Topley Studio, William James Topley, Library and Archives Canada, Mikan no. 3383131

Established as the capital in 1857, photographers flocked to Ottawa to meet portrait photography demands. The boom attracted photographers such as G.A. Snider and William James Topley who were forced to adapt to changing technologies in order to attract customers in a competitive market.

Photo: Paul Harrison, Workers’ History Museum

In 1892, G.A. Snider commissioned J. F. Belanger to paint a sign on the side of his business at 134 Bank Street (now 136-138 Bank Street). Advertising his services as a photographer, Snider operated the business here until 1896. The sign became visible when a neighbouring building was demolished. A campaign to preserve it is now underway.

The Evening Journal, July 16, 1890, p. 1

George Albert Snider was one of approximately ten professional photographers working in Ottawa in the 1890s. Initially employed at the Sparks Street studio of Samuel J. Jarvis and Alfred Pittway (one of whose photographs can be seen in our Lacrosse at Lansdowne story), Snider established his own business at 123 Bank Street (later moving across the street) in 1890. To promote his services, he ran this advertisement in The Ottawa Evening Journal.

The Browne Family. Photo Courtesy of Howard J. Simkover

Snider closed his business in 1896 and eventually moved to Montreal. Local historian Howard J. Simkover thinks it was competition from men like Topley that encouraged this decision.

Photo: Paul Harrison, Workers’ History Museum

Howard first noticed the Snider sign in 2011 and began to research the photographer and his business. He shared his knowledge with researcher Emily Keyes. You can listen to their conversation by clicking on the link above.


This story was researched and developed by Emily Keyes as part of the project of the Carleton Centre for Public History in association with the Workers’ History Museum. Her work was funded through a Mitacs Development Grant made possible by the generosity of Know History. Emily would like to thank Howard J. Simkover, Christopher B. Snider, and Paul Harrison.

The story was revised by Pascale Couturier as a contribution to the Workers’ History Museum’s Capital History Kiosk’s project for Ottawa 2017. It formed part of her course work for Professor David Dean’s graduate seminar on museums, national identity, and public memory (Department of History, Carleton University).

We are grateful to Library and Archives Canada for permission to use the Topley Studio photograph in their collection and to Howard J. Simkover for making available images in his collection. Thanks also to Megan Michie of the City of Ottawa and Marie-Soleil Bergeron of Ottawa 2017 for their assistance, and to councillor Catherine McKenny and the Bank Street BIA for their support.

This revised entry for and its related installation at Bank and Exhibition was funded by the Ottawa 2017’s  Arts, Culture and Heritage Program (stewarded by  AOE Arts Council, Ottawa Arts Council and Council of Heritage Organizations in Ottawa).

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