Photographer’s work informs historic record of Mackinac Island
On Oct. 2, The Echo published a photo of Mackinac Island, Michigan taken by William Henry Gardiner in 1899. The photo was discovered in the attic of a Collingwood home, by current owner Rudy Newton, who wondered if there was any local knowledge of the photographer, considering he got his start in Avening.
Avening historian Ellen Whitley was able to produce a six-page profile on Gardiner, authored by Lisa Calache and published in a 1998 edition of Photographic Canadiana, to which Whitley contributed research.
The article states that William Henry Gardiner was born in Brampton in 1861 but later lived in Avening where his father was a hotel keeper.
“It is presumed that the Gardiner family might have managed either of the two hotels located there and which were burned before the turn of the century,” writes Calache.
She surmises that this is where William Henry Gardiner was introduced to early photographic techniques by transient professional photographers who were moving about the area looking for work.
Gardiner goes on to work as a portrait photographer in Orangeville and then Toronto and Detroit. He then made his way to Mackinac Island to photograph summer resort life. He worked summers on the island for forty years doing portraits and landscapes. He printed two souvenir photo booklets, and printing postcards through the Detroit Publishing Company. He also hand coloured scenic views and sold them in his gallery.
Newton is donating the hand-coloured photograph that he found in his attic to Mackinac State Historic Parks Heritage Centre, which houses the photographer’s original glass plate negatives. In the late 1960s, more than 3,000 of Gardiner’s negatives were discovered in his old studio. The collection is valued as a historical legacy of Mackinac Island at the turn of the century.
William Henry Gardiner suffered a fatal heart attack while travelling to Daytona, Florida, where he spent the winters doing a similar business.