Exploration Photographer: Humphrey Lloyd Hime and the Assiniboine and Saskatchewan Exploring Expedition of 1858
by Richard Huyda
MHS Transactions, Series 3, Number 30, 1973-74 Season
In British North America several factors stimulated the Imperial and Canadian Governments to sponsor exploring expeditions into the Western Interior during the 1850s. There was renewed imperial concern for more secure links with its far western colony in British Columbia where gold had been discovered and the Pacific Coast was of growing importance to British oriental trade interests. In the interior the small communities along the Red River had been expanding. It was undesirable that they continue to remain isolated and exposed to American Western expansion.
Moreover, the monopoly of the Hudson's Bay Company for exclusive trade in the vast regions of the interior would expire in 1859. The Hudson's Bay Co. desired an extension of its monopoly, but the Canadian Government had indicated to Britain that it was extremely interested in extending its jurisdiction westward from the Great Lakes. Settlement of the interior and a communication link between all the British possessions in North America seemed desirable imperial goals, but their feasibility was uncertain without more thorough investigation of the area.
As a consequence, in 1857 two exploratory expeditions were sent into the Western Interior. These expeditions were to investigate the topography and resources of the area; to study the geology, climate, vegetation and native life; to assess the agricultural and settlement potential; and to report on the possibilities of a permanent inter-colonial communication route.
The British Government sent out a combined military and civilian expedition under the direction of Captain John Palliser and Dr. James Hector. At the same time the Canadian Government commissioned its expedition to make a thorough examination of the country between Lake Superior and the Red River.
The Canadian expedition was comprised strictly of civilians. It was under the command of George Gladman and was divided into three parties. One was led by Simon Dawson, surveyor and engineer, the second was led by Professor Henry Youle Hind, geologist and naturalist at Trinity College, Toronto. The third party was led by W. H. Napier, engineer. This first Canadian expedition arrived at Fort William in July, 1857 and gradually worked towards the Red River Settlements until September. After a further month's work at the Settlements Hind returned to Toronto, while Dawson and Napier wintered at Red River.
On the basis of preliminary reports from the first expedition the Canadian Government decided to continue the investigations into 1858 with two divisions extending their activities from the Red River to the South Saskatchewan River. Simon Dawson was placed in charge of one division and Henry Youle Hind was to direct the second. Hind's expedition is the one that concerns us this evening.
General instructions from the Provincial Secretary were given to Hind during the first weeks of April. His estimate of expenditures was approved and he was requested to organize his party.
More specific instructions were issued on April 27. The region to be explored was to be that lying to the west of Lake Winnipeg and Red River, and embraced between the rivers Saskatchewan and Assiniboine, as far west as 'South Branch House' on the Saskatchewan. The expedition was to obtain information respecting the geology, natural history, topography and meteorology of the region. A map was to be constructed and a collection made of any objects which would illustrate the natural history of the country. To distinguish the expedition for the present year (1858) it was designated the "Assiniboine and Saskatchewan Exploring Expedition."
In the instructions there was no specific requirement for photographic documentation. Indeed, the reasoning behind the decision to include a photographer is nowhere officially recorded. The Canadian Government had not yet recognized the potential of photography for its work. The only recorded official use of photography prior to 1858 was when a Hamilton photographer was requested in 1857 to take a series of views of a railway disaster. It had been traditional practice, however, to include among members of exploratory expeditions individuals possessing some artistic ability whose sketches might be used to illustrate the official reports. The 1857 Canadian Expedition had had two artists of note: John Fleming and William Napier. Moreover, other Governments had in the past few years been employing photographers in their official expeditions. Daguerreo-typists had accompanied Commodore Perry on his expedition to Japan in 1852 and the U.S. Western Survey party of 1853 employed a photographer. Leading explorers of the day advocated using photography extensively on expeditions.
Photography was becoming an acceptable part of life in urban Canada. Its potential to record faithfully was undoubtedly brought to the attention of many Government officials who had themselves sat before a camera or had seen the views of such photographers as McLaughlin of Quebec, Notman of Montreal, or Palmer of Toronto. Thus, by 1858, Canadian Government officials were probably willing to accept without objection a reasonable expenditure for photography should this be suggested as an expedition requirement.
The initial decision to make use of photography on the 1858 Expedition was likely Hind's. He felt that photography could provide a most accurate and faithful record of places and things. From a photograph any number of copies could be taken to illustrate expedition reports. It might have been his intention at first to take the photographs himself, but as he had found a man who combined the talents of photographer and surveyor he reconsidered his estimates, stroking out a previous entry for an "Assistant to Mr. Hind" and writing in pencil the word "photographer" opposite the sum of $640.00.
