Photography as we know it today began in the late 1830s when Joseph Nicéphore Niépce used a portable camera obscura to capture an image. With his success, photography progressed rapidly with the development of daguerreotypes, emulsion plates and wet plates that were developed almost simultaneously in the mid-to-late 1800s. As photography developed, so did the role of the professional photographer and the portrait studio.
In Tillsonburg, the earliest known commercial photographer was W.C. Calvert. Little is known about him, though he did work as a watchmaker and jeweler, and even a dentist, before opening his photograph gallery. Another early photographer, D.P. Groves, operated a business on Broadway Street in the 1860s which specialized in ambrotypes and photographs of “every description taken at reasonable rates”.
Broadway Street in Tillsonburg, east side looking south.
Born in Roche, Cornwall England in 1842, James Pollard arrived in Canada when he was eighteen years old and settled near Mount Elgin, Dereham Township, before moving to Tillsonburg. With a natural gift in sketching and painting, James Pollard began his photography career in town in 1871 when he opened a gallery on Oxford Street. Following a fire, he operated as a photographer and fine art dealer at the corner of Ridout and Broadway until 1889 when his son, Fred, joined the business and they added stationary to their inventory. Fred would operate the business until his death in 1942 when his son, Douglas, carrying on the family trade. Douglas continued to operate the business until his death in 1967. The passing of Douglas Pollard marked the end of the Pollard Studio, a business that had served Tillsonburg for 97 consecutive years.
Other early photographers included Arthur Bowers, F.G. Carroll, Jacob Chapman, E.S. Hadcock and Mrs. H.M. Winans, who was the proprietor of the Tillsonburg Photographic Studio around 1874.
Cabinet card from E.S. Hadcock's photography studio [courtesy of Annandale N.H.S. & Museum]
Back of cabinet card from F.G. Carroll's photography studio [courtesy of Annandale N.H.S. & Museum]
Back of cabinet card from Mrs. Winan's photography studio [courtesy of Annandale N.H.S. & Museum]