Island Memories: Photographs of Prince Edward Island, 1890-1920


Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-920304-17-6





Reviewed by Janet Arnett

Janet Arnett is the former campus manager of adult education at Ontario’s Georgian College. She is the author of Antiques and Collectibles: Starting Small, The Grange at Knock, and 673 Ways to Save Money.



A brief introduction and 44 photographs constitute this small booklet. The photos, from the turn-of-the-century period (1890-1920), have been reproduced in brown ink (mock sepia) to convey a sense of age.

Many of the photos are without captions for, as the introduction explains, nothing is known about them — neither photographer’s or subject’s name or time or place or the activity depicted. The selection criterion, we’re told, was simply “ordinary people”; it’s appropriate, then, that so many of them are presented as nameless faces. There are photos of nineteenth century ladies at tea, posing in theatrical costumes, and wading in the Atlantic surf. There are family groups, children clutching dolls, grandmother at the spinning wheel, and a lobsterman with a prize catch. A few of the photos are of Indians and a few are of local industries (the Murray Harbour lobster packing plant, boat building, etc.). An oddity is a shot of a man in a cage in the PEI hospital for the insane, c. 1910.

As there is no text, the photos stand on their own as a window into the past. There is value here for the local history enthusiast and for Maritimers in search of their roots. Leafing through the booklet is like turning the pages in an old family photo album: one automatically asks, who are these people and have they anything to say to me? The work gives no answers, but asks lots of questions.


Robinson, Gillian, “Island Memories: Photographs of Prince Edward Island, 1890-1920,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024,