I reunite identified family photos that I find in antique shops and second hand stores with genealogists and family historians. If you see one of your ancestors here and would like to obtain the original, feel free to contact me. Donations of pre-1920 photographs are also most welcome. I hope you enjoy your visit!
~The Archivist

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Little Nugget," A.A. Paul, Photographer, Nanaimo, BC, Circa 1901

I found this unidentified photograph in a dresser drawer at a second store in Campbell River, BC.  It appealed to me because the photograph was taken right here on Vancouver Island at the turn of the century.  Most of Vancouver Island was still pretty wild in 1900 but Victoria was a growing, modern city, and Nanaimo, with its mining and logging industries was a centre for employment on the island.

The New Westminster Columbian, wrote in their December 1903 issue that "A.A. Paull, photographer, though a native of Jersey, left the Old Country when two years old, and until 1892 lived in London, Ont, where he learned the trade of cabinet maker. His next move was to British Columbia, and he has resided there since then, doing a good business as a photographer."

I was able to learn from the clues in The Columbian article that Alfred Albert Paull was the son of Alfred and Mary Paull.  His family appears in the 1871 Channel Islands Census for Jersey, in St. Helier.  At the time, the father Alfred is 26 years old, employed as a baker and Mary is 25.  Young Alfred is only 9 months old.  The family arrived in Quebec May 17, 1872 on the ship, Prussia, from Liverpool.   On the passenger list Alfred is recorded as being over 1 year old, and his sister A. Jane Paull, under a year old.

The Paulls settled in Ailsa Craig, Middlesex North, Ontario. In the 1881 Canada Census the family had grown to include six children:  Alfred, 10; Alice Jane, 9; Edith, 7; Paull Joseph, 5; Eliza 3,; and Harry, 2 months.

By 1891 Alfred was living on his own and working as a cabinetmaker, but the rest of the family, including Alfred's 10 siblings, had moved across the country to live in New Westminster, BC. A year or two later, Alfred Albert moved out to British Columbia as well.

He opened his photographic studio sometime around 1901 on Fitzwilliam Street in Nanaimo, in an area now known as the Old City Quarter.  We know this because he appears in Henderson's BC Gazetteer and Directory for that year. According to the Nanaimo Community Archives Info File, Paull, was a commercial photographer for the logging and mining industries and prior to 1901 lived in Vancouver, where he was employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Paull shows up in the 1902 & 1903 Vancouver City Directory, on Cordova Street.  He may have kept a studio in Nanaimo, as well as in Vancouver during this time.  I found a number of advertisements in the Cumberland News (Vancouver Island) newspaper, which indicates that the Paull Studio made the rounds to smaller towns, opening a studio for a period of a month or so before moving on.  I believe Paull may not have always made these trips himself.  The Cumberland News reports on October 8, 1902 that "Mr. Schinck of Paull's Studio has terminated a successful visit here and returned to Nanaimo on Friday morning."  It's quite possible that other photographers, hired by Paull, helped set up these roving studios.

Cumberland News, March 10, 1903

Cumberland News, September 24, 1902

A.A. Paull appeared to work from the mainland in the following years.  On March 27, 1909, the Moyie Leader newspaper reported, "A.A. Paull has closed his studio [in Moyie] after a very successful month's business. He intends returning here in another month or two." In a November issue that same year the paper announced that A. A. Paull was moving his studio to Michel.  Twelve years later Paull opened the Albert Gallery in Vancouver in 1921 which remained in operation until 1923.  He died on the 18th of June 1958 in New Westminster, BC (source: British Columbia, Canada, Death Index, 1872-1990 database on Ancestry.com).

As for the woman in the photograph, she remains a mystery.

If you would like to learn more about Nanaimo history, you  may want to locate a copy of Nanaimo Retrospective: The First Century for a look at the city's early years.


  1. Does the Paull family still reside in the area?

  2. I have found a few descendants of A.A. Paull's siblings online and there are probably a few in the Vancouver area, but I don't really know much about Alfred Albert Paull's later life, whether he married or had children. I did check the phone directory for New Westminster, but didn't see any Paulls there. An obituary, if one could be found, would probably shed some light on that.

    It's too bad there wasn't an archive of Paull photos at the Nanaimo Archives. That's a lot to hope for, but I figured that would probably be the only way to find out who this woman was.