The Curious Case of the Canadian Album

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The album’s handmade cover. 
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Man on crutches with man’s best friend atop an inverted milk can. 
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“Charley plowing.” Can you identify the tractor? 
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“Breaking up Manitoba’s Bush.” 
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A fine looking specimen is harnessed to this goat cart. 
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These “bush clearers” put in an honest day’s work. 
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Farmyard blanketed in snow.  
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Perhaps there is just the tiniest chance that a reader somewhere in North America might help solve this mystery. Somehow, a beautifully assembled album of photographs of what appears to be a farm in Canada has ended up in North Wales.

The current owner of this rather tatty old album is Mike Jones of Ruthin, North Wales. Mike is fascinated by steam power, and he is also the proud owner of a 1915 Marshall Steam Tractor. He spotted the old album while browsing the shelves of his local second-hand shop. Amongst the photographs, he was amazed to see one of a tractor similar to his own. The album was on sale for £10 ($16), which was quite enough money for a scruffy old photograph album, but all the same Mike was fascinated, so he paid up and took the book home.

After owning it for a few years now, he told me that he can’t help feeling that it would be nice to reunite the book with the appropriate family. If there was any way of finding out where these photographs were taken, and who the people featured in them were, he would be happy to hand the album over.

Of course it’s all a long shot. There may be no surviving relatives for a start, and even if there were surviving relatives, chance of them seeing this item is slight. However, nothing ventured, nothing gained, so, if you recognize any of the people or places in thephotos in the Image Gallery please let me know.

The album includes photographs of a family enjoying themselves at a lake, accompanied by the notation “Sunday at Lake Odee,” presumably located near the farm. Other photographs show people sitting at the edge of “Clear Lake.” Nearly all of the other photographs show farm scenes (though one shows a place called “Beild”).

The early steam tractor is shown in several photos, including one titled “Breaking up Manitoba’s Bush.” Some of the land looks as though it is being cleared and cultivated for the first time; images show seeding, harrowing and threshing activities. A number of photos show sheep.

The inscription on the inside cover indicates that it was a gift from someone called John at Christmas in 1930. It may well be that the album was given to a family member who was living away from the area, perhaps even in North Wales. It may be the case that we will never know the farm or the family so beautifully captured in these images, and if that is the case then let’s just enjoy a look at what was happening somewhere on a Canadian farm, sometime before 1930. FC

Have information about this album? Contact Josephine Roberts via email at

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