These estimates were approved without objection. On April 10 Hind informed the Provincial Secretary that he had completed arrangements for the official staff of the Expedition. Along with himself as Geologist he named James Dickinson as Surveyor, John Fleming as assistant and draughtsman, and a Mr. Hime as photographer. Both Fleming and Dickinson had been on the 1857 Expedition.
Mr. Hime, the photographer, was Humphrey Lloyd Hime, twentyfour year old junior partner of the firm Armstrong, Beere and Hime, Civil Engineers, Draughtsmen and Photographists, 35 King Street East, Toronto. Born in Moy, Co. Armagh, Ireland on September 17, 1833, Hime had crossed to England at the age of fifteen to obtain a business education and to learn textile manufacturing. In 1854 he came to Canada.
Little is known of Hime's first year in Canada. It is likely that he began working with surveying crews in Canada West, probably on the islands of Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe. By September, 1855 he was employed as first chainman on a survey party under the direction of W.H. Napier. Hime stayed with the party until January, 1856. Shortly thereafter he joined William Armstrong and Daniel Beere in their Toronto firm. Armstrong and Beere were suitably impressed with their new colleague and by January of 1857 they accepted Hime as a junior partner.
The association proved a fortunate one for Hime. Through his partners he was able to broaden his knowledge of surveying. From them he learned photography as both Armstrong and Beere were experienced photographers and their firm had gained a reputation for excellence in its work. At the Twelfth Annual Provincial Exhibition in 1857 the firm was awarded first and second prize for the best collection of uncoloured photographs and second prize for the best coloured photographs.
By 1858 Hime was a talented and ambitious young man with knowledge and experience in surveying and photography. He had experienced life in the unsettled tracts of this new land and probably was anxious for new adventures and challenges. Hind's meeting of Hime was probably not coincidental, but arranged through a mutual acquaintance, perhaps W. H. Napier or William Armstrong.
Hind, in writing to the Provincial Secretary on April 10, listed Hime as Photographer. He concluded this letter by stating that Mr. Hime is a practical photographer of the service of Armstrong, Hime and Beere, Toronto. In addition to the qualification of being an excellent photographer, he is also a practical surveyor, and it is understood that when his services are not required for the practice of his particular department, he is to assist in the Surveying operations. Mr. Hime will furnish a series of Collodion Negatives for the full illustration of all objects of interest susceptible of photographic delineation, from which any number of copies can be taken to illustrate a narrative of the Expedition and a report on its results.
Hime was officially offered the position in writing on April 12. He replied on April 13, agreeing to the terms of employment. He would occupy the position of Photographer at a salary of £20 a month. All his traveling expenses were to be paid. In return, all his work was to belong exclusively to the Canadian Government and he was to make himself useful in every way he could. On April 14, Hime was officially taken on staff.
Along with the hiring of professional staff, arrangements were made for the purchase of provisions, equipment and instruments. Many of the supplies were available in Toronto. Others had to be purchased in Montreal and Lachine. Where the photographic apparatus was acquired is unknown. Perhaps it was secured from Hime's firm. Whatever the case, on April 23 arrangements for the expedition were completed including public relations.
Because he was well aware of the Victorian interest in such ventures throughout the Empire, Hind did not want to miss any opportunity of ensuring that his expedition would receive exposure in the press. Arrangements were made with Mr. McKay, the Editor-in-Chief of the Illustrated London News, to publish a series of sketches and photographs to be made of HBC Forts, Indians and scenery. Each sketch and photograph was to be accompanied by a brief description and sent to the Provincial Secretary for approval before transmission to London.
Hind, his staff, and Iroquois voyageurs left Toronto on April 29. Traveling by way of the Great Western Railway they arrived at Detroit the following day and boarded the steamer Illinois for the journey up the Lakes. The steamer stopped at Sault Ste Marie to take on further supplies and then proceeded across Lake Superior. As the expedition was to travel to Red River by way of the old North West Company's Pigeon River canoe route, the steamer brought the party to Grand Portage on May 5. The next five days were spent conveying the canoes and six thousand pounds of baggage across the eight mile portage. Then the expedition began the arduous canoe journey along the rivers and lakes to Red River.
This journey of twenty-eight days was a prelude to the coming months of life in the interior. The party was underway before dawn each morning and they traveled steadily until dusk with few breaks in spite of frequently inclement weather. Hime surely came to realize during these first days that there would be virtually no time in a normal day's travel to set up his photographic equipment-only the infrequent long rest periods or enforced delays would afford him this opportunity. Even then so much would depend upon the weather and the amount of other work to be done.
It was undoubtedly with eager anticipation that Hime welcomed the full day's halt at Fort Frances on May 24. Here the expedition stopped to repair the canoes, unload supplies, rest, and celebrate Her Majesty's Birthday. This was the first occasion Hime had to unpack his equipment. As soon as conditions were right he set up his camera and prepared his chemicals. As might be expected he sought to photograph the fort and the local native inhabitants.
