A. E. Beck, Pioneer Lawyer

Albert Edward Beck and his mother, Mary Beck (nee Cooper)

Handwriting on the verso of these portraits reads “Albert Edward Beck” and “Mary Beck (Cooper)”. MDM collection.

I recently added these two portrait photos to my collection. When I saw them at the vendor’s shop, I thought that the handwriting on the backs of each looked the same; and I was pretty sure that the surnames scrawled upon each were the same. A little bit of research revealed that the male, Albert Edward Beck (1860-1940), was the son of the female, Mary Beck (nee Cooper).

Pinning down the dates the photos were made was trickier. Vancouver Photographic Company was in business (according to Camera Workers) from 1887-1892; Wadds Bros. from 1892-ca1900. I am guessing from her image, that Mrs. Beck was about 65 when her photo was taken. Since I know from the 1901 census that she was 75 in 1901 (and living in Vancouver with her son and his family), I’m guessing that her portrait was taken ca1892. A. E. Beck’s portrait was made a bit earlier, I think. He was born in 1860 and apparently arrived in Vancouver in 1886 (although his name wasn’t included in the first Vancouver voter’s list, created October, 1886). I’d say from his image above that he wasn’t much older than 25 when it was made, so I’m guessing that his portrait was made ca1888. This guess is bolstered, I think, by an image of him with the Vancouver Eleven Cricket Team which was made the same year. In this image, he appears to be about the same age as he is in the portrait (although his beard is gone; of his facial hair,only the moustache remains).

Sp P6 - [The Vancouver Eleven Cricket Team on the Cambie Street Grounds on Dominion Day] July 1, 1888 (incldg - I am pretty sure - Al Larwill (NOT Larwikk)_

Sp P6 – [The Vancouver Eleven Cricket Team on the Cambie Street Grounds on Dominion Day] July 1, 1888. Beck is in the front row (seated) on the far right. (And Al Larwill makes an appearance, too. Although CVA made a typographical error when inputing Larwill’s name in their online collection. He is standing, second from left).

Beck was a local lawyer in Vancouver’s early years (1888-1907; 1914-33); during the 7-year interim from 1907-14, he worked for the B.C. Electric Railway as their solicitor and claims agent. After his stint with BCER, he returned to private practice until retiring in 1933. Shortly after beginning his practice in Vancouver, he was appointed the Registrar of the B.C. Supreme and County Courts for the Vancouver district. In 1900, he was made Queen’s Counsel (QC).

He did his legal training at Osgoode Hall (Toronto) before he and his wife moved to Vancouver. There is evidence that he articled for local attorney, John Boultbee. He also served as clerk to famous pioneer judge, Sir Matthew Begbie.

In 1887, Queen Victoria’s jubilee year, Beck was appointed to the improbable position of the “Music and Dancing” committee of Vancouver festivities. It’s my suspicion that he was told by John Boultbee (who was also on a jubilee-related committee) that Beck should get involved with this as a way of mixing with others in the community and bringing his name to the fore.

Beck’s early office was at 15 Cordova (adjacent to where the Boulder Hotel would be constructed within a few years) – near the NW corner of Cordova and Carrall. His daughter, (Marion) Elma, would, in Beck’s later years, join him in his practice (his son, Marshall, would take another professional route: accounting). Elma married Henry Lindsay; she died at 80 years of age in 1976 at Ganges, Salt Spring Island.

Str P77 - [F.X. Martin's groceries and provisions, A.E. Beck Law Office and a building society in the Unit Block Cordova Street] ca 1890

Str P77 – A.E. Beck’s Law Office on second floor, ca 1890. (According to early city directories, the address of his practice in this period was 15 Cordova).

A. E. Beck was married to Esther Louisa Marshall, prior to coming west from Ontario. The two of them were both born in that province (he in Sarnia; she in Port Hope). Esther died in March, 1940 and A. E. passed in November of the same year.

Mr. Beck’s parents were John Beck (b England) and Mary Jane Cooper (b New Brunswick). Mary lived with A E Beck’s family in 1901, and presumably continued to do so until her passing. John, I’m assuming, died in Ontario and subsequently Mary came west to stay with AEB and family.

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