John Jenkinson: Photographer

CVA 242-02: Portrait of John Jenkinson, ca1902.

John Jenkinson (1871-1936) described himself on his marriage certificate as an electrician. His occupation in the early years of the 20th century was as a lineman for the CPR and later for the BCER (BC Electric Railway). He worked his way up to a meter reader, and then as a meter inspector for the BCER. By the time he died in 1936, he had been promoted to superintendent of the metering department. He was a player of lawn bowls, and he loved to sing with the choir at Christ Church and with the Western Triple Men’s Choir. But I believe Jenkinson’s legacy lies in none of these occupations and activities. It was as an amateur photographer that Jenkinson shone and, in my opinion, continues to shine.

CVA 242-04: Portrait of Ellen Jenkinson, ca1910, wearing one of the voluminous hats which she seemed to favor.

John Jenkinson was born in Lancashire, England to William and Priscilla Jenkinson. I presume he trained as an electrician in the Motherland. He came to Canada in 1898, settling in Vancouver and here he married Ellen Johanne Anderson, who was a native of Copenhagen, Denmark (1875-1951), in 1902. The couple had one child together, Olga (1904-1980).

For a couple of years before he was married, John boarded at a home on Eveleigh Street. But soon after he and Ellen were wed, they moved to 992 Howe (Howe and Nelson). This seems to have been a house with a couple or more suites within it (by the time the photo below was taken by Yates in 1959, the main floor was a retail space and the space above it was residential).

Bu P508.6 – [Exterior of building at the North East corner of Nelson and Howe Street] 1959, A. L. Yates photo. Oddly, there are no Jenkinson images online at CVA of this home when they were living there.

From what I can tell, John and Ellen were never wealthy. It seems likely that they enjoyed a middle-income lifestyle, but nothing extravagant. A meter reader’s job was to check the amount of electricity used by a household as recorded on the meter attached to each home. It was the job of the meter inspector to certify electricity meters were functioning accurately.

I’m assuming (pretty safely, I think) that the photographer in the family was John. Olga was too young to have made most of these images, and I doubt that Ellen would have been the photographer, given the relatively sexist attitude to the hobby in its early days.

Many of Jenkinson’s photos were exteriors and interiors of homes that he didn’t own. I am very impressed, in particular, with how he was able to get ample light in his interior shots. That would have been among the biggest challenges of his day.

CVA 242-11 – Exterior of 1260 Barclay Street, ca 1901.

The residence shown above and below was 1260 Barclay Street, at the time, the home of F. F. Burns, son of John Burns, Sr., who also seems to have lived there. F. F. Burns was a metal merchant in the city.

CVA 242-13 – Interior and exterior views of 1260 Barclay Street, ca 1901. The decor in this room screams Victorian! Complete with the stag above the fireplace.

The home shown below was a near neighbour of the Burns place. This home belonged to Adolphus Williams at 1139 Barclay.

CVA 242-10.15 – Mr. Williams house at 1139 Barclay Street, ca 1901.
CVA 242-10.16 – Williams’ drawing room, ca1901.

The image below is one of my favourites among those made by Jenkinson. It is an unusual photo of English Bay that clearly shows the slide into the Bay (and the kids climbing back up to the platform)!

CVA 242-14.2 – View of English Bay, ca1901.

And here is another of my favourites, showing the Elders, Stanley Park superintendents, sitting very stiffly in front of their Park cottage.

CVA 242-05 – Stanley Park [with Mr. Elder, Park Superintendent and his wife, in front of their cottage at entrance to Stanley Park.], ca1900.

To conclude, I’ll show an exterior and interior of the Jenkinson home that John owned when he died. It was certainly a few of steps up from 992 Howe, but it didn’t have the pizzazz of the Burns place. This home was on the corner of 15th Avenue and Burrard.

CVA 242-19 – North and west facades of John Jenkinson’s home at 1796 West 15th Avenue, ca1927.
CVA 242-22 – Interior of 1796 West 15th Avenue, far end of living room with piano, ca 1927.

I suspect that Jenkinson’s connection to these home-owners who allowed him access to the interior of their homes was his (and their?) church: Christ Church. I have confirmed that Adolphus Williams was affiliated with Christ Church. But haven’t been able to confirm that either Burns or Elder were.

Of course, it could be that the explanation is simpler. He might have gotten to know these families during his time as a meter reader — reading their electricity meters!

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