The Scott - Sefton Collection: Elgin's History Through a Photographer's Lens - Volume I (St. Thomas: Elgin County Library, 2001)
Scott Studio fonds- Photographic negatives series
ca. 100,000 photograph negatives
Glass plate negatives in excellent condition. Cellulose acetate negatives from 1940's to 1960's have broken down considerably with "vinegar syndrome" clearly apparent.
History / Biographical
Thomas Hunter Scott commenced business as a photographer in St. Thomas on March 1st, 1879. He initially opened a studio at 265 Talbot Street under the name "Scott and Company" in partnership with William Lindop, a partnership that lasted until November 1881. In July 1882, he entered into another partnership with his brother-in-law James. H. Hopkins at the same location, this time under the name "Scott and Hopkins". This partnership lasted until April 1890. By 1894, Scott was at new location at 585 Talbot Street under the name "Scott Studio". The Scott Studio subsequently remained at this location until its closure in 1989, although it also operated a tourist studio in Port Stanley during the early 1900's.
Scott's son, W. Murray, apprenticed with his father beginning in 1900. In 1911, and after a two-year break when he left to go prospecting in Northern Ontario (with camera nevertheless in-hand), Murray took over the Scott Studio from his father. Murray exceeded his father's reputation for exceptional craftsmanship, winning five awards from the International Association of Photographers for his work and artistry. He was a fixture on the streetscapes of St. Thomas and Elgin County. He is credited with several innovations in local photography, including a "Children's Studio" replete with many fixtures to produce a smile.
Murray Scott operated the studio until 1955 when the business was sold to Frank Sefton and his son Clifford, previously of Montreal. The Seftons maintained the studio's reputation for innovation, becoming the first studio to offer colour reproductions in St. Thomas. Clifford and his wife Margeruite successfully operated the business until its closure in 1989.
Thomas Hunter Scott died at his home, Burnside, in Union in 1918. William Murray Scott died at Elgin Manor, Fingal, in 1967.
Fonds was transferred to the custody of the Elgin County Library between 1983 and 1986. It was initially processed by volunteers from the North Yarmouth District Historical Association. In 1992, the Elgin Photographic Heritage Society was formed to continue this work. This society under the direction of its Chairman Mr. Ken Verrell remains active with the fonds and has completed the transfer of negatives to acid-free sleeves and was responsible for compiling an item-level database.
Scope and Content
Series consists of approximately 100,000 photographic negatives in glass-plate, nitrate and cellulose-acetate form. Most negatives correspond to Murray Scott's tenure with the studio between 1911 and 1955. Included within the few early negatives that do exist is perhaps the most famous photograph to come from St. Thomas and Elgin County, the death of Jumbo the Elephant shortly after being hit by a Canada Southern Locomotive in 1885.
The Scott Studio was the official or unofficial photographer for a number of organizations within the community, including Elgin County Council, Alma College, the YMCA, , the Elgin Regiment, local schools (such as St. Thomas Collegiate Institute) and the Technical Training School of the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. Railway photographs are particularly abundant within the fonds. The studio was commissioned to take photographs on behalf of the Pere Marquette Railway, Michigan Central Railway and New York Central Railway, including stations and crossings throughout the lines (and therefore extending throughout southern Ontario). The most abundant shots in this regards date to the 1930's and 1940's.
The majority of the series (perhaps ninety per cent) consists of portrait photography of local weddings, special events and individuals.