John Boyd

As Canadians we appreciate discovering stories about our country through the works of our painters and photographers, past and present. Canadian archives hold many collections, and sometimes the collection of a particular artist or photographer may contain literally thousands of images for us to explore. This is the case with photographer John Boyd whose collection at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) boasts 28,959 black-and-white photographs.

John Boyd (1865–1941) was born in Emyvale, Ireland. His family immigrated to Toronto in the late 1860s. He was a railway official as well as a photographer. His work with the railroad gave him ample opportunities to take photographs as he travelled across Ontario.

These photographs represent Boyd’s amateur work from 1898 to 1926. A large collection in itself, it is nonetheless dwarfed by the collections held at the City of Toronto Archives. One collection in particular is that of The Globe and Mail, which contains 140,000 of Boyd’s photographic negatives taken from 1922 to before his death in 1941.

The collections at LAC and the City of Toronto Archives complement each other in their dates of creation and subject matter.

The John Boyd fonds consists of photographs portraying all manner of Canadian life, all worth exploring. There are images of towns and cities, royal visits, military life, modes of transportation, industry and agriculture, social conditions, pastimes, and nature.

During the First World War, Boyd focused mainly on the home front, photographing recruiting campaigns, training exercises, and the manufacture of munitions, airplanes and ships. He also photographed everyday Canadians who contributed to the war effort at home as soldiers fought overseas. The following selection of images provides a glimpse of the activities during that time.

A black-and-white photograph of well-dressed men, women and children looking at and exploring an outdoor exhibit of a reconstructed Canadian military trench.

Visitors to a reconstructed 35th Battalion trench, Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, Ontario, 1915 (MIKAN 3395547)

A black-and-white photograph of women, soldiers and children gathered outside a train. Other soldiers on the train are leaning out of the windows, presumably saying goodbye to their families.

Personnel of the Cycle Corps leaving Exhibition Camp for overseas service, Toronto, Ontario, May 15, 1915 (MIKAN 3194471)

A black-and-white photograph of two soldiers descending the steps of a train car. They are both looking down at the photographer and one is holding a kitten.

Volunteers for war and cat mascot with the 28th Regiment, Toronto, Ontario, August 22, 1914 (MIKAN 3403478)

A black-and-white photograph of soldiers re-enacting how they move out from their trenches for a crowd of spectators at an exhibition.

Soldiers moving out from their trenches, Exhibition Grounds, Toronto, Ontario, September 11, 1915 (MIKAN 3403554)

A black-and-white photograph of two soldiers stopped on a dirt road. One is taking a compass reading as the other takes notes.

Soldiers taking a compass traverse on the intelligence course at Camp Borden, Ontario, September 26, 1916 (MIKAN 3403628)

A black-and-white photograph of a soldier standing in a field holding a large wrench.

Private Vasili Salivarsky, D Company, 123rd Battalion, Toronto, Ontario, March 30, 1916 (MIKAN 3220871)

You can view a selection of Boyd’s images in this Flickr album. To explore the entire collection, start your exploration in the John Boyd fonds, and select “Lower-level descriptions.”

Happy searching!

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