He was to have mixed success. It is only known for certain that two photographs were taken. He succeeded in obtaining a view of a group of Ojibway Indians near the palisades of the Fort and another of an Ojibway group at their encampment near the Falls of the Rainy River. An original print of the group near the palisades has survived, but the only record of the other photo is a copy engraving which later appeared in the Illustrated London News. It is evident from these two records that Hime possessed that mastery of composition so essential for documentary photography although he had not yet mastered the intricacies of his equipment. There is evidence of poor focusing and improper processing. This could be expected as Hime was working with new apparatus and under relatively unfamiliar conditions - indeed, under far different conditions from the organized and well supplied studio of a city establishment.
Hime himself probably realized that his first attempts would be mainly experimental and any faults or problems would be corrected only with experience, but he probably was not prepared for one crucial variant in wilderness photography: the suspicion and fears of the Indian peoples. Unlike the citizens who had posed complacently before his camera in Toronto the Indians of Fort Frances were not all willing subjects.
When an attempt was made to take a photograph of the interior of one of the lodges, several squaws, who were seated with their children around the fires, instantly rose, and, driving the children before them, hastened off to the neighbouring forest, and no arguments or presents could induce them to remain. They said that 'the white wanted to take their pictures and send them far away to the great chief of the white men, who would make evil medicine over them, and when the pictures were sent back the Indians who were drawn would all perish. They knew this was the way the white man wanted to get rid of the Indians and take their land.' Many of the men had this impression, and carefully moved out of reach of the camera.
Despite the mixed success of these first attempts Hime was probably confident of his ability. He would learn to adapt his photography to the wilderness environment.
The Photographic Equipment
When Hime left Toronto the previous month he had taken with him a complete complement of photographic apparatus. His camera had a two inch portrait and a two inch landscape lens with a field of f x 7¼. The rest of his supplies, including chemicals, containers, etc., conformed to the requirements listed in Hardwich's Manual of Photographic Chemistry, a copy of which he had also judiciously packed with his equipment. This manual was to serve him, as it did most of the photographers of the day, as a basic guide offering complete instructions on the practice of wet plate photography.
Collodion wet-plate photography was the process of both the portrait and landscape photographer of the 1850s. For landscape photography it produced some spectacular results, but there were some very definite disadvantages. The process necessitated lugging about a lot of bulky and cumbersome equipment and supplies, including not only the camera, lens and plates, but a panoply of chemicals, trays, bottles, and a portable darkroom because the whole process had to be done while the collodion was still wet. Portable darkrooms took on a variety of shapes and composition. Most common was some sort of collapsible tent and pole structure that could be assembled or dismantled in a few moments and carried on a man's back with little inconvenience.
To use the darkroom the photographer put the top part of his body through the opening and had the cord tied tightly around his waist while his arms and upper part of his body remained free to move about within the tent. Once the portable darkroom was in place the next task was to unpack and inspect the chemicals and apparatus. These items were usually packed in fitted leather or wooden cases lined with green baize. On longer photographic journeys a water keg or two would be included as part of the photographer's baggage.
There was, of course, the all important supply of glass-plates. Glass plates were available and used in a variety of sizes depending upon the specifications of the camera and the lens systems employed. For field work the supply of glass plates was normally carried in a grooved wooden box. This box would be placed carefully close at hand near the darkroom tent.
The camera with its lens would be set up on a sturdy wooden tripod in the chosen location for the exposure. The photographer then made a final check to see that all was in readiness. When all was ready, he began the various manipulations that he hoped would lead to the successful image.
First the glass plate had to be cleaned. When the plate was well cleaned and polished the next task was to coat it with the photographic collodion emulsion which was the vehicle for retaining the sensitive silver salts. (Photographic Collodion was a combination of an iodide, cotton and nitrate, sulphuric acid and nitrogen peroxide, in a solution of alcohol and ether which on evaporation leaves a transparent layer which adheres to the glass). Photographic Collodion could be prepared in advance and carried in bottles; but the coating had to be done in the field as the collodion process required a wet-plate.
The photographer poured the Photographic Collodion steadily. He then made the collodion flow to the corners and poured the excess back into the bottle. The plate was then set aside until slightly sticky (neither too moist nor too dry) normally for twenty seconds (or ten seconds in hot weather).
The coated plate was now ready for sensitizing in the Nitrate Bath - a combination of Silver Nitrate and cold water. The Nitrate Bath could also be prepared in advance and stored in a bottle. However, the Bath was sometimes a problem for the landscape photographer as it decomposed when agitated in transit.
