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W.J. Oliver fonds

1890-1960, predominant 1920s-1940s

Physical Description:
ca. 3000 photographs. -- 1 cm of textual records

William John Oliver, 1887-1954, was born in Ash, Canterbury, Kent, England where he was a butcher's apprentice. He became interested in photography after winning a camera. In 1910 he emigrated to southern Alberta and worked as a teamster at Strathmore. In the following years he began his photography career working as a camera assistant at the Frederick B. Cooper Photographic Studio in Calgary. Later in 1911 he began working for the Morning Albertan and in 1912 opened the W.J. Oliver Photographic Studio. He also joined the Calgary Herald as staff photographer. The studio became extremely successful and his work eventually took him outside the Calgary area. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s he took many photos of the Calgary Stampede, and travelled across Canada taking photos and films for the National Parks Branch, Fox News and others. In 1936-1937 he was official photographer on Michael Lerner's big game hunting expeditions to Africa and southeastern Asia, and in 1939 accompanied Lerner to Alaska. William wound down his photographic activities in the 1940s and in 1942 sold the studio to Walter Cadman who had joined his staff in 1923. He then devoted his time to his Diamond L ranch in the Millarville area. He and his wife, Marjorie Beatrice Martin, 1896-1993, whom he married in 1920, had three daughters, Joan (Cavers), Doreen (Huffman), and Audrey-Jean (Langford). For further information see W.J. Oliver, Life Through a Master's Lens / Sheilagh S. Jameson. - Calgary : Glenbow Museum, 1984.

Custodial History:
The Calgary Stampede photos were bought from the studio in the late 1950s by the Calgary Brewing and Malting Company for the Horsemen's Hall of Fame. After Carling O'Keefe Breweries bought the company it closed the Hall of Fame and transferred the photos to the Glenbow.

Scope and Content:
The fonds consists of photographs of Calgary streets, events, institutions, personalities and businesses including Calgary Brewing and Malting Company (1906-1944); the Calgary Stampede, events and contestants, and native peoples (1910s-1940s); outdoor activities in Vermilion Lakes, Waterton, Banff and Jasper taken for the Parks Branch (1928-1936); the Oliver family and the Diamond L ranch (1890, 1910-1944); Lerner hunting trips to Africa, southeast Asia and Alaska (1936-1939); and farms, ranches and the oil industry in the Calgary area (1910s-1920s). Includes maps produced for Oliver by his guide, Ralph Rink, for his photographic expedition from Lake Louise to Jasper (1928); and miscellaneous business letterheads and share certificates.

Source of Acquisition:
Purchased from E.W. Cadman and gifts of Carling O'Keefe, Marjorie Oliver and Joan Cavers, 1958-1982.

The material is in English.

Originals and Reproductions:
The original photos of the Oliver family, the Lerner expeditions, and photos taken for the Parks Branch are held by Marjorie Oliver, Doreen Huffman and Audrey-Jean Langford.
Reference prints from the original negatives are also available.

No restrictions on access.

Finding Aids:
Inventory available. Please consult before requesting material.

View finding aid / scanned documents:

Photocopies of other W.J. Oliver records, including business correspondence (1919-1940) and radio broadcasts (1937-1947), are in the Sheilagh Jameson fonds at Glenbow. Other Oliver records are held by Library and Archives Canada.

Call Numbers:
(M=manuscript; N&P=photos; R=sound recordings; S=slides; F=films)
M-5924, M-6344, PA-2399, PA-3283, PB-591, PB-788, PB-799, PC-11, PC-54-1, PC-59, PC-132, PC-142, PC-155, PC-194, PC-200, PC-204, PC-213, PE-154, NA-246, NA-953, NA-3164, NA-3680, NA-4868, NB-16, NB-37, ND-8, NE-2

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