Collection 1965 - Sir Daniel Wilson Family Photographic Collection

Identity area

Reference code

UTA 1965


Sir Daniel Wilson Family Photographic Collection


  • [1855?]-1930 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

0.30 m of graphic material (430 stereographs)

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Born Edinburgh, Scotland, 1816. Sir Daniel Wilson joined the faculty of University College as Chair of English Literature and History in 1853. He became President of University College in 1880 and first President of the University of Toronto in 1890. He died in 1892.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

This collection consists of 430 stereographs. They were assembled primarily by Sir Daniel Wilson and likely his daughter Sybil after his death. They document his interests in photography, especially of antiquarian Scotland and ethnology, and include many images of places he visited in Canada and the United States such as the White Mountains in New Hampshire where, on holidays, he painted many watercolours. Also included here are images of Toronto, the University of Toronto, the Toronto Magnetic and Meteorological Observatory, and two of the American Civil War.

Note on Sir Daniel Wilson

Sir Daniel Wilson was an accomplished amateur artist and much interested in the new medium of photography. He collected photographs, primarily in the stereographic medium, wherever he travelled and asked his friends to send images to him. He travelled widely following his arrival in Canada in 1853. In his first decade “he went as far south as Virginia and Kentucky, as far east as Prout’s Neck, Maine, as far west as the St. Louis River, and as far north as Lake Nipigon” [1]. He travelled many times along the St. Lawrence River and the Saguenay in that decade and later, made two trips to the upper Great Lakes (1855 and 1866), was introduced to the Green Mountains in New Hampshire and the Adirondacks and historic sites in New York, and in 1862 visited Washington and Civil War battle sites in Virginia. In 1863 he returned to Britain and Europe for the first time (he would go to again in 1878, 1880, 1885 and 1891). In the 1870s, his travels to him along the Muskoka and Severn Rivers (1870), and to Native sites in Kentucky and Ohio (1874).

After Wilson became President of University College in 1880, he sought escape from the heat of Toronto summers in New Hampshire and the eastern seaboard of the United States. In August of 1881 he first visited the White Mountains in New Hampshire where he was inspired to take up painting again, and to which he returned in 1882, 1883, 1886, and from 1887 to 1890. There, with his wife Margaret until her death in 1885, and his daughter Sybil, he sought out sites “with indelibly North American names, in which he clearly revelled” – Black Mountain, Cascade Brook, Mount Osceola, Mount Tecumseth, the Mad River, and Scar Ridge [2]. In 1883 he vacationed along the Atlantic coast of Maine and in 1884 he went to the Adirondacks around Lake Placid.


  1. Marinell Ash and colleagues, Thinking with both hands: Sir Daniel Wilson in the Old World and the New, ed. Elizabeth Hulse (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), 246.

  2. Ibid, 252, 271

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

The stereographs are arranged primarily by country, and often more specifically according to state, province, or city. In some cases, the stereographs have been arranged according to subject. This system corresponds with the arrangement provided by the donor.

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Finding aids

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Notes area


The physical condition of the stereographs varies greatly. Some items are in nearly perfect condition, whereas others have minor damage, such as Obverse labels coming loose or images coming loose from the backing. Some stereographs are severely damaged, including ripped images, bent or ripped boards, or stains on the images.


ǂ denotes that these items were used in Robert Stacey’s exhibit, Sir Daniel Wilson (1816-1892) : ambidextrous polymath, University of Toronto Art Centre, 2001.


Verso numbers displayed with an asterisk (e.g. "16*") signify a series of numbers, all written in what appears to be the same hand, and which might belong to Wilson. Unless otherwise noted, these numbers are handwritten on the reverse of some of the stereographs. They are included at the end of the item description. Non-bolded numbers refer to numbers that are printed or handwritten on the item, but not in the same hand. Some of the numbers, such as those on items /001(17) and (19)-(22) appear to be in the same hand.

In the physical finding aid, these numbers are identified by bold text.


Some additional research has been done to identify photographers, dates, or locations of images with little or no information. When relevant, sources and additional information has been provided in footnotes. Single dates in square brackets are those provided by American repositories and located through the Internet.

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Dates of creation revision deletion

-Original finding aid by S. Butterfield, July 2015




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