Photographer William John Moore

Part of an occasional series on the W.J. Moore panoramic photographs.

Very few Vancouver photographers had revolving panoramic cameras. Here’s a look at the career of the man who produced the panoramic photographs we’ve featured on flickr.

W. J. Moore was born in 1887 in Bryson, Quebec, one of eleven children of James and Elizabeth Moore. The family moved to De Winton, Alberta when Moore was in his early teens. By 1911 he had found work with commercial photographer Byron Harmon in Banff, Alberta. Harmon married Moore’s older sister Maude in 1907 and it is quite possible that Moore received his early photographic training from him.


Moore, his parents and several brothers and sisters settled in South Vancouver and Burnaby in 1912. Vancouver was then in the midst of an economic boom, but in 1913 it became a depression.

Moore established a commercial photographic studio out of his home, first at East 21st Avenue and later on Sophia Street.

He bought a Kodak No. 8 Cirkut Outfit in 1913 and incorporated panoramic photographs as a specialty within his business, producing most of his work with this format in the first fifteen years of his career. After 1928, his use of this format was sporadic and production was solely by commission. One event he photographed on an annual basis from 1920 to 1946 was the New Westminster May Day celebrations.

Detail from "View of a May Day Celebration at Queen's Park, New Westminster", item # PAN N159. (click on image to see full panoramic image)

Moore worked on his own until mid-1915, when he formed a partnership with Wilfred F. McConnell, purchasing the Canadian Photo Company from O. J. Rognon and Fred P. Stevens. While in this partnership, Moore signed panoramic negatives under both his own name and the Canadian Photo Co. The partnership was dissolved in 1921, with Mr. McConnell operating his photographic business under the Canadian Photo Co. name until 1933.

From file "Moore, William J., photographer", Add MSS 54, Topical and categorical files

In 1921, at the beginning of a decade of economic regeneration in Vancouver, Moore established his commercial studio out of the Winch Building on Hastings Street. William Read was hired as an assistant and worked with him for over thirty years, eventually purchasing the business in 1953 when Moore retired. Moore died in 1963.

"Winch building and Post Office building", viewed from the corner of Howe and Hastings Streets, 1921?, Item # Bu N345

Major Matthews, Vancouver’s first City Archivist, knew W.J. Moore, as both were Freemasons.

For twenty years, Moore supplied photographic services to the Archives, usually by creating copy negatives and access prints of the Archives’ photographs. Moore donated a significant body of his original negatives and prints, including his Cirkut negatives. These images show early Vancouver views in unusually great breadth and detail.

As Major Matthews said,

 If there ever was a man to whom Vancouver and its posterity is deeply indebted, it is to William J. Moore, commercial photographer . . .  for the long, valuable and faithful part he has . . . played in the establishment of the City Archives.[1]


[1] Moore, William J., photographer, Add MSS 54, Topical and categorical files. May 16, 1945

4 responses to “Photographer William John Moore

  1. This is a wonderful and informative web site. We have recently come into possession of a very old photo. It is a panoramic view of the Victoria lumber and manufacturing company. The photo is in an old wood frame and does not appear to be a print. There is also the number 722 P W. J. Moore photo co., in the photo. We obtained the photo at a storage unit auction. Is there someway we can determine the photo’s authenticity? Thank you any help is greatly appreciated.

  2. Heather Gordon

    It sounds like a vintage print, but I’ll send you some information privately regarding appraisers who could tell you for sure.

  3. I just caught the end of a program on Knowledge tv and saw a reference to WJ Moore and the Vancouver archives. I bought an old photo of the Vancouver waterfront many years ago in a secondhand store in Vernon. It shows a couple of ships tied up next to the Pier D building. The photo bears the number 839P and WJ Moore Photo Co. I have always wondered when the photo was taken – could you help me with this? Thanks in advance.

  4. Sue Bigelow

    We often transcribe the photographer’s original number for the photograph into our database when we describe the image. Looking in our online search http://searcharchives.vancouver.ca/ for 839P, I found nothing. Looking again for just 839, there were a few results, including this Moore panorama: http://searcharchives.vancouver.ca/canadian-pacific-railway-piers-b-c-and-d-and-r-m-s-aorangi;rad. If you click through to see the largest version of the image, you can see that Moore’s number was 839.P., which is what we transcribed (and why 839P didn’t get a result). We hold the original nitrate negative for the print that you purchased.

    To answer your original question about the date, it was taken in 1927.

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