Old junk

Some of my favourite finds are the ones I happen upon by pure chance. My car was in the shop for maintenance on Wednesday and Thursday so I wasn’t able to pick as I normally would have. The work was supposed to be done by about noon on Thursday so I decided to walk up to the garage around then to pick it up. (I ended up having to wait around for three hours or so, but that’s another story).

Of course, the various garbage days are always on my mind, and I decided to take a route that would provide a bit of trash along the way. I didn’t expect much but it wasn’t long before I happened upon this pile. The bag on the right had the feel of paper when I gave it a little kick and I decided to take a peek inside. Usually papers aren’t too exciting, but sometimes they are.

True to form, most of the papers weren’t very exciting. Old files and such. However, I spotted this busted antique album after digging around a bit. It probably once held the cards below, which I laid eyes on not long after.

These little cards feature some of the oldest photographs I’ve ever found in the trash. Most seem to be “cartes de visite” (or CdV), a type of photograph most popular between 1859 and the early 1870s. The larger cabinet card took over after that, though apparently CdVs were produced into the early 1900s.

Lots of CdVs featured celebrities – they were one of the earliest forms of collectible cards. Sometimes the name is indicated on the card and other times not so please let me know if you recognize someone!

The backs of the cards sometimes contain interesting information so I’ve included pictures in every case. For instance, a previous owner noted that the card on top second from the left is an image of Henri IV, the king of France from 1589 to 1610. The writing on the one to the left of it looks to say “Francois II” but the picture doesn’t match the appearance of the former French king who died at age 16. To the right of a more local interest – on the back it’s written that the guy was a chaplain somewhere in Pied du Courant, the part of Old Montreal that sits next to the rapids and across from La Ronde. There used to be a prison there from 1835-1912, so perhaps he worked there? I don’t really understand some of the words written, so let us know if you have any insights!

The dude on top, second from the left is J.A.A. Brodeur, one time president of the executive committee of the city of Montreal. There’s not much info about him online outside of the fact that he died of a heart attack while visiting New York City on business in 1927. To his right is an image of the impressively mustachioed Napoleon III. At top right is one of the few hand dated photos – being shot in “about 1866” might make it the oldest photograph I’ve ever found. Otherwise, we have a cute hand coloured picture of a baby named Lilly Gagnon Polette and an image of Pope Pius IX.

Here we have Napoleon I, Empress Josephine, Mary Queen of Scots, and some locals. Several of these photographs were shot by William Notman, a noted Montreal-based photographer. Given that there’s no mention of “& Son” the Notman baby photograph must date from before 1882.

Here we have Josephine again, François Gaston de Lévis, another famous guy I should probably recognize (bottom left), and more locals.

Let’s finish with some drawings (I don’t recognize any of them, but perhaps they are famous) and a nice photograph of the Notre Dame de Lourdes chapel in France that apparently dates to 1872.

Most of the other papers weren’t exciting, but I did find this neat old Quebec street scene (this is a fairly hi-def scan so zoom in for a closer look, and let me know if you know where it is!) …

… and a cool drawing (perhaps once a cover to something?) dated November 2nd, 1879. I’m not sure what any of the symbols or Latin means, so if you have any insights please share them in the comments!

Overall this was an excellent haul. I should be able to make some money from the celebrity cards, and the local photography certainly possesses some historical value as well. I’ll keep an eye on that spot in case those folks toss more interesting old “junk!”

While on the topic of found photos I might as well share a few I saved from a black trash bag in Westmount about a month ago. These ones looked like they had spent too long in a damp basement

This neat group photo turned out okay. It looks to feature a 1940 military college football team (you can see the year on the ball, which is held by player #1).

There were some neat photos in this collection. The 1927 aerial shot of Vancouver is cool, unfortunately it’s a bit damaged. Otherwise, we have a couple boats, someone honouring James Cook at his monument in Hawaii, a military parade of some kind, a shot of Lake Louise, and one with a bunch of elephants. I’d really like to know what’s going on in that one – the structure in particular is unusual, and you can see someone sitting on top of it as well. Zoom in for a closer look!

Someone enjoyed animal photography! Here we have a ducks, a series of squirrel pictures, a Siamese cat, a cow, and a couple of kids on a pony.

This timeline of biblical figures is printed on what looks to be blueprint paper. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

I have no idea what’s going on in these photos. On the back of each is written in pencil a certain number of tons (ie: “9.75 tons”) but nothing else that would help solve the mystery.

My favourite photos from this batch are probably these very old bridge raising shots. It doesn’t say on the back which bridge it is, but the design looks a lot like that of the Pont de Quebec near Quebec City. If so, these photos would date back to 1917. Unfortunately they are a bit damaged by moisture, but they’re not too far gone and would look great in a frame.

