Leduc’s First Picture Taker

William Harry Bamber, Leduc’s first photographer with his gear. Right: A Seneca View Camera of the type used by Bamer.
    

William Harry Bamber joined his brother Fred and parents on September 20, 1885 in Coburg, Ontario. The family would continue to grow and by 1898 Harry had a total of four brothers and three sisters. The family moved to Mount Pleasant, Michigan in the early 1890’s and then, in 1896, and a number of fellow Michigan settlers decided to seek homesteads in what they would call Michigan Centre just south of Leduc. 
    When William and Sarah Bamber bought their eleven-year old son a small mail order box camera little did they know the gift would benefit the citizens of Leduc! One of Harry’s first pictures was of their new log cabin.
    Harry loved taking pictures but he also needed to make a living so when he turned 18 he left the farm and moved to Edmonton to begin a six-year career working as a butcher for the Gallagher-Hull Meat Packing Company in the Cloverdale area. During this time Harry met Edmonton’s famous photographer Ernest Brown. Brown was one of the first to photograph and record the growth of Leduc as well as the other communities that circled Edmonton. 
    In 1909, when Gallagher began the process of shutting down his company, Harry made plans to return to Leduc. When he arrived he brought with him the lessons that Brown had taught him and had replaced his box camera with one of Brown’s cameras, a Senaca View camera that used glass plates. 
    Harry’s return to Leduc saw him dabble in photography, taking pictures of weddings, portraits, and recording life in Leduc. His prime income during this time was as a carpenter, but more and more people liked his photos and by 1912 Harry decided that there was enough call to make a full time living as a portrait photographer. So in 1912 he opened Bamber Studios. 1912 was a good year for Harry as in August he married the love of his live Alinda Elsie Klein from Wetaskiwin. Alinda was a kindred sole and would work by his side becoming his “right hand man” and even for a time ran her own studio during World War II.
    Harry’s success allowed him in 1925 to build a new studio with a skylight to increase the quality of the portraits he took. Over the years Harry took over 10,000 photos, most were pictures of weddings and portraits, but nearly eight hundred were pictures of activities and life of Leduc. From 1912 to 1964 Harry recorded what it was like to live in Leduc from disasters to the transformation of log cabins to farmhouses. Most of the pictures we have now about Leduc’s early days came from Harry’s camera.
    Harry and Alinda had two children Alwin and Martha, both would become photographers in their own right. When World War II began Harry’s son was called to serve overseas so Harry closed up his studio in Leduc and moved to Edmonton and managed his son’s photography business. Meanwhile his wife and daughter moved to Calgary to manage another studio while its owner was also called to serve overseas.
    It would not be until six years later that Harry and Alinda would be able to return to Leduc.
    The Bambers returned to Leduc in 1947 and Harry was able to photograph  some of Leduc’s most stunning events of the day. He recorded the fire at Well #3, the explosion of the Leduc Hotel, and the opening of Leduc’s Drive-In along with special occasions that included store openings, parades, and community activities. Harry continued to operate his studio until 1964 when at the age of 78 he turned over the studio to his wife and daughter who continued to operate the business. When Harry died in 1971, at the age of 85, Alinda withdrew from the business and her daughter Martha would continue to run the studio until she closed it in 1977. To preserve Harry’s collection Alinda provided access to the Provincial Archives of Alberta most of the 10,000 photos they had taken over the years. Alinda would join her husband in 1989 at the age of 95.
    Today we can thank Harry Bamber for many of the pictures that show the growth of Leduc and the people who contributed to that growth.

 

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