To sensitize the plate the field photographer had to use his darkroom tent. Handling the Nitrate Bath had to be done with care as the solution was corrosive and caused bad staining, so he took the collodion-coated plate and rested it collodion-side up on a glass dipper. It was then immersed in the Bath with a slow and steady motion without pause. The plate was sensitized in the Bath for varied lengths of time depending upon the weather - in hot temperatures thirty to forty seconds - in cold one to five minutes. The sensitized plate was removed from the Bath, allowed to drain and placed in a clean, dry dark slide ready for carrying to the camera.
Arriving at the camera site, the photographer gently rested the dark slide with its sensitized wet-plate on the ground in a shaded area. He then made the final adjustments to his camera and lens. He made sure that they were free of dust, cobwebs, insects and dew. Removing the lens cap and throwing the focusing cloth over himself and the back of the camera, the photographer peered through the ground glass and adjusted his focus, aperture and camera angle, taking into account the intensity of the light coming from his image, the limitations of his equipment, the state of the atmosphere and temperature, and the quality of his chemicals and available water. Satisfied that all was in order he inserted the dark slide with its plate in the camera. He then made the exposure.
Exposures for wet-plates were relatively long. For example:
When the exposure was completed the lens cap was replaced and the dark slide removed from the camera. The photographer then either proceeded with further exposures or returned to the darkroom tent to develop the plates.
Development as soon as possible after sensitizing and exposure was preferable. The developing agents of the wet-plate era were basically composed of either Pyro-Gallic Acid, Gallic Acid, or Protosalts of Iron. Pyro-Gallic Acid developer was the most common.
Development of the plates was an exacting operation. The exposed plate was removed from the dark slide. The Pyro-Gallic solution was poured evenly on the plate held in the hand. Moving the plate to keep the solution moving, the photographer closely watched the development for thirty to forty seconds until the image appeared sufficiently intense. Knowing the exact development time was mainly a matter of experience. The development time for a particular plate was dependent upon a number of critical factors including exposure time, the intensity of the original light on the view, and the temperature in the darkroom tent. Satisfied that development was complete, the photographer then poured off the excess solution and washed the plate to remove the final traces of developer. The plate could now be brought out of the darkroom tent for further processing. The photographer was undoubtedly relieved to get a breath of fresh air after the confines of the tent.
Fixing the negative plate to render the image indestructible by light was the next operation. There were numerous fixing agents available but the most common fixer was the universally accepted Hyposulphite of Soda (Hypo). The photographer poured the Hypo on and off the plate until all the excess iodide was cleared away. The Hypo was then washed away. This final washing was best done over a three to four hour period, changing the water several times. Once assured that all the Hypo was removed the plate was then placed in the sun or some heated area to dry.
While the plates were being washed or dried the photographer could then began to dismantle his equipment; carefully repacking his camera, lens and chemicals, and rolling up his darkroom tent. Once the plates were thoroughly dried and he had packed them away he could then proceed to the next camera site.
This was the art and science of collodion wet-plate landscape photography in the 1850s. It was an exacting operation requiring definite skill and artistry, a goodly amount of physical stamina and energy, sufficient time, and not a little good fortune in terms of weather, climate and environment.
In the final stages of the trip to the Red River Settlements Hime again had an opportunity to use his camera. The party camped near the mouth of the Red River on June 1. It was probably during this encampment that Hime photographed the officers of the expedition relaxing in front of their upturned canoe. The following day, during the noon-day meal he again set up his camera. The Iroquois voyageurs had almost completed their tasks as far as the expedition was concerned and a documentary photograph of the men in action was in order. At the appropriate moment he removed the lens cover and took the exposure. To ensure success Hime had the men pose again while he made a second exposure. These photographs of the expedition party have survived. They are of fine technical quality with good composition, lighting, and adequate processing. As documentary evidence they are invaluable.
On June 2 the Expedition reached the Red River Settlements. Leaving Dawson's supplies at the Middle Settlement the Expedition made immediate preparations to organize a party to explore the country west along the Assiniboine to the South Saskatchewan. These preparations proved to be most difficult. It took eleven days to obtain the necessary able-bodied men and supplies for the three months' journey.
During this time a number of reports, maps, and photographs for the Illustrated London News, were forwarded to the Provincial Secretary in Toronto. The photographs, undoubtedly, included the view of the Ojibway encampment at Fort Frances and the group view of the voyageurs encamped on the Red River, both of which later appeared in an October issue of the Illustrated London News.
Hime, it appears, did not have an opportunity to take any photographs at Red River during this initial stay. He was probably preoccupied with the preparations for the expedition into the interior.
All was in readiness by June 15. The party consisted initially of fourteen individuals and later an old hunter of Cree origin was to be hired. Equipment and provisions included six Red River Carts, one wagon, two canoes, fifteen horses, camp supplies, instruments, flour and pemmican, and an additional ox for food in case the buffalo were scarce.
