Friday, February 27, 2009

Elephants in Annapolis Royal

Today I have a bit of an oddball photograph from the Annapolis Heritage Society archives. This image was taken at the corner of St. George Street and Drury Lane in Annapolis Royal sometime between 1905 and 1910. The date for this photograph is a bit of an educated guess based on elements (yes elements not elephants) found in the picture.

There are a few things which have brought me to a 1905 - 1910 date. It would have been easy to set a date if I had documentary evidence of a circus coming to Annapolis Royal around this time. Sadly, there was nothing in the archives or the local newspaper abstracts referring to a circus at this time. When there is no documentation, the next thing to do is analyze the image itself.

Now, what in the picture would allow for a 1905 - 1910 date? The buildings in the background on the right side of the picture were destroyed in the 1920 fire. This gives us an excellent end date for when the photograph could have been taken. If the houses were burned in 1920, the picture was logically taken before that time. In the center of the picture are a few faded electrical poles. This provides another clue as electricity came to Annapolis Royal in 1905. This provides a start date for the photograph. A further clue is the clothing worn in the picture. These clothes, especially the ladies, are closer to the styles seen in 1900 than 1920. So, between these elements and a bit of guess work, I can estimate that the photograph was taken between 1905 and 1910.

As for the photograph itself, the image shows elephants walking past the old Annapolis Royal Post Office. They are marching toward the railyard which was located where the Farmers' Market is currently found. As with many of our archival documents, I would love to know more about this one. I would especially like to know which circus was in town.

All for now,


  1. I'm such a research bug ... lol ... but here you go:

    The Mighty Haag Shows toured Canada during its 1912 season - including Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI. They key is the elephants. From my quick search the Annapolis Valley actually saw several circus shows come through but almost none with elephants in their menageries - most only had monkeys, dogs and horses as well as a side show or "collection of unusual people". P.T. Barnum's "collection of unusual people" included the Nova Scotia Giantess, Anna Swan who was born in New Annan near Tatamagouche in the mid-1800's.

    You can find more details about the Mighty Haag Shows 1912 season at just scroll down to "Out of Windjammers Diary". Of course it's not a 100% certainty that it was the Mighty Haag Shows circus ... but it does put elephants in Nova Scotia at about the right time as your photo :-)

  2. Thanks for the extra research. Mighty Haag Shows are a very good lead.
    I am also willing to accept a two year margin of error and have the circus take place in 1912. This fits the standard assumption that clothing styles were a few years later in coming to Nova Scotia. Quite often these clothes would have been sent up second hand from relatives in New England or "the Boston states". The retail chain Frenchies carries on this tradition today.