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Description found in Archives

Topley Studio fonds [graphic material]. 



Place of creation


ca. 150,000 photographs : b&w.
1 photograph : b&w.
53 albums (ca. 120,000 photographs) : contact prints ; 3" x 5".
Negative Glass - wet collodion

Scope and content

The Topley Studio fonds includes primarily though far from exclusively, portrait studio photography taken in Ottawa in the period 1868-1924. Portraits of Governors-Generals, Prime Ministers, members of Parliament, Senators, civil servants and residents of Ottawa are included in the fonds. There are also numerous photographs of the city of Ottawa and the surrounding area; views were, however taken at various points across the country primarily from the 1890's onwards. Included in the fonds is work by other other photographers, notably Charles Horetzky and the Studio of Thomas and Philander Stiff operators of Stiff Brothers. In addition, one large photograph showing the E.B. Eddy lumber operations, old Hull, Aug. 1902.

Graphic (photo)
90: Open
Access given through a photo archivist f
or the glass plates
Graphic (photo)
90: Open
from 1 to 3
90: Open
Graphic (photo)
90: Open
from 01953 to 01966
from 01970 to 01973
from 01984 to 01988
from 04775 to 04777
from 01951/X1 to 01951/X2
from 01952/X1 to 01952/X2
from A 0121 to A 0132
from A 0134 to A 0172
from A 120-1 to A 120-2
from A 0133-1 to A 0133-2
B 0129
C 0536
from RV3 142 to RV3 144
RV6 154
RV8 315
OS 0200
from PF 0042/X1 to PF 0042/X2
from SC 0497 to SC 0498
from FDA 0202 to FDA 0227
INT 017
90: Open
Archival reference no.
Library of Congress class no.
GL00168 (2M/Dap-1A)

Terms of use

Copyright: Expired.
Credit: Name of photographer (unless otherwise indicated "William James Topley Studio" / National Archives of Canada / Copy negative number

Graphic (photo) Original index cards by subject in 1936-270 box FDA 0227. Original bound main index in 1936-270 box FDA 0202. Original bound stock in 1936-270 box FDA 0226 with copy in 1936-270 box FDA 0206. Alphabetical index cards in 1936-270 box FDA 0204. Original appointment books by negative number in 1936-270 box FDA 0204. General repairs, 'H' series, 1921 price list and correspondence in 1936-270 box FDA 0206. Original bound alphabetical indexes for 1879-1923 located in 1936-270 boxes FDA 0207 to FDA 0209. Original index to groups located in 1936-270 boxes FDA 0210 to FDA 0218. Original index to women in 1936-270 boxes FDA 0218 to FDA 0223. Original index to men in 1936-270 boxes FDA 0224 and FDA 0225. Forty-two bound albums of contact prints in chronological order in Gatineau to be consulted under supervision: fragile. FA-001 (Paper)

H.M. Ami series Series level description On-line series FA-001 (Other)

Graphic (photo) As a result of the Nitrate Rehousing Project, one box of negatives has been split into two: Former container 2000924175 is now Vol 2, 2001737260 (items 149712 to 149029) and Vol. 3. 2001737261 (items 149031 to 149709) 90 (Electronic)

Biography / Administrative history

Topley Studio, founded by William James Topley, was established in 1872 in Ottawa, (Ontario); it flourished first at 90 Wellington Street, Ottawa from 1872-1875 then at 132 Sparks Street from 1878-1924. This was formerly Notman's Ottawa branch which originally opened in 1867. At various times, William was assisted by brothers John and Horatio, and at least by 1891, by his son, William de Courcy. In 1907, William James Topley sold the studio and its contents to his son William de Courcy Topley who continued the business until 1926. Images are largely fashionable portraiture. An associate Company, the Topley Optical Instrument Company, sold optical goods such as theodolites, telescopes, etc.

Works located in: University of British Columbia, Library, Special Collections, Vancouver, B.C.; Public Archives of Nova Scotia, Halifax, N.S.; Metropolitan Toronto Library, Toronto, Ont.; Metropolitan Toronto Library Theatre Department, Toronto, Ont.

Exhibition(s): 1970, Reflections on a Capital, PAC, Ottawa (group). 1971, 75 Years of Photography 1896 to 1970, Ottawa Camera Club. 1980, City Blocks, City Spaces, PAC, Ottawa.

Additional information

Fonds consists of both original glass plate negatives in a variety of sizes from 4" x 5" up to 24" x 36" and a series of photographic albums, used both for indexing, and for ordering purposes. The Topley Studio carried out extensive photographic work on behalf of the federal government, as well as selling photographic equipment and supplies. The Index consists of 66 albums of photographs by the Topley Studio and two account books (one from the Topley Studio and one from the Notman studio). The pages of the albums are set up like contact sheets, and as the title suggests, are indexes to the Topley negatives, usually arranged in chronological and numerical order. To take an example, one of the album from 1875 to 1877 contains negatives 17551 to 22197. Each photograph and/or space for a photograph bears a brief description and negative number. In many of the earlier albums several photographs are missing from their designated spots. The indexes date from 1868 to 1923 and contain a large number of portraits. It is by no means a complete index to the Topley Fonds as many of the photographs taken by Topley are not included. As well, the indexes do not indicate to which of the various size groups a negative may belong, making it difficult to use effectively as a finding aid. In addition, there are a number of photographic albums compiled by William James Topley consisting of scenic views around Ottawa, and in the Gatineau and Ottawa river valleys.

Custodial history
The Topley Studio grew out of the William Notman Studio branch located in Ottawa, opened there in 1868. William James Topley manager and chief photographer at the Notham Studio's Ottawa location, took over proprietorship of that Studio in 1872, and operated it under the Notham name until about 1875 when he opened at a new location under his own name. He continued in business until 1910 when the business was transferred to his son William de Courcy Topley, who continued it until 1926. The fonds was sold to the Public Archives of Canada by William de Courcy Topley in 1936. William James Topley's brother Horatio Needham Topley also worked in the business.

Availability of other formats note
The following items have been digitized: PA-011337 PA-013342 PA-011543 PA-011616 PA-011418 PA-010401 PA-010256 PA-010409 (DAPDCAP).

Subject heading


Related control no.

1. 1936-270 PIC
2. 2002-01338-1
3. 2008-00727-8