William Cumming’s postcards

In general most of the photographers whose pictures were to be found on early Prince Edward Island postcards were anonymous. Publishers appear to have freely used images without attributing artistic creation (and I suspect without remuneration) and frequently re-cycled images appearing elsewhere.

William A. Cumming. photo from the collection of Donna Collings
William A. Cumming. photo from the collection of Donna Collings

Fortunately for a number of more than 500 postcard images of the Island published before the Great War there are exceptions and there are photographers credited with the image. One such named photographer was William Steele Louson whose work was the subject of a recent edition of The Island Magazine (#80 Fall/Winter 2016).

Another is William A. Cumming.  Relatively little is known about Cumming and I am indebted to Donna Collings of Montague for furnishing a number of leads which have contributed to the following.

William Cumming's Gem Photo Studio ca. 1905. The individual in front of the studio is believed to be Cumming. photo: Town of Montague Garden of the Gulf Museum Collection
William Cumming’s Gem Photo Studio ca. 1905. The individual in front of the studio is believed to be Cumming. photo: Town of Montague Garden of the Gulf Museum Collection

William A. Cumming (the name is often mis-reported as Cummings)  was born in England about 1867. He and his brother John  emigrated to Montreal and from there came to Prince Edward Island about 1900 or 1901.  The two men were associated with the Canadian Gem Photo Company and in 1901 were operating a travelling studio on Prince Edward Island. In June they were in Alberton and in September local press noted that “These gentlemen intend erecting their tent in Montague Bridge and no doubt they will be largely patronized.”   In October the Charlottetown Guardian reported on a collection of views taken in different parts of the Island which Cumming Brothers intended to make available in a series suitable for framing. Some of these may have later been used for postcards.

Georgetown Station
#2512 Georgetown Station. photo Public Archives & Records Office item 4390/2

It is not known what became of John Cumming but William Cumming evidently found Montague to his liking and opened a photographic studio in the town. In 1915 he was operating with another local photographer under the name Cumming and Jordans Studio. In 1909 he married Novella Martin, who later served for many years as the postmistress. Failing health necessitated the closure of the studio and he died in 1926.

There are at least a dozen of the Warwick Bros. & Rutter company postcards bearing the Cumming (or Cummings) name but it is probable that a number of other P.E.I. cards are from the same photographer.  While some images were taken as far away as North Cape and Dunk River, the majority are from the Montague area.  The Warwick and Rutter series also has another dozen images from Montague and nearby communities such as Georgetown which do not name a photographer and it is quite possible that there are from Cumming’s camera as well.

Gallery of Warwick Bros. & Rutter postcards credited to William Cumming. Click any image to begin a slide show.

All photos from author’s collection unless otherwise noted.

Author: sailstrait

I am an archivist, historian and small boat sailor. Since 2011 I have been skipper of "Ebony", a 1982 Halman Nordica 20. I sail in Northumberland Strait between Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. A long time interest in marine and maritime history of the region has resulted in number of publications as well as the less formal presentations in this blog series. In addition I am a member of the Charlottetown Yacht Club, PEI Sailing Association and the Northumberland Strait Yachting Association. I have a specific interest in the history of the Charlottetown Yacht Club, Charlottetown Harbour, Northumberland Strait and the vessels that have sailed there over the years.

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