Louis Blanc: photographer of the BC gold rush

Early photographers of the BC gold rush were an adventurous people; often travelling from town to town, following the hoardes of miners to ply their trade. Some of them combined their talents. Louis Blanc was a watchmaker and jeweller as well as a photographer.

Photography in the 1850s was relatively new. “Cartes de Visite” were pictures mounted to the backs of calling cards that visitors would leave behind if no one was home, with room for a message. Ambrotypes were photographs taken on glass plates. The photographer had to prepare the plates, expose them while the emulsion was still wet, and then return to the darkroom to develop the image. The glass negative that resulted could be used again for prints.

Louis Blanc: Photographer of the BC gold rush

Louis Blanc: Photographer of the BC gold rush

Louis A. Blanc was a watchmaker and jeweller in Olympia, Washington Territory, from 1859 to 1860, after which he moved to Victoria. He had a photographic
gallery on Government Street, opposite the St. Nicholas Hotel. In late June 1867, Blanc opened a gallery in Richfield, making him the first photographer in the area. In the advertisement, Blanc offered several services including “Cartes de Visite”, Timbre de Poste (stamps) Ambrotypes and Milanotypes. Italy was the birthplace of photograpy which could explain the last term.

Well known people of the Cariboo gold rush including John Bowron, William Pattullo, Stephen Tingley, and William Luce all had their portraits taken by Louis Blanc.

In May 1868, just months before the Great Fire of Barkerville, Blanc opened a studio in that town, using proceeds from the sale of his jewellery. Two months later he was back in business and today his photographic studio is a highlight for tourists. He remained in business until August 1872 when he auctioned off his photography and supplies and left Barkerville September 29th, never to return.