part­ner­ship with Mr. McMil­lan, Mr. Dono­van “find­ing the ne­ces­sity of more mod­ern quar­ters for his steadily ex­pand­ing con­nec­tion with the public, pro­ceeded to build his very com­pact brick block,” ac­cord­ing to his March 24, 1933 obit­u­ary in The News –a stu­dio at the cor­ner of Kenyon Street West and Main Street North, the present- day Sco­tia­bank site.

Mr. Dono­van re­tired and sold his pho­tog­ra­phy business to P. A. Charlebois in 1924, but re­mained a res­i­dent of the build­ing un­til his death nine years later (March 17, 1933) at the age of 76.

He was sur­vived by his wife, Cather­ine (née Camp­bell), of Pev­eril, Que., who died 10 years later. The cou­ple had no chil­dren. Fol­low­ing his pur­chase of the stu­dio, Mr. Charlebois – who main­tained a strong pres­ence in the local com­mu­nity, serv­ing as treasurer-clerk for the Town of Alexan­dria from mid-1938 un­til his re­tire­ment in 1963, po­lice com­mis­sioner in Alexan­dria from 1953 to 1977 and as an ac­tive mem­ber of the Alexan­dria Le­gion for 58 years – moved Mr. Dono­van’s glass neg­a­tive plates, along with his own, into the loft of a shed in his back­yard.

They re­mained there, pre­served, un­til 1970 when they were trans­ferred to the Archives of On­tario.

The Archives also ac­quired the bulk of Mr. Dono­van’s collection of ap­prox­i­mately 3,200 pho­to­graphs from Mr. Charlebois that same year.

Images lost

A to­tal of 2,500 of those images were later trans­ferred to the Glen­garry His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, al­though many were de­stroyed in a fire.

In 1977, the Ox­ford Univer­sity Press pub­lished a collection of Mr. Dono­van’s pho­to­graphs, edited by Jen­nifer Harper, en­ti­tled

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