Otherwise, I have lots of catching up to do. It’s been a great year for garbage, and some of my best finds haven’t even made the blog yet!


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21 thoughts on “Old junk”

  1. A great post! And wonderfully informative! I can’t imagine why whoever came into possession of that collection didn’t offer it to a museum of some kind. Ah well, you saved it anyway, so good on you. That Divine Plan thingie on blueprint paper is certainly curious, and the bridge pics are a nice slice of architectural history.

  2. I wonder if the McCord might be able to help with the Notman photograph – the number on the back could be a file/order number?

  3. What a great lot of old photos. I am a retired photographer so I am always interested in old photos. I especially like ones of people. Some of the expressions on the faces of the old photos are grim, but that’s mostly because they had to hold so still because the camera shutter speed had to be open a long time to get enough light onto the film. But some of the people look just plain funny. Mostly grim, though. Photography was so much more iffy then than it is now.

  4. Google says that Solitarius in Specie Mea translates to “In My Lone Appearance”
    …so now I’m even more curious…what does that mean?

  5. I believe the Latin saying means “single in my way”. Above it are the interwoven letters A, L and M.
    Great photos!

  6. The drawing cards–top row second from left is likely Joan of Arc (Jean d’Arc).
    The Latin saying, as Kelly also said, might be “In my lone appearance” or more likely, “Only appearance” or someone who is only doing one show somewhere.

  7. How strange to be finding these rare items in black garbage bags.These things have less than a 5% chance of being rescued unless you happen to be around.If these things had been junked in boxes,the probability of them being rescued by others would go up to 25%.

    1. Indeed. My success as a garbage picker is largely due to my willingness to look through bags. I’d say that the save percentage is lower than 5% in a lot of neighbourhoods (particularly rich / suburban) and higher than that in dense, poor, and urban areas. I’d guess that the rescue percentage for boxes is probably higher than 25%, at least in areas like the Mile End. When I put out a box of free stuff most of the good stuff is gone within hours, minutes sometimes. The technique wouldn’t work as well in suburban areas but I’m sure most stuff would still be saved if the boxes are well marked.

  8. Love seeing your finds, old photo’s are fascinating for sure.
    You must be amazed at what you find and wonder what went on in peoples lives.

  9. The elephant card. Indian elephants (small ears) probably with their mahouts mounted. May well have been used for logging. The sides of the building are open to allow a flow of air in order to dry out the timber.

  10. Wow! Nice junk! The chaplain who writes on the back of one card is probably : A. L. Valois (even if it looks like Palois). He is the « chapelain de l’église du Saint-Nom-de-Marie, Pied du Courant ».

  11. Read this ad from Craigslist Montréal.

    I have lost a Hullberg Guld diamond 18K white gold ring somewhere between Atwater Ave, Cote-des Neiges RD, and Concordia campus in Downtown Montreal. It has a transparent glue layer inside the loop to protect it from falling off my finger. It was my wedding ring and means a lot to me.

    I hope this person finds the diamond ring.That would be a great XMAS gift.Happy Xmas to everyone.

  12. A very interesting find, as always.
    The picture of “François II” is in fact a portrait of Henry II of France, and it is based on a painting by François Clouet. The drawing of the lady in armour with a sword represents “María Pita”, a Spanish heroine who fought against the English when they tried to invade Spain back in the late sixteenth century. The Spanish Wikipedia shows a print by Santiago Llanta y Guerin that is almost identical to yours (https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mar%C3%ADa_Pita#/media/File:Mar%C3%ADa_Pita,_por_Santiago_Llanta_y_Guerin.jpg). I hope this helps.

  13. Généalogie Lily-Garden Gagnon – Mes Aieux
    Translate this page
    1890, Montreal, Qc, William-Antoine Polette, Lily-Garden Gagnon. 1925, Riviere- Du-Loup, Qc, Jean-Paul Chauvin, Lily Gagnon. 1946, Cap-Chat, Qc, Adeodat …

    The pictures of the baby with the name listed on the back has a substantial number of hits on genealogy websites. . Don’t read French. but its an easy google.. Someone on the page, would probably love to buy a baby pic of their grandmother.

    1. I found her on Ancestry: Lilly Garden Gagnon was born about 1865 (presumably in Montreal); she married William Antoine Polette in 1890.

    2. I also found Atala Leclaire (who is the last one in the same lot of photos, bottom right). She was born Marie Louise Mathilde Atala Leclerc in about 1859 and married William Henry Milton McDonald in 1877.

  14. Finally, I think Corrine Leclaire (Mme Louis Bourgeois), in the lot that includes François Gaston de Lévis, might be Atala’s sister, born in about 1869.

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