Tag Archives: Pioneers

Our Pioneers in Colour

Although hand-coloured photographs were originally intended to make monochrome (most frequently referred to as black and white) images look more realistic, today, they are often interpreted as quite the opposite. These photographs are viewed as surreal and unlike contemporary colour photography that we typically associate with more accurate colour.

Hand-painted view of Alta Lake. Philip Collection.

Hand-painted view of Alta Lake, ca. 1930. Philip Collection.

Whistler Museum holds some fascinating examples of hand-coloured photography. For most of these objects, the craftsmanship is far from superior; however, the fact that these photographs exist from such an early Whistler is marvelous in itself.

Hand-coloured photographs were most popular from the nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century – before Kodak introduced Kodachrome colour film. The earliest account of hand-colouring photographs is attributed to Swiss painter and printmaker Johann Baptist Isenring, who began colouring daguerreotypes (one of the first photographic processes) soon after their invention in 1839. Isenring used gum Arabic and pigments to colour his photographs. Typically, watercolours, oils, crayons or other dyes are applied to monochrome image surfaces using brushes, fingers, cotton swabs or airbrushes.

Example of monochrome photograph with and without hand-colouring. Myrtle and Binkie, ca. 1930. Philip Collection.

Example of monochrome photograph with and without hand-colouring. Myrtle and Binkie, ca. 1930. Philip Collection.

Some particularly interesting and high-quality hand-coloured photographs in our collection are those by photographer Leonard Frank. Frank moved from Germany to North America in 1892 – first to San Francisco and then to our native British Columbia in 1894. At this time he settled in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, while snapping photographs of locations all over British Columbia. He spent about fifty years here and managed to capture over 50,000 images of our province – and considering the cumbersome photographic equipment of the time, that number is far from slight! Frank would travel through arduous terrain – often on foot – carrying a heavy pack, an 8 x 10 inch Kodak view camera, glass plates and a tripod.

Capilano River, ca. 1925. Philip Collection.

Capilano River, ca. 1925. Philip Collection.

Aside from the sheer amount of photographs by Frank, his subject matter was also rather widespread. He photographed everything from the peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the coastal whaling industry, from the construction of bridges to remote harbours, from political figures in Vancouver to Whistler’s very own pioneers.

Alex Philip takes some Rainbow Lodge guests for a paddle down the River of Golden Dreams, 1941.

Alex Philip takes some Rainbow Lodge guests for a paddle down the River of Golden Dreams, 1941. Philip Collection.

What is often withheld in biographies on Leonard Frank is his heavy ties with Whistler. Frank spent quite a bit of time at Alta Lake and he was a frequent guest of Rainbow Lodge. Furthermore, he was a personal friend to Whistler pioneers Myrtle and Alex Philip.

Myrtle and guest with horses, ca. 1935. Philip Collection.

Myrtle and guest with horses, ca. 1935. Philip Collection.

Although tough to know for certain, many of our other hand-coloured photographs in the collection are presumably the craftsmanship of our very own Myrtle Philip, as she frequently dabbled in amateur photography.

Myrtle cooking beside a river, ca. 1935. Philip Collection.

Myrtle cooking beside a river, ca. 1935. Philip Collection.

While all of these images present the idyllic landscapes and pioneer life of Whistler’s past, they also showcase the skill of one of British Columbia’s earliest professional photographers, the variety and uniqueness of hand-colourists, as well as this fascinating time in photographic history.

Whistler Mountain reflected in Alta Lake, ca. 1935. Philip Collection.

Whistler Mountain reflected in Alta Lake, ca. 1935. Philip Collection.

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Myrtle Speaks!

Myrtle Philip in riding garb.

Myrtle Philip is the leviathan of Whistler’s history: her name is immortalized in the Myrtle Philip elementary school; she was the first person to be awarded the title ‘Freeman of Whistler’; there is even an official Myrtle Philip day! By all accounts she was a very special lady.  Incredibly gutsy, she could do pretty much anything – from building Rainbow Lodge by hand, to baking pies out on the trail, to guiding stranded railway men across the snow and back to civilization.  Myrtle Philip was certainly no wallflower.

The Museum is packed full of artifacts and archives relating to Myrtle and Rainbow Lodge. She was the first person to donate items to us, and it was Myrtle and another pioneer, Dick Fairhurst, who inspired Florence Petersen to start the museum. We have hundreds, if not thousands of photographs of Myrtle – I can recognize her instantly at any age from 19 to 90. We even have some silent film footage of her: fishing and with her beloved horses.  But despite this I had never heard her voice, save for a ten second clip on an old radio show.

