Item - PE001576 - Photographs: [Images of the 1939 royal tour of Alberta]

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PE001576 - Photographs: [Images of the 1939 royal tour of Alberta]

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  • 1939 (Creation)

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Physical description

Album (29 x 36 cm.) bound by string between black covers. Contains [ca. 90] b/w photographs pasted down in the album. A newspaper clipping featuring a picture of Alfred Blyth is taped to the album's first page. Pasted down beside it is a bookplate from the Alfred Blyth Studio of Edmonton. The bookplate contains a typescript notice stating that the photographs in the album are copyrighted by the Studio. A Christmas card, presumably from Blyth, is laid in. The card's verso contains the manuscript message "Edmoton [sic] skyline, 1965. Hope to see you both in the New Year. AB."

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Biographical history

Alfred Blyth was born in 1901 in Ayrshire, Scotland, and came to Edmonton in 1912 with his widowed mother and elder brother and sisters. It was in 1916 that he commenced his career in photography, working as a darkroom technician for Byron and May, commercial photographers. That firm was purchased by McDermid Studios in 1917 and Blyth began carrying out studio and "onlocation" assignments for his new employers. At this time he obtained some very interesting photographs of Katherine Stinson, the pioneer woman aviator on her visit to Edmonton in 1918, the return of the 49th Battalion from overseas in 1919, and many more. By then his interest in photography as a creative medium had been sharpened; he had already purchased a camera for his own use and begun taking pictures for pleasure.

Blyth remained with McDermid Studios until 1928, when he opened his own studio, engaging in commercial and news photography, much of it on contract. He shot some newsreel features for Fox Movietone News which quickly attracted attention to the quality of his work. His business prospered and he soon became one of Edmonton's leading photographers.

Blyth flourished in the hey day of the photographic salon and exhibited his best pictures throughout the world, gaining many prizes including a number of gold medals as well as honourable mentions and acceptances. At one 1500-print exhibition in Amsterdam, the grand award went to his picture "Break O'Day," depicting the serenity of early morning at one of Alberta's most famous beauty spots, Maligne Lake. Many of Blyth's photographs appeared in national and international publications.

Blyth used three cameras on location: a 4 x 5 Graphic view camera for his weddings and similar formal groups, a 4 x 5 Graflex for action, and an 8 x 10 view camera for his major landscapes and views. These cameras, all used with standard lenses, are now in the Provincial Museum of Alberta. Alfred Blyth retired from active business in 1970, but his interest in photography did not diminish. Two years after his retirement, his photographic collection and his certificated of merit were acquired by the Provincial Archives. He died in 1980 at the age of 79.

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Scope and content

Alfred Blyth (1901-1980) moved to Edmonton from Scotland around 1913 and began work as a darkroom technician in 1916. He opened his own photographic studio in 1928, which he operated until his retirement in 1970. For more information, please see the biographical entry in the Provincial Museum of Alberta's Alfred Blyth fonds (available online at [accessed on 11 December 2018]).

Although the photographs are not accompanied by annotations, they appear to document the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Alberta in 1939. Images of the Royal Couple - often pictured with Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie-King and other dignitaries - and crowd scenes predominate. Events at the Legislature, Calgary City Hall, the Banff Springs Hotel, as well as arrivals and departures from airports and railway depots are present.

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The first two pages of the album, as well as the back cover, have become detached from the binding.

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  • English

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Bruce Peel Special Collections is part of the University of Alberta Libraries.

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