On the morning of June 15 the journey into the interior began. During the next three months a number of different routes were followed but we'll concentrate only on those in which Hime was directly involved. At St. James Church the party split into two divisions. Hime and Fleming proceeded with the carts and wagon to Lane's Post and then to Prairie Portage where they awaited the arrival of Hind's and Dickinson's party.
It was here that the thunderstorms began. These were to plague the Expedition for some seventeen of the next twenty-three days, adding to the difficulties of the journey and, undoubtedly, limiting Hime's opportunity to take photographs.
On the morning of June 19 the whole party set out from Prairie Portage for the valley of the Little Souris. Along the way they encountered the first of many hordes of grasshoppers. The party proceeded cautiously up the Little Souris, alert at all times for signs of the hostile Sioux. Countless species of small game were observed, but no buffalo.
On July 2 the expedition camped on the banks of Red Deer's Head River near its confluence with the Little Souris some two miles from the International Boundary. The expedition remained here for a day to make observations and repairs. During the rest period a detachment with an escort made a reconnaissance of the Red Deer's Head River to its mouth. Hime accompanied the detachment and while the other members made a further excursion to the Souris Lakes in hopes of finding buffalo he set up his camera and took a photograph of the Little Souris Valley. This was the first photograph taken during the official part of the Exploration.
The reconnaissance party returned to camp in the afternoon. Possibly it was just before Hime packed away his equipment that he took another photograph - that entitled "Encampment Little Souris" - showing five Red River carts, tents and some of the men. At 5 p.m. the whole expedition resumed its journey. That evening some hostile Sioux attempted to stampede the hobbled horses, but with no success.
The following morning, the expedition started on a nearly due north course to cross the Great Prairie, heading for Fort Ellice near the confluence of the Qu'Appelle and Assiniboine rivers.
The six day journey was made at a fairly steady pace. Only brief stops were made. There was little time for photography. Moreover, there were thunderstorms almost daily and the grasshoppers continued to plague the expedition.
They reached Fort Ellice early on the morning of July 10. For two days the men rested, visited hunters from the Fort, took on a supply of pemmican, and made various observations. During this time there were more thunderstorms; not a day passing without lightning, thunder and violent rain. Fortunately on Sunday, July 11 the sun shone through for a brief period at noon and the party made a series of astronomical observations. It was probably at this time that Hime took his photograph of Fort Ellice from the encampment on the banks of the Beaver River.
The next day the expedition broke camp and proceeded westward. Heading along the south side of the valley of the Qu'Appelle they traveled steadily along undulating terrain for six days amid continuing inclement weather and troublesome clouds of mosquitoes. Just before sunset on Saturday, July 17 they reached the new Church of England Missionary Post at the Fishing Lakes and camped on the north side of the Valley.
Sunday, the expedition attended Divine Service, rested, and made the usual observations. The following day the men were back at work "triangulating to establish the position of prominent points, making a section of valley, leveling the river, taking photographs, and preparing for canoe voyages up and down the Qu'Appelle."
Hind was most enthusiastic about Hime's photographic work at this point noting in his report that "two excellent photographs, taken near the Mission, of the lakes and hills, display the chief characteristics of the valley with the fidelity which can only be attained by that wonderful art."
The Expedition Splits Into Three Divisions: July 20
As the Qu'Appelle Valley appeared to be a potentially important area it was determined that the expedition "explore the whole valley from the South Branch of the Saskatchewan to the Assiniboine, and ascertain the relation it bore to these two rivers." The canoes were put in order and the party and supplies divided for various reconnaissance trips.
Hime, with four men, carts and supplies, was to proceed westerly to Long or Last Mountain Lake and then return in a north-easterly direction to Fort Pelly where he was to meet Dickinson's party. By 3 a.m. on the morning of July 20 the parties were underway.
This stage of the exploration provides a closer insight into Hime's personal efforts. As leader of a survey party he was now obliged to keep a notebook recording progress and observations on each day's trek. Fortunately, the notebook has survived and reveals many aspects of the journey from Qu'Appelle Mission by way of Long Lake to Fort Pelly. It also indicates that Hime was well aware of the tasks set out for him and could capably fulfill them. With a neat, legible style he carefully recorded the required topographical, geographical and natural features along the route. He lost little time and successfully moved his party at a steady pace across a terrain alternating between rolling prairie, marshy lowlands, and gravelly rocky hills during weather that for the most part was inclement and wet. All went well for the first six days.
However, on July 27 Hime's party ran into trouble. Breaking camp the party first had to cross the White Sand River. Hime recorded the events as follows:
Here very graphically are revealed some of the perils of a photographer in the 1850s. This unfortunate upset might also explain the very heavy staining and deterioration which appears on the Qu'Appelle Lakes photograph. Quite possibly this negative had been uppermost in the box and thus was water soaked.
