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Manitoba Photographers: Henry James “Harry” Bowles (1855-1944)

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Harry Bowles
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Born at Franktown, Ontario on 10 December 1855, son of Irish immigrants James and Elizabeth Bowles, the family moved to Sarnia, Ontario in 1861. Bowles (who is also referred to as Henry Bowls or Henry Bowles in some sources) was working as a photographer at Winnipeg by late 1876, with a studio on Lyon Street called the Sunbeam Gallery. He returned to Sarnia in early 1877 and operated a photographic studio there until May 1879 when he came back to Winnipeg and went into partnership with James Penrose. Bowles bought out his partner in 1880 but, soon after, he left Manitoba under a financial cloud, owing money to creditors and facing a charge of possessing stolen property:

Harry Bowles, the photographer, has emigrated to Dakota – not on account of the Land Regulations, but of a little discrepancy between himself and his creditors. The discrepancy still remains. Bowles also foresaw a little difficulty regarding a lens, which he bought a year ago for a sum much below its value, and secreted till the other day. It belonged to Mr. Duffin, from whom it was stolen by a half-breed, who sold it to Bowles. Duffin got track of it, and sent the police to recover it, and shortly afterwards – on Monday afternoon – Bowles secured passage on the steamer Minnesota, getting on board a mile or so up the river. [1]

Bowles did not run far. He ended up at Cavalier, North Dakota, just south of the border with Manitoba. For two years, he worked on construction of the Northern Pacific Railway then, from 1882 to 1884, he worked as a photographer at Pembina. In 1885, he took up farming at Beaulieu and subsequently “played an important part in the pioneer history of Cavalier and Pembina counties.” He worked as a mail carrier, traveling by stagecoach and dogsled. On 9 July 1892, he married Elizabeth McGauvran McKercher (?-1931) and they had five children, descendants of whom are still living in the area today. He was a member for 35 years with AOUW and IOOF. He was director of the Cavalier County Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance for 12 years and an adjuster for the State Hail Insurance Department.

He died at Cavalier, North Dakota on 22 May 1944 and was buried in the Zion Evangelical Church Cemetery.

Work locations




Main Street North, Winnipeg


Sarnia, Ontario


“Opposite Post Office,” Winnipeg (Penrose & Bowles)


95 McDermot Avenue, Winnipeg


Pembina, North Dakota


Harry Bowles Harry Bowles

Portrait of young man (circa 1876)
Source: Gordon Goldsborough, 2010-0025

Harry BowlesHarry Bowles

Photographic copy of diagram purportedly showing the execution of Thomas Scott
Source: Gordon Goldsborough, 2005-0023


“Local and provincial news,” Manitoba Free Press, 22 July 1876, page 2.

Winnipeg Daily Times, 14 July 1880, page 4.

The Spirit Lives On, Osnabrock, ND 1887-1987, page 378.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough and Tom LaPorte.

Page revised: 24 December 2018

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