Fonds F 4423

Bruce Decker fonds

About these records

Bruce Decker fonds
Dates of Creation
1873-1877, [198-]
Physical Description

87 photographs : black and white collodion wet plate glass negatives

61 photographs : copy prints

83 photographs : copy negatives

Scope and Content

The fonds consists of 87 collodion wet plate glass negatives, 61 copy prints, and 83 copy negatives depicting early settlement images of Barrie, Bracebridge, Orillia, and surrounding areas. The photographs depict aboriginal peoples, homesteading, lumbering activities, maple sugar gathering, a general store and post office, homes, and businesses.

Of particular note are photographs of the town of Bracebridge that show the layout of the town as it existed in the mid-1870s, including early buildings and businesses, such as the British Lion Hotel and the Northern Advocate Newspaper offices.

The photographer who created the collodion negatives is reasonably believed to be Charles Ellis (1844-1921). Charles Ellis was born in England on 16 June, 1844, and emigrated to Canada in 1868, possibly with his future wife Isabella McNabb (1856-1944), a native of Scotland. They lived in Ontario from 1868 until late 1880 or 1881 when the family moved to Manitoba. Two of their children were born in Ontario; four more children were born in Manitoba. It is believed that Ellis created the Ontario negatives between 1873 and 1877, before moving to Manitoba; Bruce Decker created the copy prints and copy negatives in 1979 or the early 1980s.

The process used to create collodion wet plate glass negatives was very rare and had a limited period of use. The wet collodion process was commonly used from 1856 until about 1880, and was most popular in the 1870s.

Administrative History or Biographical Sketch

Bruce Decker was a musician and history enthusiast from Winnipeg, Manitoba, who collected and researched a collection of collodion negatives that document early settlements in the Ontario towns of Barrie, Orillia, and Bracebridge.

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Decker, Bruce, 1946-1986

Restrictions on Access
Access to the collodion wet plate glass negatives is restricted for conservation reasons. Researchers may view the prints and copy negatives, or may apply to a Reference Archivist to request access to the original glass negatives.
Terms For Use and Reproduction
Copyright in these photographs has expired. There are no restrictions on reproduction. If you wish to publish any of this material, submit a Request for Permission to Publish, Exhibit, or Broadcast Form to the Archives of Ontario.
Custodial History

The collodion negatives were held by the family of the photographer, Charles Ellis, in Winnipeg until the family home was sold in 1979. The collodion negatives and photographic equipment were given to the mover as payment, and the negatives were purchased by Bruce Decker, likely in 1979 or the early 1980s; Bruce Decker subsequently created the copy negatives and copy prints. Bruce Decker died in 1986, and his father, the now-deceased Morley Decker, and brother, Robert Decker, took possession of the collodion negatives, copy negatives, and copy prints. Robert Decker donated the photographs to the Archives of Ontario in 2003.

Associated Material

The Archives of Manitoba holds 75 collodion wet plate glass negatives also taken by Charles Ellis. The negatives held at the Archives of Manitoba depict historic sites and scenes in and around Winnipeg.

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