That afternoon the party was once again underway. By 4:30 they had crossed the Assiniboine and reached Fort Pelly. Hime's division had completed its survey work in seven days. During this time Hime was probably too preoccupied to have taken any photographs. Certainly the weather had been bad during most of the trip.
Fort Pelly: July 27-August 3
At Fort Pelly Hime and his men had some five days to rest while awaiting the arrival of Dickinson's party. Undoubtedly most anxious to test his photographic apparatus after that unfortunate upset, Hime probably set up his equipment at the first opportunity. That all was in good order is evidenced by the two views of the Fort Pelly buildings.
Dickinson joined Hime on August 1. For the next four days they made the usual observations and a brief reconnoiter to the Swan River. The party then left Fort Pelly heading south-east along the Assiniboine with the intention of exploring the country between the river and the Duck and Riding Mountains. The journey was relatively uneventful. The party was preoccupied with taking note of the topography and fording the numerous rivers and creeks. During this journey Dickinson found Hime to be of "great assistance" in making the survey.
The morning of August 20 the Dickinson and Hime parties headed west along the White Mud trail towards Fort Ellice which they reached about noon on August 23. Here they rejoined Hind's division. The reunited divisions struck camp early the next morning and began the journey eastward.
On September 4 the expedition reached Fort Garry after an absence of three months. The main work was now completed. A vast amount of information pertaining to the geology, topography, natural history and meteorology of the Assiniboine and Saskatchewan area had been procured. In all, the expedition had traveled over 2220 miles.
Hind and his men must have been satisfied with their efforts. They were fortunate to have suffered no serious calamities and to have completed their exploration in relatively good time with few delays. Perhaps only the bad weather, the grasshoppers and the mosquitoes were to be regretted.
It is not known how Hime felt about the expedition at this time. He had certainly done his share of the work, but in fulfilling his primary role as expedition photographer he had had only limited success. The harshness of the weather had spoiled his efforts and the rigid timetable of the journey had severely limited his opportunities for photography.
Just how many photographs he did manage to take during those three months is unknown. He had taken at least two hundred glass-plates with him to Red River. However, the fact that only eight photos taken during the June to September journey have survived is perhaps an indication that he had used very few. Even these eight were not good representations of his work. They did not compare with the photos he had taken on the way to Red River during the previous May and June. They lacked clarity, sharpness and good processing. The shortcomings of these photographs were not due to Hime's inability to handle the apparatus, but rather to limitations in the equipment and in the very process of collodion wet plate photography.
In the final analysis Hime was probably disappointed with his photographic work in the field, but now that he was back at Red River he would have an opportunity to prove himself as master of the camera. Unharassed by other duties, freed of the rigid timetable of the journey, Hime now had the time and freedom of action necessary for good photography. He could wait until the weather was favourable. He could set up his apparatus with care, be meticulous in the preparation of his chemicals, choose his subjects, and take his exposures at his leisure.
Hime took at least three dozen photographs at Red River. Most were taken on clear bright days, probably in September and early October as he wandered between the Lower Fort, the Middle and Upper Settlements, and along the banks of the Red and Assiniboine. Thirty-five of these photographs have survived. They are superb images, revealing not only the skill of the photographer in processing, but his mastery of composition and inventiveness in making use of external settings for portraits.
These Red River photographs were exactly what was required for expedition purposes. Six of them exhibit the general character of the river and the level country through which it flows. Another fifteen clearly reveal the architecture of the Churches, houses, stores, HBC buildings, and Forts. Hime also took two close-up photos of the Company's York Boats. There are five excellent views of Indian graves and tents and one close-up of a Blackfoot Robe. There are also five portraits of Red River inhabitants: Wigwam, an Ojibway Squaw with papoose, Jane L'Adamar, John McKay and Letitia. These are perhaps Hime's best works. The portraits of Wigwam and of the Ojibway squaw reveal a mastery of classic studio composition. Those of Jane L'Adamar, whose portrait has been wrongly captioned as Susan, a Swamp Cree; and John McKay, on the other hand, show a spontaneous capturing of character and spirit without any posing of the subject. The portrait of Letitia is unique, being neither totally posed nor wholly spontaneous, but a clever natural arrangement of the subject in an external setting. Hime's photography at Red River was an unqualified success.
The expeditionary party was to remain at Red River until the end of November. During the final weeks the geological and natural history specimens were labeled and packed, the observations tabulated, and preliminary maps compiled. An inventory of the remaining supplies and equipment was drawn up. This inventory included most of the photographic apparatus with the exception of the negatives taken at Red River. These, Hime was to carry with him. He was also instructed to take with him the negatives of the Souris, Assiniboine, and Qu'Appelle. For some unexplained reason, Hime left these particular negatives at Red River and was later to forget exactly where he had packed them.
