By Olivia Chlebicki
As a summer student in the Private Specialized Media section of Social Life and Culture Private Archives, I was tasked with the project of describing a group of photographs from the Hayward Studios fonds. Samuel J. Hayward, a photographer born in the United Kingdom, moved to Canada and made an imprint on our history by capturing moments, people and places.
Hayward began his career working for advertising and photoengraving firms. In the early 1920s, he became the official photographer for Canada Steamship Lines. His career also took him to other companies, like Canadian Vickers Ltd., an aircraft and shipbuilding company, and Steinberg’s Ltd., a grocery company. Hayward documented events at such companies as well as their products. For example, his fonds includes photos of architectural subjects, locomotives, aircraft and ships. These are all very much documentary photos, but after sifting through the collection, I found many shots that caught my eye because they were artistic and visually captivating.
The photos I worked with were mainly taken in Montréal between 1920 and 1970; Hayward captured scenes of society and pieces of history there throughout the years. Showcased here are a few that stood out, both visually and through the histories encapsulated in them.
The first photo shows an employee in a grocery store advertising a (presumably) new product, “Soft Drinks now in Cans!” As the ad states, soft drinks are being introduced in cans, a product that we are very familiar with today. Hayward’s photo provides viewers with a glimpse of this moment in social history.
Hayward took many photos for the Bell Telephone Company, particularly ones featuring workers. The second photo depicts a hard-working, committed employee on the job during a snowstorm. The man is strapped to the pole and attending to the cables as the snow blows by.
The third photo captures the moment of breaking a champagne bottle against the bow of a new ship. This common naval tradition of christening a ship invites good luck. A sponsor usually announces the name of the ship as the bottle is smashed, and the ship is then launched. Hayward shows this tradition in his photo: a newly built Canadian Vickers ship is christened. A woman in a large fur coat stands front and centre with a microphone, likely the sponsor. It is a somewhat comical scene, as a man uses his hat to protect her face as the champagne bottle smashes against the hull.
The fourth photo depicts the launching part of this same naval tradition. The Canada Steamship Lines ship Canadian Forester is captured at the exact moment of its launch. As the ship lands in the water, the waves rise as high as the top of the ship. Working with Canada Steamship Lines, Hayward photographed the journeys and lives of many ships.
The ship pictured in the fifth photo is the SS Ikala, a New Zealand freighter docked in Montréal. When I researched the ship, I came across an article in the Montréal Gazette, Friday, May 13, 1927, describing the ship’s encounter with a tank vessel called the James McGee, which resulted in a small collision. In Hayward’s photo, the result of the accident can be seen on the front left side of the ship, documenting evidence of that event.
Photography is an artistic resource for Canadian history. Moments are documented, time and history are captured visually. These highlights from Hayward’s collection depict such instances, providing viewers with insight into the social life and culture of the time and place. The photos that Hayward took for Canadian companies help to enrich the collection at Library and Archives Canada by illustrating aspects of our history and society.
Olivia Chlebicki worked as a summer student in the Private Specialized Media section of the Social Life and Culture Private Archives Division at Library and Archives Canada.