The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.
Karen Bachmann is the director/curator of the Timmins Museum and a local author.
TIMMINS – The Porcupine Gold Rush was immortalized in pictures, thanks to early photographers who made their way into the gold camps.
While some prospectors like Charles Auer took photos of his early trek into the Porcupine, it is the work of two professional photographers that come to mind when we look at those early shots. Henry Peters (postmaster, town councillor and photographer) was one of those men. Arthur Tomkinson was the other.
It is Mr. Tomkinson who interests me today because of a recent donation made to the Timmins Museum by Bob Guenette – but more about that later. Thanks to the body of work created by Art Tomkinson, we have a good pictorial history of the Porcupine going back to its start. So, who was this gentleman?
A.K. Tomkinson was born in 1888 into a family of foundry workers in Askam, a village on the west coast of England in the county of Cumbria. When he was about 16 years old, he emigrated with his family to Galt, Ont., where he got a job in a brass foundry.
Apparently, it was not until after he had arrived in Canada that Tomkinson became interested in photography. He was a very creative person, and working in the foundry gave him a practiced eye for shapes, shading and colour. It was photography, however, that would eventually become the medium through which he would express his creativity.
The details of his life from 1904, when he first came to Canada, until 1910, when he definitely was in Golden City (Porcupine), are unclear. He seems to have served an apprenticeship with a photographer in Galt. Then he left his job at the brass foundry and went to Moncton, New Brunswick. There he worked for a Frank Pridham, a photographer, who taught him his trade.
Leaving New Brunswick, Tomkinson followed the gold-seekers to the Porcupine. He worked in a tent drug store as a clerk and pursued his hobby of photography during his free time.
In 1911, he moved to South Porcupine. There he went into partnership with Mr. Sol Sky in the building that later became known as the Sky Block. The building contained a photographic studio where Tomkinson began his life-long career of taking photographs, developing them and selling cameras.
The original site burned in the 1911 Porcupine Fire (which wiped out the town), but was rebuilt in 1912. The building later burnt again in the late 1980s.
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