During the last week of November final arrangements were made for the winter journey from Red River to St. Paul, Minnesota by nine dog carioles along the snow trail to Crow-Wing. All was in readiness for an early morning start on Tuesday, November 30. That morning Hime was to take his final photograph at Red River. He set up his camera and took a view of three of the departing carioles. Then, completing his processing, Hime packed away the last of his equipment and joined his colleagues on the trail.
On December 13 the expedition reached Crow-Wing then travelled by stagecoach to La Crosse and boarded a train for the East. By December 18 they were in Toronto.
Looking back on his own involvement with the expedition Hime probably felt that he had acquitted himself well. Unfortunately, his superior officer, Hind, did not share the same view. In his preliminary reports and letters he had praised Hime's efforts, but at a later date he was to express strong dissatisfaction with Hime, stating that he "neglected his duty, and proved a very undesirable companion on an expedition of this kind, retarding its progress and work." He did not amplify or justify this charge. Perhaps he felt that Hime had spent too much time on photography with too few tangible results and should have been doing more survey work, or perhaps he felt that Hime had not taken a sufficient number of photographs. Probably Hind never came to appreciate the difficulties of photography as practised at the time.
In Toronto the members of the expedition set out to prepare the final reports, maps and illustrations. Hime did continue to complete his photographic work for the expedition. By February 2, 1859 he had prepared trial proofs and was working on a set of prints.
When Hind submitted Hime's trial proofs he made the rather incongruous statement that the photographs "do not represent Mr. Hime's duties in connection with the expedition" and that "being by profession a surveyor he gave material assistance to Mr. Dickinson." It is not known why Hind should make such a statement when in all previous correspondence he had stated that Hime was a photographer, and Hime's official acceptance of the position clearly indicated that his primary duties were to be those of photographer. Perhaps this refusal to recognize Hime as a photographer was an expression of Hind's displeasure with the man and his disappointment in his photographic efforts.
Whatever the case, some time in early March Hind requested that Hime have the set of final prints prepared sooner than was first intended. Hime agreed to get the job done and apparently had the prints completed on the specified date. However, to meet the new deadline Hime employed his associate, Mr. Beere, to assist him in the work. This hiring of Beere proved to be a bone of contention between Hime and Hind. It led to bitterness and a disagreement over Beere's rate of pay which unfortunately was to last for several years. Eventually, the firm took legal action and sued Hind, but to no avail and the matter was dropped.
By March 28 the preliminary Report was ready and progress was being made on the remaining reports, the maps and illustrations.
On April 16 Hind requested permission to write to McDermot at Red River informing him to send "the geological specimens, the Photographic Negatives left behind and apparatus, with the more valuable instruments." Hind indicated that he was concerned that the photographic apparatus and negatives would be spoiled if left much longer where they were at Red River.
The negatives to which Hind referred were those taken on the Souris, the Assiniboine and Qu'Appelle which Hime had left behind at the Settlements. They apparently never did arrive in Toronto that year, for by August 17 Hind had received the geological specimens and survey instruments, but not the negatives. The box in which they were stated to have been placed arrived, but without them.
By mid-August the maps and the reports were being printed. Twenty watercolours had also been completed and copies of the photographs were ready for the Provincial Exhibition. Apparently some time previous to this date it had been decided that a series of photographic prints be prepared for display at the Provincial Exhibition. These prints were put on display in the Fine Arts Section of the Exhibition when it was held in Kingston between September 27-30. They were duly noted in the press, but there was no mention of them in the prize lists.
By the end of September the work of the Assiniboine and Saskatchewan Exploring Expedition was brought to a close. The final accounts had been submitted and the staff had terminated their employment. All the reports, tables, lithographs, maps and a list of photographs were then officially published as a Government Blue Book. The Blue Book and the results of the expedition attracted some attention. The Canadian press generally published notices and extracts from the reports. The British Government was also sufficiently interested in the reports to have them reissued in London in August of 1860.
Professor Hind was convinced that the subjects of the Expeditions of 1857 and 1858 merited a wider and more enduring interest. Therefore, he set out to write a further account of these two expeditions. This account was published by the end of 1860 in two handsome volumes by the London firm of Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts under the title Narrative of the Canadian Red River Exploring Expedition of 1857 and of the Assiniboine and Saskatchewan Exploring Expedition of 1858. The text was almost entirely a verbatim copy of all the official reports. However, the text was accompanied by approximately one hundred illustrations. These illustrations were acknowledged to be from sketches by John Fleming and from photographs taken by Humphrey Lloyd Hime.