So, imagine my delight when Kay Alsop, a retired journalist and good friend of Myrtle’s called me to let me know that she had some reel-to-reel tapes of an interview she had conducted with Myrtle in 1971 for an article for the Vancouver Province.

Kay had been sent up to Whistler to do a piece on Myrtle and the two of them hit it off immediately. Kay remembers,  “She was such a take charge kind of person – no nonsense…really a nifty lady and I could tell right off the bat that we were going to be friends.”

The museum has digitized the tapes.  All six reels come to around an hour’s worth of interviews: too much to put on a blog, but we can share some of our favourite excerpts for you here.

Firstly Myrtle discusses how she always wore breeches, despite the fact that women never wore pants at this time:

Myrtle Philip discussing women’s clothing in the wilderness

She also talks about the popular horseback riding excursions at Rainbow Lodge.

Myrtle talks of the horseback riding at Rainbow Lodge

Here she tells the story of how she met her husband, Alex Philip:

Myrtle meets Alex

Hearing Myrtle converse in her broad Maine accent is really thrilling for us at the museum. We have been telling Myrtle’s story for 25 years – now Myrtle gets a chance to speak for herself.

A Visit with the Tyrol Ski & Mountain Club

This past week the Museum had the pleasure to head down to the North Vancouver home of Rolf and Lotti Frowein to discuss the history of the Tyrol Ski & Mountain Club with the Froweins and fellow Tyrolians Jim Brown and Walter and John Preissl.

The Tyrol Ski & Mountain Club was formed in 1952 by a small group of Vancouver skiing and hiking enthusiasts, most of whom were recent immigrants from German-speaking Europe. From the start, the Tyrol Club’s main purpose was to encourage people to get outside and take advantage of the beautiful mountains surrounding Vancouver. Many were North Shore ski instructors, and they were big promoters of the sport during the post-WW2 boom days of skiing.

Even though the Tyrol club’s membership has always been centered in Vancouver their Whistler roots run deep, and the club and its members have played a surprisingly important role in Whistler’s rise as a ski resort. Rolf Frowein, along with a group of Tyrolians, first came up to Alta Lake in 1959 and instantly began exploring the surrounding mountains, winter and summer.

Walter Preissl, Al Preissl and Erwin Kasiol ski down towards Glacier Bowl on Whistler Mountain, early 1960s. The days of skiing in shorts will soon be upon us again, too! Photo: Frank Grundig.

A few years later the club bought some land near Nita Lake and by 1966 construction was complete on Tyrol Lodge, which stands on that spot to this day.

A recently completed Tyrol Lodge, winter 1967. Photo: Frank Grundig.

That first winter after building the lodge the Tyrol Club decided to move their annual ski race, the Tyrol GS, from Seymour to Whistler. It was the first organized ski race ever held on Whistler Mountain. The race became a Whistler institution, running every winter until 1995.

Onlookers watch an early Tyrol GS race on Whistler Mountain, late 1960s. Photo: Frank Grundig.

Countless “ski-racer brats,”(to use John Preissl’s term) came up through the Tyrol Club’s racing league. Here is John’s brother Andy competing on Whistler Mountain in the late 1970s. Photo: Frank Grundig.

In addition to taking the time to talk to us about the Tyrol Club’s history, the Preissl’s have generously donated an impressive collection of documents relating to the Tyrol Club and skiing history generally, and hundreds of photos from their personal collection. Most of these were taken by their family friend  Frank Grundig, a professional photographer and ski journalist, so the images are of  consistently high quality.

Norwegian hot-shot Dag Aabye jumping off the roof of the Cheakamus Inn, 1967. Photo: Walt Preissl.

When club member’s like John Planinsic (pictured here) hiked up Whistler Mountain in the early 1960s, they looked down upon a very different valley than today. Photo: Frank Grundig.

Tyrol Club members conquer an “iceberg” in Lake Lovely Water, in the Tantalus Range. Mid-1970s. Photo: Frank Grundig.

Their large collection of photos leaves one with the impression that the more the valley has changed, the more the people stay the same!

We’ve only acquired a small portion of the photos so far, but already we’ve got some great shots that will help us to tell the history of our local mountains in greater detail, both inside and beyond the ski resort. Look forward to more stories from the Tyrol Club collection in the weeks and months to come.

Coincidentally, this evening the Tyrol Club celebrates their 60th anniversary in Richmond. We are excited to be partnering with such a great group of people, and we feel a congratulations are in order!