The Gifted Mr. Bradbury

CVA - SGN 1534 - [View of Hastings Street, looking west from Carrall Street] 1915? C Bradbury photo.

CVA – SGN 1534 – [View of Hastings Street, looking west from Carrall Street] 1915? C Bradbury photo.

A real pleasure for me in this photo-historical adventure I’ve called VanAsItWas is in discovering and re-discovering crisp, well-exposed images that speak of an attention to detail and a real concern (whether consciously or not) for issues that would ultimately be considered ‘historical’. I have found those qualities to be present in most of the Stuart Thomson photos available from the CVA, VPL, and UBC archival collections. I am similarly drawn to many of the Vancouver photographs taken by Charles Bradbury who is typically considered to be an ‘amateur photographer’. Mr. Bradbury’s corpus – that which is available in digital form, at least – is much more modest in quantity than is that of Mr. Thomson. But Bradbury’s choice of images and his care in producing them make his photographic ability, in my judgement, a close match to Thomson’s.

Mr. Bradbury: A Couple of ‘New’ Personal Details

There is not much information known today about Charles Bradbury (1871-1950). Much of what is known is summarized in the earlier VAIW post titled Precursors. Peter Grant, in his bio sketch of Bradbury that appears in his out-of-print volume called Wish You Were Here: Life on Vancouver Island in Historical Postcards (2002) – noted that “the record is silent as to whether [Bradbury] married or had children.” To my delight, I’ve been able to coax the record to ‘speak’ a little bit on this matter, as I’ve found Bradbury’s marriage certificate and also death certificates for both him and his wife (the certificates are reproduced at the end of this post).

Charles Bradbury married Dorothy Allison (whose image is in CVA’s digital collection, and which appeared in an earlier VAIW post). The two were married in December 1907 at Christ Church in Vancouver when he was 36 and she was a “spinster” school teacher of 27. The two were both born in England (he in Staffordshire, she in Essex). I’m assuming, for now, that the couple did not have children given that Dorothy’s death certificate (she died in 1968, some 18 years after CB died) was signed by her nephew, a Mr. D. Allison of West Vancouver, and that Charles’ death certificate was signed by another nephew, Mr. W. J. Allison, also of West Vancouver.

CB’s death certificate also reveals some intriguing information about his occupation. His “kind of work” was shown on his certificate as being “commercial photographer” which he worked at this as his “own business”. Furthermore, the “total years spent in this occupation” was entered as “20” and the “date deceased last worked at this occupation” was entered as “1935”. So, put differently, Charles’ nephew described his career in his later years as being that of a professional photographer (rather than as an amateur, as had previously been assumed). And that he worked at this career from about 1915 until 1935, at which point, I assume, he retired.

Columbia Theatre: 1916 or Later

City Archivists have identified the beautifully detailed image above as being taken in “1915?”. That seems doubtful to me, as the silent film playing at Columbia Theatre at the time the image was made was (as we can see in the image) “Sporting Blood”, starring Dorothy Barnard, which was released in 1916. Given that fact, it seems probable that the image was taken sometime in that year, or perhaps in the year following.

I am reminded by this image of a brief slideshow I compiled a year or two ago of what I believe are some of the best archival images of the old theatres in the Hastings area back in the day when Hastings Street was one of the most-flocked-to areas in downtown Vancouver for entertainment and other commercial enterprises.

Royal BC Museum Archives. Charles & Dorothy Bradbury (nee Allison) Marriage Certificate.

Royal BC Museum Archives. Charles & Dorothy Bradbury (nee Allison) Marriage Certificate, 1907.

Royal BC Museum Archives. Charles Bradbury Death Certificate, 1950.

Royal BC Museum Archives. Charles Bradbury Death Certificate, 1950.

Royal BC Museum Archives. Dorothy Bradbury Death Certificate, 1968.

Royal BC Museum Archives. Dorothy Bradbury Death Certificate, 1968.

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This entry was posted in advertising, biography, C. Bradbury, Photographers, street scenes, theatre/vaudeville/cinemas and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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