Whatever Hind thought about the efforts of his photographer on that Expedition of 1858 he was well aware of the quality and value of the photographs. Not only were seven of the full page chromoxylygraphs, and seven of the woodcuts copied from Hime's views, but a separate portfolio of Hime photographs was published by J. Hogarth, 5 Haymarket, London to supplement the two volumes. This portfolio consisted of a selection of thirty 6" x 8" prints of the photographs taken at Red River. They were finely mounted, captioned and sold for two Guineas for the series. The prints themselves were probably made from the original negatives using the direct action by light method.
The direct action by light process required a number of simple manipulations which, if carried through correctly, would normally produce good proofs or prints. A printing frame was the only piece of specialized equipment needed. Working in the daylight or in a darkroom if the outside light was too strong the photographer first removed the shutter from the frame. The negative was then laid flat upon the frame glass and the photo paper placed upon the negative sensitized side downwards. A layer of thick felt followed and the whole was tightly compressed by replacing and bolting down the shutter. The negative and paper were then exposed to the sunlight.
The length of exposure necessary to produce a proper image varied with the density of the negative and the intensity of the light rays as influenced by the season of the year and the prevailing weather conditions. Ten to fifteen minutes were necessary when the light was strong in the early spring or summer, but in the winter ¾ to 1½ hours even in the direct rays of the sun were required. Hardwich reports that in a dull London light some four days might be spent to get one impression. The photographer would have to judge for himself when the print was ready. This he did by examining the tonal changes of the paper. If the tones were right the photographer then removed the paper from the frame. He now had a positive paper proof with an image which would last for some hours if kept in a dark place but would fade upon continued exposure to light. For a permanent and finished print the photographer had to fix and tone the proof.
To fix the image the proof was immersed in a Hypo Bath (Hyposulphite of soda solution). Normally there was no prior washing of the proof as the photographers felt they needed the free Nitrate of Silver to aid in the toning. Immediately upon coming into contact with the Hypo Bath the chocolate brown or violet tint of the image disappeared and left the image with a red tone. After the proof had been thoroughly reddened the final toning action began.
The ultimate colour of the print varied with the density of the negative, the character of the subject, and the length of immersion in the Hypo Bath. Prolonged immersion was avoided as it led to sulphyration, yellowness, and eventual fading in the half-tones of the print. Aside from immersion in the Hypo Bath there were also other contemporary methods of toning which were more troublesome but gave better uniformity of colour and greater permanency.
Once toned and fixed the print was removed from the bath and all traces of Hypo and toner washed out with water for four to five hours. Dabbing the prints with a sponge greatly reduced the washing time. Finally the prints were removed from the wash, immersed in boiling water to remove the sizing and ensure permanency, blotted, and then hung to dry.
It is unlikely that the 1860 published portfolio prints were made by Hime personally. Probably the negatives had been sent to Great Britain with the approval of the Canadian Government to be printed by a British photographic firm. If this were the case it might well be an explanation for the fact that no original Hime negatives have yet been found in Canada.
Although no contemporary comments on the portfolio have been located there is a wealth of evidence that the two Hind volumes were well received by the British press, but as these accolades rolled from the press Hind and "his brother explorers" had moved on to other tasks and pursuits.
Hime had rejoined his partners Armstrong and Beere immediately after the expedition work was completed. He was to stay with them for several years, although by 1861 he had begun a career in finance. By 1864 he had discontinued his connection with Armstrong and Beere and was listed as a broker and commission agent. He was also active in the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. In 1865 he became vice-president of the Toronto Stock Exchange. He took an active interest in mining on the north shore of Lake Superior in 1867. The next two years he served as president of the Stock Exchange. Real estate and insurance were added to his sphere of activities. Married prior to 1861, Hime and his wife Christina were parents of eight children.
In 1873 Hime entered municipal politics, running successfully as alderman. He served as a member of the Finance and Assessment Committee, the Board of Health Committee, and the Jail Committee. In 1874 he was appointed Justice of the Peace. By 1891 Hime was a fairly prominent citizen in Toronto. He had again served as president of the Stock Exchange. He was president of the Copeland Brewing Company, a director of the Toronto Belt Line Railway and Belt Land Corporation, and a director of the Northern Railway Company. He was a member of the Church of England and although he had formerly been connected with the Reform Association he now took no active part in politics. He was also head of the firm of Messrs. H. L. Hime and Company, stock brokers, real estate and insurance agents.
On Saturday, 31 October 1903 Hime died. He was given a private funeral at 3 p.m. on November 2 and passed from this life remembered by his contemporaries as "one of the best known and most highly esteemed agents in Toronto."
There is no record that Hime ever continued photography during those last thirty years. Probably he abandoned the camera when he left the firm of Armstrong and Beere and turned to finance, but it is not for his financial successes that history remembers Hime. It is for his pioneer work as a photographer in the Western Interior. The fifty photographs he had taken in 1858 have been his enduring monument.
Page revised: 22 May 2010