A Prince Rupert project that is part of the B.C. History Digitization Program – an initiative of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre – is featured in the Prince Rupert Daily News.

The article, published on August 28, 2008, appears below. Please note that the program’s successful 2008 candidates are listed at www.ikebarberlearningcentre.ubc.ca/ps/2008Projects.html.


By 2009, some of Prince Rupert’s top shots will soon be featured online courtesy of a University of British Columbia Internet initiative.

The UBC Irving K. Barber Learning Centre along with the Prince Rupert and Regional Archives, are teaming to publish a collection of nitrate and acetate negatives reliving Prince Rupert’s early history.

“People are digitizing maps, photos, artifact and all sorts of other weird stuff as part of the program, using the Learning Centre’s unique linking system,” said Chris Hives, archivist for the UBC Library.

As part of the program UBC offered the local archivists $3,000 in funding, which was matched locally by the Rupert Archives.

According to Prince Rupert director of Jean Eierf-Page, three key early Ruperite photographers will be prominent featured through the program.

Early photographers J. Dennis Allen, Earnest A. Woods and W.W. Wrathall will be included, along with 1,000 negatives from the film shooters and links other archives.

Prince Rupert Archives received $3,000 in funding for the project and matched that total as part of the agreement with UBC.

Eierf-Page also named another photographer, P.J. Ryan as major Ruperite photographer during the early days, though his origins remain a mystery to this day.

“We know very little about Ryan but he’s got some great shots, they are very sharp and on most of his shots he has written a description which he has signed and dated, which for us is nice so you know what you are looking at.

The photos are mixture of Prince Rupert scenes and scenery, with some that depict a lot of firsts like Allen’s photo of Prince Rupert’s first fire truck loaded with men rumbling down a dusty road.

W.W. Wrathall originally opened up a photography shop in 1908 in Hazelton where he was also a telegraph operator. Soon recognizing other opportunities, he closed up that shop moved over to Prince Rupert in 1912, opening up his shop Wrathall Photo Finishing Ltd.

He was soon in competition for business with English-born J. Dennis Allen, who had moved to Prince Rupert in 1907 at the age of 27 and opened up the J.D. Allen Photographic Company.
Allen was known for his postcards depicting the natural surroundings of Prince Rupert, some of them would be included in the online collection.

Allen lived in Prince Rupert – except between 1914 and 1918 when he fought in the First World War – until 1949 when he and his family moved to southern BC. Allen eventually passed away in Victoria in 1966.

Many of Wrathall’s photos depict people, buildings, railways, and industry in Prince Rupert, Hazelton, and in settlements on BC’s North Coast and Alaska’s southern coast. Eventually Wrathall gave way to his son Jack and daughter Vivian Comadina who took over the family business in March 1948.

The UBC project will eventually name 21 finalists chosen by the Learning Centre’s B.C. History Digitization program. The purpose of the project is to make as many B.C. historical artifacts accessible as possible to the public.

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