Collection 93 - Ben Williams Leeson collection

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Ben Williams Leeson collection

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  • Graphic material
  • Textual record

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the name of the creator of the fonds

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Physical description

89 photographs. – 0.2 cm textual records

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Name of creator

(1866 - 1948)

Biographical history

Ben Williams Leeson was born in Coventry, Warwickshire, UK, in 1866 and emigrated to Vancouver, British Columbia in 1886 with his parents, Anna and Jobe L. Leeson. He began taking photographs in the Cariboo in 1887 and moved to Quatsino Sound in about 1894 where he and his father managed the salmon and clam cannery located on the opposite shore, as well as a store (J. L. Leeson & Son) selling clothes and provisions. Ben Leeson is particularly noted for his portraits of First Nations people and was fascinated by "flat-headed" Kwakiutl women.

According to the British Columbia Archives, Ben William Leeson married Evelyn May Hawkins on February 15, 1912 in Quatsino. In 1939 Leeson retired and moved to Vancouver. He died March 15, 1948.

Custodial history

No information is available on the donor or custodial history of the original accession (#2009-04). Accession #2010-05 was produced by the Vancouver Public Library. Accession 2018-17 was donated by Martin Gill, a distant relative of Ben Williams Leeson.

Scope and content

The fonds consists of 66 photographic prints, some of which are hand-coloured, stamped “B.W. Leeson Quatsino, B.C.”, labelled on the front or back with explanatory information, or signed in ink. One print of a longhouse is stamped “The Leeson Collection Copyright 1914.” The photographic subject matter relates to British Columbia’s Kwakwaka'wakw First Nations and the British Columbia landscape. Also included is a copy of Portraits of the Indians of Quatsino by Benjamin W. Leeson (Kit #20) by Susan Roper, produced by the Research Project on Early B.C. Photography at the Vancouver Public Library around 1972, and 23 duplicate slides which accompany it.

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Records found in archives backlog. Donor unknown.


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Finding aids

See attached pdf document for item list.

Associated materials

Other photographic prints by Ben William Leeson can be found in the British Columbia Archives Visual Records Catalogue. The Vancouver Public Library has a large collection of Leeson photos in its BC Multicultural Photograph Collection. The Vancouver Maritime Museum's Leonard G. McCann Archives also has 19 original glass plate negatives.

Related materials



Vancouver Public Library holds copyright for Portraits of the Indians of Quatsino by Benjamin W. Leeson by Susan Roper.

Physical description

Includes 66 photographic prints : b&w, sepia, and hand-coloured. – 23 photographs : colour slides ; 35 mm

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Created December 1, 2015 by Katie Ferrante.
Updated February 28, 2019 by Isabel Melendez

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